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16 December, 2014

Typically my blogs speak of PCB layout technology and the company I work for, but this one is a bit different.

During this season of reflection and celebration, I’d like to take some time to honor the special friends that have passed during the year. We place these friends and our fondest thoughts “into memory,” in hopes to keep their legacies alive. I’d also like to recognize another great PCB designer who is retiring.

As some of us near, or have reached the age where we think of new things to do with our time, it’s nice to look back on this industry which has provided financial well-being, some very good memories, and many opportunities to work with fantastic, like-minded individuals.

In Memory Of

Dieter BergmanThis year we lost a pillar in our industry – Dieter Bergman (82). His career spanned 56 years and he has been hailed as a “true pioneer in the industry,” as well as “the heart and soul of the IPC Designers Council.” I met him once during my career, at the PCB West Conference, and I was able to witness first-hand the many “Dieterisms” he became so famous for.

Dieter became the driving force for technical standards through the IPC Designers Council, and produced many workshops on PCB design and fabrication. Dieter is survived by his wife, two sons, and a daughter. He will be greatly missed.

Art Morimitsu

On a more personal note to me, I recently heard that Art Morimitsu passed away. Art was a PCB designer at Pal Pilot in Irvine, California. He was a great PCB designer and friend, and I first met Art in my PCB design class in technical school. He was also my college roommate. Art was the first Japanese Cowboy I ever met, as he hailed from Boulder, Colorado.

A soft-spoken gentleman that never complained, he became one of the many PCB design friends I have made in this industry. We lost him too soon and he will be missed. Here is a great shot of Art doing what he loved most when he was not designing printed circuit boards.

Retirement Best Wishes

On a happier note, we are losing another great PCB designer from our ranks after 46 years of dedicated service. Larry Baggs, shown here second from the right, has been around a long time and has been a friend and colleague to many. He has decided to hang up his PCB design hat and spend his days travelling and enjoying life. I have had the pleasure to work with Larry and his dedication to PCB design and library creation has benefited several companies throughout his career. Please join me in wishing Larry a great retirement!

Larry Baggs and Group

These are only a few, and I am sure there are more that many of you would like to recognize. Please do so in the comments section, as I would love to hear the memories and stories that make our jobs so much fun – yes, I said fun!

There is also a link listing some of the colleagues we lost in the past year at the Printed Circuit Design and Fab website.

Happy Holidays, and my wishes for a very Happy New Year.

4 December, 2014

As I sit here still recovering from the Thanksgiving feast of turkey and all of the trimmings, I am reminded that this is the time of year we give thanks and gifts to our friends and loved ones. Christmas is just around the corner, and the holiday season is in full swing.

Speaking of giving thanks…I’d like to thank you for following along with me here on the blog! I also have an exciting announcement - the new Xpedition® VX.1 release is here!

Xpedition Enterprise

This release was created with thoughtful consideration of the challenges faced by our users. Over the past six years, thousands of engineering man hours have gone into creating a release packed full of innovation and new capabilities that benefit current users and new users alike. This is the most significant release in Mentor’s history.

We developed Xpedition VX.1 to address the challenges of companies like yours: modern enterprise development organizations that are coping with increasing design complexity as they expand into multi-board systems and manufacturing prep with integrated new product introduction.

Built on a hub-and-spoke architecture, Xpedition VX.1 enables unprecedented collaboration throughout the development ecosystem for multiple-discipline engineers and supply-chain partners, while maintaining design data integrity.

Packed full of new features including an intelligent user interface, group planning and placement, sketch routing technology, and integrated 3D PCB layout, this new version has been a hit with beta testers worldwide.

Now that it is available to everyone, we are looking forward to hearing what you think of it!

To find out more about this exciting new release, take a look at the Xpedition Webinar series. Downloads of Xpedition VX.1 (32 bit and 64 bit versions) are available now at http://supportnet.mentor.com/.

From myself and everyone at Mentor – we wish you a very safe and happy holidays, and a very happy New Year!

18 November, 2014

In my last post I mentioned my recent conversation about autorouting with several PCB designers at the IPC Council meeting in Irvine, California. Take a look at the previous post, Auto Assisted Routing: “I ain’t got time for that!” You will see that there are mixed feelings about autorouting, and many think we needed something better.

The IPC meeting that I’m referring to happened to be all about routing technology that is currently available and there was more than one vendor in attendance to present their wares. I got to go first, and I proposed a question.

I showed them a design with two FPGAs and 120 twisted netlines connected between them and asked, “How fast could you route these netlines?” The answers around the room ranged from 30 minutes to an hour. I selected the netlines, started the Sketch Router with a click, and said, “What if you could route them in one minute?” As the routes completed, I knew I had their undivided attention.

Before Routing:

FPGA Challenge: Before Routing
After Routing:
FPGA Challenge: After Routing

As a PCB designer, I consider myself an artist as I create beautiful artwork for the products of the future. For the younger PCB designers in the room, I explained that what we output to manufacturing in the past was actually called “artwork.”

As the show continued, I used my cursor like a painter uses a brush to select and route netlines and groups of netlines. First, I showed a DDR3 circuit that I routed in less than four minutes. Then, a PCIe circuit with differential pairs that I easily routed in about two minutes – including the matched length tuning. I moved around the design with the ease of routing with an autorouter while maintaining complete user control. The routing method utilized my intent and direction, but the algorithms gave me the speed and quality of a manually routed design. If I made a mistake, a quick undo allowed me to reroute entire groups of netlines in seconds. Take a look at the links below to see some of the circuitry I routed.

I wowed the room to a point of silence, and then I posed a second question:

“For those of you who said you do not use autorouting, would you use this autoroute method on your designs?” The unanimous response was “YES!”

So, you provide designers with an autorouting method that is easy to use, and uses the designer intent, they will use it.

Sketch Router is a new paradigm in auto assisted routing. I believe it to be the next big step for designers to provide fast, high quality designs – all with the look and feel of a completely hand-routed design.

One more thing about the IPC meeting…

Many thanks to those who came to me after the meeting and made statements like these: “The other guys should have been embarrassed to show their tools; they did not route a single trace, while you routed a huge portion of your design in under 20 minutes!”

It’s great to hear my colleagues say that they truly believe this is a game changer in the PCB Design industry. I agree! What do you think?


Sketch Routing Demo

Routing and Tuning DDR3 in Under Three Minutes

27 October, 2014

When tuning a set of nets in Xpedition Layout, there are methods to do it automatically or manually – or both. The previous post in this routing series explored the use of Auto Tune and the Target Lengths dialog. In this post, we will look at the manual tuning features and the options available for using them in a productive manner. The intent here is to reveal the new capabilities in the context of the existing ones.

Discovering What Needs to be Tuned

Normally designers will focus on resolving routing timing challenges circuit by circuit, interface by interface. Discovering what needs to be tuned is just a reflection of knowing the circuit and proceeding to adjust the lengths to follow the rules. However sometimes – especially at the end of the design process, it is good to review all the nets to be tuned and determine if they fulfill the rules. There are a number of enhancements for doing this in Xpedition Layout, and each one has its own value.

Net Explorer:

This dialog automatically organizes the nets that have rules assigned in CES into groups. The Tuned Nets group lists all the nets that have delay rules that can be resolved by tuning. The Matched Length group lists each matched length set as defined in CES, and organizes them by the user defined ID. This is a quick way to see which nets have tuning requirements. Using other features like Cross-probing and Marking allows you to easily find and isolate them in the graphics window. When a net or group of nets are marked, you have options in Display Control to display just the netlines for those nets.


Target Lengths:

In my previous post, this dialog was described in some detail. In the context of manual tuning, the best thing is that you can see which nets still need to be tuned in a given cluster; and the fact that it is updated dynamically as you modify lengths in the graphics.


Tuning Meter:

Using the Tuning Meter is the best way to get instant feedback on length adjustments. The Target Lengths dialog is dynamic; however, it is not as instant as the Tuning Meter which is updated with even the smallest movement of the cursor. As you drag on a segment or the pattern box, the tuning meter will tell you exactly where you are within the range defined by the tolerance. It works when making Phase Matching adjustments as well.



The Hazards dialog provides a way to find any remaining nets that need to be tuned. This is especially useful when at the end of the design when you want to find any last remaining tuning that is needed.

  • Differential Pair Length and Phase Matching – The Hazards dialog is the only way to find the nets that still need length or phase matching to fulfill the CES rules. Once you find a hazard for diff pair length tolerance or phase matching, you can select the Resolve button which will add a sawtooth or uncoupled pattern to automatically adjust the length to remove the hazard.



Adding Manual Tuning Patterns

There are a number of different ways to add tuning patterns and it is important to control what the initial pattern looks like when doing so. Selecting one of the toolbar icons is a very quick way to add a pattern.

Tuning Dialog:

When a tuning pattern is added, it follows the rules setup in the Tuning dialog. You can modify it after it is added, but the initial pattern style is controlled by this dialog.


Manual Tune Icon:


When you select a trace, this icon becomes sensitive and when pressed, it will add a tuning pattern that obeys the rules setup in the Tuning dialog and it will obey the Push and Shove settings in the Editor Control dialog. If you don’t want the new tuning pattern to disturb existing routing, turn Trace Shove off. When the tuning pattern is added, it also obeys the other Push & Shove settings, including Via Shove, Via Jump and Pad Jump.

  • With Trace Shove Off:


  • With Trace Shove On:


Interactive Tune:


If you select the Interactive Tune icon, the dialog will open. In previous releases, this feature was part of the Smart Utilities but now it is included in the standard Tune Routes functions. The general methodology is to define the tuning parameters and when you click “Tune” you can then select a trace to add that tuning pattern.




Adding a sawtooth pattern is a new capability in Xpedition Layout. It is used for diff pair balancing to fulfill either the Differential Pair Tolerance (length matching) or the Differential Pair Phase Tolerance (phase matching) rules set in CES.


The Differential Pair Tolerance rule defines the allowable length or delay difference for the total length of the differential pair routing.

The Differential Pair Phase Tolerance is expressed by two values: First, the maximum tolerance, and second the maximum distance for that tolerance to be applied. For example, you can say that a tolerance of .24mm is allowed over a distance of 12mm. That means that as you traverse the route from source to load, for each 12mm of distance, the diff pair compliments must have lengths within the .25mm tolerance.

In the Tuning dialog, you define the parameters for the sawtooth pattern.


Editing Patterns

Once a pattern is added, you can edit it as a pattern when the box around it is visible as shown here.


At this point you can either stretch the pattern (using the handles) or move it by dragging your cursor on the box outline. This kind of editing will obey all the settings for Gloss as well as Push & Shove in from the Editor Control dialog. If you don’t want other traces affected by your editing, turn off “Trace shove” in the Push & Shove section.


There are two modifiers available when editing tuning patterns. These options are shown in the text field when editing a tuning pattern.


Editing Individual Segments:

You can also edit the individual parts of the tuning pattern, but first you must flatten the pattern. It can be flattened either by using the RMB menu or by holding down the Ctrl key when dragging on a trace segment.

Changing to Arcs:

If you have a pattern that was originally added with chamfers and you want to change it to a pattern with arcs, you need to change the Tuning dialog to turn on arcs, delete the original pattern and then re-add it.  Another method would be to use the Modify Corners dialog, but that will flatten the pattern first.

Deleting a Tuning Pattern:

Select one of the handles and drag it as shown in the image below until the pattern disappears.



What methods do you like for adjusting the length of the traces? Did I leave anything out? I believe what is important is to discover the methods that get your desired results as quickly as possible. We continue to enhance our tuning capabilities and would like to hear your feedback.

16 October, 2014

Recently ahighspeedt the IPC Council Meeting in Orange County, California, two of the top PCB design EDA vendors presented some of their current and upcoming technology for routing automation. The day was geared towards PCB designers and the methods they use for routing their designs.

The day started off with the typical questions that we spoke of in my first blog in this series, The Myth of the Pretty Design, and as usual, the responses about auto routing were the same as always. But I wanted to get to the bottom of why designers prefer not to use auto routers.plow

One designer I spoke with struck me with a quote that made me laugh. When I asked about auto routing, he just said, “I ain’t got time for that!” We both laughed, and he knew I had seen the famous YouTube video (if you aren’t sure what I’m referring to, search the quote).

As we spoke more about time required to auto route a design, the problem became more evident as to why most designers do not use them. He told me there is no one-button solution; auto routers must be setup properly to get a decent result. Learning which passes to choose and their parameters to choose can be very time consuming. Then once the routing is done, it can be hours, and sometimes days, to cleanup what the router completed. He stated that by the time he has cleaned up all of the extra vias and loops, he might has well have just routed it manually.

I asked, “Is there a situation in which you would choose to use an auto router?” He answered, “Yes, but typically only for a what-if scenario – I need a quick check to see if a board can be completed.” He did speak of other designs, like something purely digital.

We agreed that there are those times when an auto router is needed. He then said what we really need is a router that provides assistance during manual or interactive routing. This auto-assistance would guide the designer and allow for intuitive and quick routing with very high quality.

I then got a huge grin on my face and asked him to take his seat as the show was about to start.

Take a look at these video links to see some auto assisted routing technology. In the next post in this series we will talk about an entirely new paradigm in PCB routing technology.

Video 1: High-speed routing: High-speed PCB routing for tuning high-speed connections

Video 2: Real Trace Plow: Auto-active PCB trace routing mode

29 September, 2014

Defining the “Perfect” Taxonomy (Catalog Structure)

A taxonomy is the “classification” of elements otherwise known as “catalogs” or “partitions”; and is an important component in your design process to help users find the ECAD data they are looking for. You can imagine xdm blog discretesthat a confusing or complicated structure increases the overall design process and that the best developed classifications can translate into financial savings to your organization. Although these gains are difficult to measure, you can contrast this against the  millions of dollars that a company like Amazon will invest within their own classification models to help you shop. Specifically within your design process you may have taxonomies for designs, library parts (symbols, cells, etc …), reuse blocks, and component/parts.

Within a taxonomy, you can define properties as “common/static” – characteristics against all objects or “dynamic“ – catalog specific. An example of a static property would be “Description”, and an example of a dynamic property would be “Resistance”. Data management products can help you manage these taxonomies and their characteristic definition, but many customers ask … “What is the Perfect Taxonomy?”

Since you don’t have millions to invest like Amazon, I’d like to share my findings with taxonomies. I’ve had the opportunity to view taxonomies from dozens of customers and many of the top ECAD data suppliers such as Digi-Key, Silicon Experts (now Arrow), and IHS. The only consistent thing about these component taxonomies is that … they are NOT consistent. I hate to burst your bubble but there is no “perfect” taxonomy. However, you can invest your time and effort in creating the “best” taxonomy for your organization. To accomplish this, you must first keep in mind how your taxonomy can:

  • easily integrate into your business processes
  • deliver information to your users without confusion and clutter
  • simplify the search and selection of (preferred) parts

Of course to accomplish this, the devil is in the details. In my upcoming blog series, I will be specifying how these tasks can be accomplished using our xDM Library (DMS) line of products for Components, Libraries, and Reusable Blocks.

Check out xDM Library Learning Tools Today!

29 September, 2014

A couple articles that I wrote have been published and I invite you to check them out:

the-pcb-design-magazine-logoThe PCB Design Magazine – August 2014

Sketch Routing, Part 1: Taking Control

The article begins on page 42. It is the first of three parts that discuss the essence of sketch routing in the Xpedition Layout product. The three parts are: control, quality, and performance.

Electronic Design LogoElectronic Design – September 2014

What’s the Difference: PCB Routing Then and Now

The evolution of auto-routing technology has a long history, mostly with marginal success.  Today’s approach is more about empowering the designer with high levels of routing automation.

15 September, 2014

It’s like moving furniture around and then finding out later you don’t like the sofa.

Much of the your end PCB product costs can be directly influenced by the parts selected up front during the schematic capture phase of the design process.  When you incorporate information into the designer’s part selection interface such as preferred part status, compliance, and/or obsolescence; you can reduce the work and re-work of designs thus saving you costs.

Today, it is a challenge for designers to produce designs that are pushed by time-to market, compliance restrictions, and the constant need to reduce costs. Many times, the designer does not have access to critical component information within their “field-of-vision” and rely on other disciplines to constantly check their part selection after they’ve done all the “hard work” of designing. I equate this to me finding furniture for my home, moving the furniture around to the perfect spot; and then my wife saying, “No, I don’t like the pattern on the sofa”. Why couldn’t you tell me what colors you like before I started? Better yet, why didn’t we agree on the sofa at the beginning? Why did I do all of that work fitting that sofa in the Living Room and now you tell me you don’t like it? I should have married your sister – just kidding (SLAP).

reducing product costs

This is exactly how designs are being done today and we accept it because it’s the norm. We utilize disconnected 3rd party tools to push non-standard data for validation by somebody else’s database … usually a bill-of-material. We fool ourselves into thinking this process is controlled because we do this during a “design review” … after the room has been completed. Wrong! To me this is like getting your mother-in-law to look at pictures of my room and then tell me what my wife wants. Thanks, but NO THANKS! In this scenario, I’m the designer, my wife is a component engineer, and the mother-in-law is my PLM. I don’t need the pain nor aggravation of dealing with multiple “sources” after I’ve already moved the furniture; all I want is accurate and upfront information. What you need are tools that help you communicate without the overhead of complicated communication; without using transformations of data during the work-in-process phase of the process. What do you need? A multi-phased approach:

  • Integrated Library & Component Information - provide the “approved” or “preferred” information within the designers interface to make it easier for them to choose – not another database.
  • Alternate Management – Allows approved users to define alternate to existing parts and manage what approved alternates exist.
  • Shopping List - Create list of preferred parts for specific sites or projects that designers can easily choose from.
  • Production Libraries - Create strong filters that can automatically remove non-standard or obsolete parts from designer’s view and actually highlight failures during design validation.
  • Compliance Audits - Allow ANY approved user to view the work-in-process status and run configurable compliance audits before the design is completed.

Why not make it easy on your designers and have them focus on the heavy lifting? Why not be proactive instead of reactive? With xDM Library/DMS, we can provide the infrastructure for this simple communication and drive behavior without complex interfaces or running back and forth between the fashion consultant. Take a look at my webinar for more details on how xDM Library/DMS can provide this seamless solution for you.

PS – I’m sure we all love our mother-in-laws, just don’t need to include them in every decision :-)

25 August, 2014

I’m taking a brief break from the routing series to share this upcoming event with you because it’s a great opportunity for you to learn more about the new release of Xpedition.

Mentor Graphics is sponsoring a U2U conference for the automotive community at the Adoba Hotel in Dearborn, Michigan on Wednesday, September 10 from 8am to 5pm.

If you are able to attend, share your feedback and questions in the comments of this post afterward. I’d like to hear what you think about the release.

U2U Automotive Conference in Michigan - Free Registration and Agenda Details Here

The PCB sessions include a presentation on the overall flow and a customer presentation discussing their Beta experience with xSD System Designer.

For those interested in DMS and Concurrent Design, there are also two user presentations revealing their experiences with these environments.

PCB Agenda – Entering a new age of increased productivity

Xpedition – Ground Breaking Technology to Address Design Complexity Challenges
Joe Krolla | Business Development Manager | Mentor Graphics
11:10am – 12:10pm

Xpedition System Designer Integration and User Experience
Michael Varnau | Technical Fellow | Delphi Electronics & Safety
1:00pm – 1:50pm

Achieving More with DMS Out of the Box
Velmurugan Kandasamy | Lead IT Analyst | Visteon
2:00pm – 2:50pm

Hardware Design Cycle Time Reduction Using XtremePCB and Concurrent Design

Mike Faler | Project Engineer | Rockwell Automation
3:10pm – 4:00pm

13 August, 2014

routing_webinarI often talk with friends and colleagues in the PCB design community about trends. A subject that comes up often, and has probably been beaten to death, is the use of auto routers in today’s PCB designs. The answer I hear more often than anything else is, “We don’t use auto routing on our designs.”  Why is this?

Is there something that auto routers are not providing? Is there something more they could do? Are they not fast enough?

I often hear, “I don’t like the way they route.” It’s true, X/Y layer biasing and lots of vias placed can make for a lot of manual cleanup. Maybe this is why I also get the comment, “I like my designs to be pretty.”

Please continue reading after you stop nodding your head or laughing…

The myth of the pretty design is just that, a myth. Hand-routed designs do not work better than an auto-routed design, as long as all of the rules are adhered to. Auto active routing creates quality designs through shape based, correct-by-construction rules, whether auto or by hand. So where is the happy medium that will make us more effective designers, instead of glorified digitizers of endless numbers of vertices? Do auto routers need to get better? Or, does interactive routing need to supply more forethought as we lay in etch?

Take a look at this webinar and we will discuss the future of routing technology further in upcoming posts within this series. In the meantime, share your thoughts on this subject in the comments.

Routing Automation: A Breakthrough in Productivity

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