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The Lost Art of PCB Design and Sustainability of a Dedicated PCB Layout Artist

As many PCB designers know, there is a strong and growing need to train students and young professionals in the art of PCB design. It is becoming a lost art in a time when it is ever so needed.   (This need was even acknowledged in the Printed Circuit Design and Fab Circuits Assembly Magazine, August 2017 edition.)  With the current technological upswing, it is truly a great time to be an experienced PCB designer.  But while being an experienced PCB designer is one thing, getting more people to embrace a job as a dedicated PCB designer is another.

The issue at hand is job sustainability.  Few people want a job with an extremely uncertain future, nor do they want to invest a great deal of time and effort learning a skill which may not have an adequate return on investment (ROI).  This investment is both the learning of a complex PCB tool and the art itself through experience.  This simply takes time to develop and master.  Granted, no job is guaranteed, but when the sustainability of a job’s future is fully dependent upon the next project’s existence, that’s a red flag that should not be ignored. Without the progression of projects, the job will not persist.

Hardware design is simply the creation of a single physical design.  From that physical design, copies are made.  This has always been the drawback of hardware design.  When the hardware is done, the need to modify the hardware is limited, whereas software designers can continually add and enhance their code.

For a dedicated PCB designer, sustainability relies upon a continual flow of new designs.  For most companies in the business of hardware products, this tends to be a three-year cycle.  By the third year:

  1. The technology has hit a ceiling, meaning that the addition of any enhancements or improvements will not bring a reasonable Return Of Investment (ROI).
  2. The product itself has matured to the point in which modifications to new revisions are minor.
  3. The company is pulling back on Non-Recurring Engineering (NRE) spending because it is trying to support the existing product lines or it is competing in a saturated market which impacts their bottom line.

Click here to read more about the this new reality of the PCB designer.

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