Friday, April 27, 2012

Has anyone seen the next generation of PCB designers?

It's interesting to see that my own frustrations are more common than not. There seems to be an underlying attitude among EEs that since I don't have that piece of paper I can't possibly be capable of understanding or handle anything electronics. Having collected a lot of information and knowledge over the years I've gladly shared this with Engineers, but later find the same information coming back to me as their input, ideas and requirements. I bought the farm, gave away the milk, and now being asked to buy it back again.

Where I work there are two designers left. Both of us are mid 50's and both will probably retire at the same time. As more and more responsibilities are being taken away from us and given to less technical positions I do see there is no intention of replacing us.

Still trying to figure out how to sell the milk. The more helpful I try to be the more I can't help thinking we're undermining our own positions.

Where's the next generation coming from or going to be?

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Predictability for PCB Layout Density
Great article, but has anyone used this soeftware?? I can usually tell what's going to happen by looking at it. Maybe that's just experince.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

US State Department might remove printed circuit boards from the ITAR Control List

I find this editorial enlightening. Even as a designer of commercial PCBs I've found many deficiencies in "cheap" boards coming from overseas. Military reliability is far more important and the control of the PCB is far tighter and stricter. It's one thing if your iPhone or TV doesn't work properly, but in a combat situation the same reliability is not effective when lives are depended on it. Not all PCBs or material that make PCBs or the shops that make PCBs are the same. This must be inspected rigorous and often to insure the quality and performance needed. This is where the money is being spent and should continue to be spent. It's too easy to slip in counterfeit material and workmanship into PCBs. Quality Control is ongoing and continuous.

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Monday, April 9, 2012

What happens when you skips steps in vendor approval

Somehow we’ve started using a new vendor for production boards that does not adhere to our PCB Vendor specifications. Some of the requirements we have in our spec are a little out of date and some items we are use to having are not in the current spec. A reevaluation of the spec was needed. We also had to change the way we do incoming inspection. Previously we received photo plots of the board layers for QC to compare to incoming boards. Generally this is no longer an industry standard practice. We’ve changes this to QC inspection only using the fabrication drawing and a silkscreen plot to compare to the boards coming in. How boards are marked to UL and Electrical Test was not clear either. This was changed so that all boards must be permanently marked as passing the electrical test. We did get the changes in the current documentation with little effort and distributed it to all the departments who are involved. Now we have to figure how a vendor was selected and used for production without going through a vendor approval process.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

North American PCB Order Are Up

Ok, so I'm not an economist. One part says it's up the other says it's down. This all seems to depend on what statistics you look at. More money rolling into US companies? More jobs in US companies?
What do you think?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Interesting “Gotch ya’” In PCAD 2006

I was giving a schematic in PCAD from and Engineer with all the usual information. Nothing out of the ordinary. After defining all the mechanical requirements I loaded the netlist into the pcb file. The components were loaded and I placed and routed the board without any issues.
After everything was done, the Gerber files created, the Pick and Place created and the Bill of Materials created and distributed. Something unusual did crop up. The CPU. U1, was not on the Pick and Place file. It was on the BoM and all the components parts needed for this to happen were there and in place.
When I looked at which library the component was coming from I notices the schematic had it coming from one location and the PCB had it coming from another. I looked at the components in those libraries and they were identical, it just that the libraries were in a different order in the SCH than the PCB programs. Easy to fix I moved the library the schematic used up in priority in the PCB program and did a Force Update on that component in the PCB file. That’s all it took and the problem was solved.
But the mystery still remains why this happened. Why did this one component show up in the Pick and Place, but not in the Bill of Material?