Nolan's Notes: The Designer to EMS Communication Process


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In July, SEMI reported that the Electronic System Design (ESD) industry revenue rose to $3.15 billion in Q1 2021, a 17% increase. The ESD Alliance, a community within the SEMI organization, called it the strongest first-quarter growth ever. Of note, printed circuit board and multi-chip module tools saw a 15.3% increase in revenue to $289 million, and the four-quarter moving average for PCB and MCM revenues rose to 5.3%. ESD growth was detected in all global regions except Japan; the Americas saw the most revenue in dollars, while Asia Pacific showed the highest percentage change.

Clearly, design tool investment continues, and this is good. The challenge, however, is to make sure that the tools are doing the right jobs. Are the tools restricting themselves to delivering new bells and whistles to the designer’s bag of in-tool design tricks, or are the tools helping to optimize the entire process of design and manufacture?

Design tools, like designers themselves, are at the apex of the manufacturing chain. What happens in design has a profound trickle-down effect on the effectiveness and efficiencies further on in the process. Everybody knows this. And everybody points to “communication” as a key issue in the manufacturing chain as well.

The apparent inertia in this space seems almost insurmountable.

CAD tool developers have been working toward “system design” for most of the history of the sector. Early in my career when I wrote code at an EDA startup that now is recognized as a major player in the market, we were working on the idea of system design. The compute power and wide area network resources necessary to realize the vision of full mechatronic system design just weren’t available then, but we were working on it. Personally, I’m fascinated to watch the progress toward true system design currently underway; the engineering digital twin seems to be taking shape within the CAD tool frameworks.

To read this entire column, which appeared in the August 2021 issue of SMT007 Magazine, click here.

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