PADS Desktop PCB Design

Discussions on the present, future capabilities and value of the PADS PCB flow.

30 September, 2015

The big box home improvement stores in my local shopping centers all have the same view upon entering those big double-wide sliding entrance doors. The beaming lighting display.

I expect it must be the moth mentality at work here; we enter the store and our eyes are suddenly drawn to those bright light fixtures, sparkling chandeliers, and lighted ceiling fans. Makes sense, I suppose, given that these big box metal buildings aren’t necessarily aesthetically pleasing. So naturally, it also makes sense that there is a seemingly limitless selection of light bulbs to choose from.  An entire row of shelves, in fact, to accompany all those fixtures.

In with the old and out with the new?

In the area where I live, the Research Triangle Park (RTP) near Raleigh, NC, LED (light emitting diode) bulbs are a VERY popular topic. RTP is the home of both the Technology Center and nearby headquarters of Cree. If you’ve been off the grid and/or have not heard of Cree, they are a market-leading innovator of LED lighting products, LED components, and semiconductor products for power and radio-frequency (RF) applications.

As you might imagine, their name pops-up around this area often as Cree LED bulbs are the lighting source for the PNC Arena (where the NHL Carolina Hurricanes play). Even if you haven’t heard of Cree, you’ve most likely seen their bulbs in action lighting up the stadium for Super bowl XLIX.

Does style trump efficiency?

The recent lighting fad that I expect most have seen popping up is centered around light bulbs. Restaurants, bars, and home decor centers are selling bulbs that are a far cry from the new high-tech, energy efficient, 27+ year lifespan LED bulb. In fact, these bulb design styles are taken from the 1879 Thomas Edison electric bulb. These popular nostalgic light bulbs known respectfully as Edison bulbs come in a variety of interesting clear shapes that expose warm ember colored filaments have been resurrected and re-designed to meet today’s safety regulations. Oh, and it seems consumers are drawn to them like the moth to the flame.

The vintage look of the Edison bulbs has taken the attention away from new economical bulbs and decorative lamp shades and draw interest to the stylish shapes and filaments of the bulbs themselves. And this trend seems to really be catching on more so than I would have expected. I was a bit surprised to see that a new Starbucks near my home, which opened just last year, has vintage style lighting fixtures that feature Edison bulbs. The clear glass bulbs expose glowing double filaments — some with inverted shapes, single loops, and double loops. I admit, I could not help but stare at them for a while.

starbucks edison2

Edison bulbs and vinyl records and CRTs! Oh my!

Style is often a BIG “little detail” for consumers. It drives purchasing decisions in nearly every area. People forgo budgets and even necessities for items that provide them with a certain look or display a name brand they are drawn to, or perceive as being “in style.” Choosing vintage over modern technologies is a bit harder for a techy person like myself. I love new gadgets. When I visit my friend that collects vinyl music albums and SWEARS that the vintage turntable sound is better than any CD or electronic recording, I disagree, as you might expect!

Are there vintage products that you prefer? Perhaps a Polaroid camera or a retro telephone. Leave a comment below, I’d love to hear about it! Thanks for reading, John.

25 September, 2015

It is always great to attend PCB West and see the many PADS customers I’ve known for years! Although most are from Silicon Valley, others came from quite a distance. I think the award for the farthest travel goes to Milan Klauz from the Czech Republic!

CC0 Public Domain

The highlight for me was the reception for PADS customers hosted by Mentor Graphics. The Board System Division’s VP and GM, AJ Incorvaia, and the PADS Product Line Director, Paul Musto, spoke about the direction of the PADS product line. Paul talked about the new 3D capabilities coming to PADS this fall; these capabilities were also demonstrated on the show floor. Furthermore, he talked about our roadmap for core PCB enhancements – many taken directly from Mentor’s Ideas website.

AJ re-iterated Mentor’s commitment to PADS, thanked the many PADS customers at the reception for their loyalty, and forecasted development completion on PADS VX.1.2 (November) and PADS VX.2 (mid-2016).

Another highlight was talking to many of the PADS customers who had the opportunity to see a demo of PADS 3D. Every one of them was blown away by the new functionality that will be included in the PADS Standard and Standard Plus suites this fall.

If you missed PCB West, you can still try the new PADS 3D! Our Beta program is live now – just sign up at and let us know what you think.

PADS VX.1.2 is right around the corner!


24 September, 2015

PCB Tech Talk podcastIn the fourth episode of PCB Tech Talk, I speak with special guest, David Wiens (Business Development Manager, System Design Division at Mentor Graphics) about PCB industry trends and the 26th annual Technology Leadership Awards (TLAs).

Technology Leadership Awards

The longest running competition of its kind, the TLAs recognize engineers and CAD designers who use innovative technology to address today’s complex PCB systems design challenges. Dave and I talk about various aspects of the competition as well as the trends that are revealed through the new submissions each year.

So, listen in for details and then gather up your best designs from the past year. Oh, and tell your friends who you know created some impressive work too. A little healthy competition amongst friends is a good thing, right? Plus, there are some great prizes for the winners.

Contest categories:

  1. Computers, blade and servers, memory systems
  2. Consumer electronics and handheld
  3. Industrial control, instrumentation, security and medical
  4. Military and aerospace
  5. Semiconductor packaging
  6. Telecom, network controllers, line cards
  7. Transportation and automotive

TLA2009_CiBoard-520x630Trust me, you don’t want to don’t talk yourself out of submitting your design(s) because you think they may not be technically complex enough to submit. The judging criteria spans beyond size and density. Who knows, you could be among the next set of winners!

Where to go next:

David WiensGuest Bio: David joined Mentor Graphics in 1999 through the acquisition of VeriBest. Over the past 25 years, he has held various engineering, marketing and management positions within the EDA industry. His focus areas have included advanced packaging, high-speed design, routing technology, and integrated systems design. He holds a B.S. in computer science from the University of Kansas.

hero-podcast-iconListen to the podcast via the player embedded in this post, on iTunes, or with your podcast app of choice using the RSS feed. Subscribe today so you don’t miss any future episodes! View past episode show notes here.

22 September, 2015

This is the second in a three-part series examining rule and constraint definition and management that supports a correct-by-design methodology.

In my first post in this series, I discussed our need to achieve compliance to design rules versus constraining our designs and the importance of rule definition and management. This time I would like to take a closer some of the rules and constraints that are needed to meet our design and system performance goals and manufacturing quality targets.

Rules and constraints

Typically when we discuss the topic of constraints, in relation to our PCB designs, we often assume that we are referring to the high speed routing rules. Of course, there are a myriad of electrical based rules that we do need to consider, including:

  • Clock signals
  • Differential Pairs (convergence tolerance, separation distance etc.)
  • Bus structures such as DDR3/4 and PCI-x etc.
  • Net Topologies (MST, Daisy Chain, Tree etc.)
  • Delay and impedance matching
  • Net Classes and Constraint Classes
  • Other critical circuits and nets

Additionally there are many other physical based rules and constraints that also need to be considered. These include:

  • Trace widths and clearances
  • Copper spacing (plane shapes, component pads and other board objects)
  • Solder mask and silkscreen layer data
  • Contours, mounting holes, non-plated versus plated holes
  • Component clearances (between components, and board edge etc.)
  • Z axis clearances (shadow clearances)
  • Logical component groupings (to define and aid placement planning)
  • 3D clearance checking
  • Layer stack-up definition
Define and manage all rules and constraints within a single editing environment throughout the entire design process

Define and manage all rules and constraints within a single editing environment throughout the entire design process

In order to effectively define and manage all of the rules and constraints we impose on our designs, there clearly needs to be an integrated environment that is easy to use (intuitive) and available throughout the complete design flow.

After all, independent engineers who are responsible for the entire design should not have to enter rules at the schematic and later have to either reenter them at the PCB layout stage or use a different tool to modify them.

Interactive and online DRC settings which are adhered to throughout the design cycle provide for an error free (correct-by-construction) design when carefully planned early in the design phase.

Constraint editing during PCB layout provides several benefits including the opportunity to compare the actual routed values versus the defined rules. It is also useful to be able to limit the view of the design constraints to just those you are specifically focused on at any given point in the layout such as routing your clock signals or differential pairs.

During PCB layout, it is useful to be able to compare actual routed values versus the defined rules.

During PCB layout, it is useful to be able to compare actual routed values versus the defined rules.

More on this topic in the final post. In the meantime, I have the same question as before for you – what is the most challenging aspect of design rule/constraint entry and management that you face today? Are there new and upcoming technological requirements that are difficult to address?

To learn more about the importance of PCB design constraints, check out this white paper: Why PCB Design Constraints Should Drive Your Design Flow.

18 September, 2015

Technology Leadership Awards

Started in 1988, the Technology Leadership Awards (TLAs) is the longest running competition of its kind in the Electronic Design Automation (EDA) industry. It recognizes engineers and Computer Aided Design (CAD) designers who use innovative methods and design tools to address today’s complex PCB systems design challenges and produce industry-leading products.

Check out Vern Wnek’s latest blog post to learn more and watch for my upcoming podcast episode in which I will discuss PCB industry trends and the TLAs with special guest David Wiens.

Thanks for reading!


15 September, 2015

Elvis is famous for many reasons: his music, his movies, and his moves. But, have you ever considered Elvis as an early adopter of technology?

In the 1961 movie Blue Hawaii — long before product placement became such a blatant part of the movies as we’ve become accustomed to today, Elvis owned and wore an electronic device that most had only heard about in the news or read about. What was Elvis wearing? The world’s first electric wristwatch introduced by the Hamilton Watch Company in 1957.


The Ventura style of the world’s first electric wristwatch

If you are a SERIOUS movie aficionado, you may have noticed the same Ventura model wristwatch worn by Elvis was also worn by Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones in the popular Men in Black motion picture franchise.

popularMech watch2

Popular Mechanics magazine from March 1957 shows this cross section drawing of the electric wristwatch mechanics.


The Hamilton Electric 500 watch was powered by what was described as “chemical energy stored in a tiny battery energizer the size of a shirt button.” This button-sized battery, along with a coil, a balance wheel motor, and a pair magnets took the place of the gears and winding mechanism that had been used in wristwatches first introduced by Swiss watch manufacturer Patek Phillippe more than 50 years prior.

It’s hard to believe that the demand for Hamilton’s new electric watches was so low that production was discontinued. Seiko later took the electronic movements to the next level with quartz movements that housed few to no moving parts.

Being a techy-type, I was impressed with the development of the small button-sized battery first introduced by Eveready in 1955 for hearing aids. In the late 1950’s, these miniaturized batteries sparked the development of the cylindrical alkaline batteries that revolutionized portable power.

Hamilton Watches recently re-launched The Ventura Collection of watches with its now fashionable non-traditional asymmetrical case style worn by Elvis and those men in black. Seven different variations of the design, in fact, with both quartz and automatic winding timepieces. Paying tribute to Elvis, Hamilton named one watch in the new Ventura Collection the Elvis80 Auto on January 8, 2015. It would have been Elvis’ 80th birthday.

Thanks for reading! John

Connect with me via the comment section below or on Twitter.


Listen and subscribe to my podcast, PCB Tech Talk, on iTunes.

14 September, 2015

hero-podcast-iconAll PCB Tech Talk podcast episodes are now available on iTunes!

Search “PCB Tech Talk” in iTunes or the Podcasts app to listen to episodes and subscribe OR follow this link. If you subscribe, all new episodes will automatically populate.

PCB Tech Talk podcastHave questions, topics of interest, or a guest recommendation? Add them in the comments below or send them to so that we can feature them in future episodes.

To view detailed show notes for each podcast episode, click on the episode button below:

PCB Tech Talk Episode One

PCB Tech Talk Episode Two

PCB Tech Talk Episode Three

In the next episode, I interview David Wiens (Business Development Manager, System Design Division at Mentor Graphics) regarding the 26th annual Technology Leadership Awards and discuss PCB design trends.

4 September, 2015

London is known for its historic and very extensive underground tube. Londoners found that the original maps of the underground rail systems, though geographically accurate, were complicated and confusing. Understanding how to get around in the trains was not easy. Seeing this problem, an engineering draftsman named Harry Beck came up with a genius idea.      


1919 map of the London underground

Beck knew that passengers only really needed to know three things: where they were getting on, their final destination, and when and if they needed to change lines. So, taking inspiration from an electrical schematic, Beck designed a new map of the train system. Instead of focusing on being geographically accurate, it focused only on the three things that the passengers needed to know.

Londoners could simply glance at the train system “schematic” and quickly identify everything they needed. By representing the stations as more or less equally spaced and the lines straight, Beck clarified a complex system to produce a simple and easy to follow diagram.


Beck’s 1933 map inspired by electrical circuit drawings

It was said that Becks ground-breaking design became nearly as famous as the city itself. Similar to what we represent in our schematic diagrams today, Beck represented the elements of the system using abstract, graphic symbols and direct connections rather than geographic accuracy. Geographically accurate information was not only more confusing, it was unnecessary for the passengers.

Yuri Suzuki's functional London Underground Circuit Maps Radio

Yuri Suzuki’s functional London Underground Circuit Maps Radio

Inspired by Beck’s schematic of the London underground, Japanese designer Yuri Suzuki paid homage to Beck by creating a functional London underground circuit maps radio. Pretty cool, huh?

Fun fact:   Beck actually created his map in his spare time, not on the job. His concept has since been emulated by subway, bus, transit, urban rail, and metro companies around the world. Thanks for reading!  – John

27 August, 2015

PCB_Tech_TalkIn this episode, I talk about the PCB design profession and, perhaps, bust the myth that PCB designers are quickly becoming a vanishing breed.

  • Where did the PCB designers with 25 plus years of experience come from? 
  • When they retire, who will replace them? 
  • How did they learn what they know about PCB design and how will those skills be passed on to the next generation of PCB designers?

Join me as I discuss these questions and more, looking into who the majority of today’s PCB designers are, who the next generation of PCB designers may be, and also where they may be coming from and how they might get there.

Fresh Faces in the Design Community, PCB&F, 2014 PCB Designer Annual Survey

How did you learn PCB layout?, EDN Network

LinkedIn Group Discussion, Old Timers PCB Designer Group

Listen to the third episode and subscribe to the podcast by clicking on from your mobile device or manually adding the podcast within your mobile podcast app using that same link. Or, if you prefer, you may listen through the player below.

Future episodes will be announced here on the blog and will show up in your podcast app of choice if you subscribe.

Previous Episodes:

PCB Tech Talk Episode One

PCB Tech Talk Episode Two

Have questions or topics of interest? Add them in the comments below or send them to so that we can feature them in future episodes.

17 August, 2015

Ask any PCB designer what the foundation or building blocks are for printed circuit board designs and you’ll get the same answer – “the component land patterns.”  No matter what you call them – land patterns, footprints, decals, package symbols, etc. – what really matters is that they are accurate.

If land patterns are wrong, your PCB gets fabricated, and then a placement problem is discovered during assembly, you’ve most likely just wasted a lot of time and money.

“The catalyst for some of the best design processes come out of learning from mistakes.” 

So, why does it happen? Are there ever errors in the datasheet? Do people make mistakes?  Yes! And, yes!

Is there a process or procedure missing that could have prevented it?  Let’s talk about it!

In this podcast I discuss some different ways that you can ensure that these foundational building blocks for your PCB designs are strong including:

  • The QA process
  • Tools used specifically for creating quality land patterns
  • Some reliable resources and tools that can ensure designs are correct-by-construction

Let’s ensure that dreaded calls from the PCB assembly house are avoided!

Listen to the second episode and subscribe to the podcast by clicking on from your mobile device or manually adding the podcast within your mobile podcast app using that same link. Or, if you prefer, you may listen through the player below.

Future episodes will be announced here on the blog and will show up in your podcast app of choice if you subscribe. If you missed the first episode, check it out here.

Have questions or topics of interest? Add them in the comments below or send them to so that we can feature them in future episodes.

For more on this topic, check out these white papers:

@@MentorPCB tweets

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