The PCB Designer: 3D PCB Design – Far from Flat

02-15-2016

In my placement blog series I talked about the old days when we as PCB designers used “paper dolls” to mimic footprint placement. Feeling nostalgic, I think back again to my days at Rockwell International (you now know them as Boeing), and my first introduction to 3D design in the printed circuit board industry.

Being the young whipper-snapper that I was, I never considered the manufacturing issues that could occur during the assembly phase of any of my designs. My mentor at Rockwell International, Frank Caster, was an engineer and after my first layout placement for a Peacekeeper Missile Program design, he schooled me on the need to verify that the placement would work with the overall system design. I had no idea what he was talking about!

Frank asked me to follow him to a lab with a security guard at the door and a combination lock on the door. Upon entry to the lab, I got my first look at a portion of stage IV of the Peacekeeper missile, called the Missile Guidance Computer System (MGCS).

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My PCB design was just one of the over 20 boards that made up the MGCS. Frank told me, “Vern, the world is not flat and neither is your PCB!” He explained that my board had to fit into one of the slots in the chassis I was looking at and that it could not interfere with any of the other cards within the chassis. The cards would have to be able to be maintained for years, and it would not be good if parts were knocked off the other boards when cards were replaced.

I was then shown a mockup of the MGCS and some lab technicians that were using X-ACTO blades to cut tiny 1:1 scale PCB components out of foam board. They were making a mockup of my design placement, completely to scale, that they could fit into the chassis with other scale cards in order to make interference measurements – a process that I was told took an extremely long time.

A light came on, and a bell rang in my head. I now understood that just because my design worked for me, it did not mean that it would work for everyone else!

In essence, every PCB we design has to go somewhere else. Whether it is an intricate missile guidance chassis, or a simple box, it has to fit perfectly into the full system.

Fortunately today, we have powerful computers that allow us to create 3D models to check mechanical measurements within our designs. But, until recently these systems had to be run by highly trained mechanical engineers. The PCB guys were at the mercy of another process to let them know if their designs would work.

But NOT ANYMORE! Xpedition is now available with integrated 2D and 3D layout, and the power of 3D has been put into the hands of the PCB design engineer.

Take a look at this video, 3D Layout with Photo-realistic Visualization, and see how 3D layout helps you visualize and validate your design as if it were already manufactured. In my next post, we will discuss the new world of integrated 3D PCB layout.

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2016

The PCB Designer: 3D PCB Design – Far from Flat

02-15-2016

In my placement blog series I talked about the old days when we as PCB designers used “paper dolls” to mimic footprint placement. Feeling nostalgic, I think back again to my days at Rockwell International (you now know them as Boeing), and my first introduction to 3D design in the printed circuit board industry.

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2015

Designers: Enter Your Award Winning Design

09-22-2015

It’s that time again! The 2015 Technology Leadership Awards are here.

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PCB Layout: Preparation is 75 Percent of the Job

08-20-2015

Recently I was remodeling a bathroom in my home with my younger son Kyle. We were getting ready to paint the bathroom and I took out the masking tape and began instructing my son on the task of masking. Being a teen, and of course knowing everything, he said to me that he did not need to mask and he could just start painting.

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Behind the Design: Visteon®, India

07-09-2015

Continuing the series showcasing the winners of the 2014 Technology Leadership Awards, Visteon, India was runner up in the Transportation and Automotive category

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Behind the Design: Visteon®

06-22-2015

This post is a continuation in a series showcasing the winners of the 2014 Technology Leadership Awards.

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Behind the Design: Ericsson TV

06-11-2015

This is the eleventh post in a series showcasing the winners of the 2014 Technology Leadership Awards. View the previous ones here. Runner up in the Telecom, Network Controllers, Line Cards category: Ericsson Television, United Kingdom. Design: ViPER2, 2U form factor host controller card that will be the basis of their video encoder and trans-coder products .

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Behind the Design: RAD

05-29-2015

This is the tenth post in a series showcasing the winners of the 2014 Technology Leadership Awards. View the previous ones here. First place winner in the Telecom, Network Controllers, Line Cards category: RAD, Israel. Design: This board is the main card for 10GbE demarcation point for SLA-based Ethernet business services and mobile backhaul devices.

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Never Stop Learning: PCB Training Resources

05-18-2015

As I look back many years ago when I was growing up as a young boy, my father always stressed to me, “never stop learning, son.” He told me that I will never know it all and there will always be someone who knows more than me, so I should strive to learn something new every day.

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