Designing a Sustainable Future

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If you’ve had the chance to peruse the schedule for IPC APEX EXPO 2023, you may have noticed something surprising: A good chunk of the classes cover PCB design this year.

While it may be traditionally considered a PCB fab and assembly show, it’s quickly becoming a destination for PCB designers and design engineers. Flipping through this year’s schedule, I counted 15 Professional Development and Technical Conference classes that focus on PCB design, as well as several fabrication classes that many of you should probably take.

I checked in with Carlos Plaza, IPC’s senior director of educational development, to discuss the organization’s drive to present more PCB design curriculum at the upcoming show and how the show can give designers the tools they need to overcome the many challenges currently facing the industry.

Andy Shaughnessy: Carlos, I notice that there are more PCB design classes on the docket this year, as well as a bigger focus on design overall at the show. Was that one of your objectives for 2023?

Carlos Plaza: Yes. To accommodate the large number of registrants we've had this year, we've expanded the availability of our existing courses so that participants now have more opportunities to take high-demand courses like PCB Design I & II, PCB Design for Military Applications, and Advanced Troubleshooting and Defect Analysis. We have also responded to industry members’ requests for additional courses on highly topical subjects. Look for new courses on design for excellence, troubleshooting for PCB assembly, implementing Industry 4.0 technologies, and more.

Shaughnessy: I understand that you made some improvements to the design classes this year. Tell me about that.

Plaza: Improvement is an integral part of our process. Ultimately, we want our curriculum to help designers and engineers do their jobs more effectively. To achieve that goal, we make a point of following up with course participants about their experience and meet with subject matter experts to identify topic areas of interest to industry professionals. The information obtained from these conversations, as well as the feedback obtained from our end-of-course surveys, are then used to update content and tailor the delivery of each course on a regular basis. Recent improvements, for example, have ranged from tweaking class starting times to adding new modules that address emerging technologies and methods.

Shaughnessy: You’re in touch with a lot of these designers and design engineers. What are their biggest challenges right now?

Plaza: At an organizational level, the retirement of large numbers of baby boomers poses an ongoing challenge. From now until 2030, approximately 10,000 boomers will retire every day. The pandemic exacerbated this pattern, as many older workers decided to retire early rather than risk infection. This unprecedented brain drain means that organizations are forced to constantly onboard new workers and upskill new and current staff members to both preserve decades of institutional knowledge and keep up with the lightning-fast pace of technological innovations, not to mention the concomitant evolution of industry standards and customer requirements. The shortage of skilled candidates also means that many current staff members are being asked to quickly learn new skills to fill the breach.

Shaughnessy: Why should PCB designers attend IPC APEX EXPO and take some courses? 

Plaza: The Professional Development program brings together the most experienced industry experts in every area of PCB design. It’s the ideal opportunity to learn from those who have already made the big mistakes and developed processes that will help you maximize your effectiveness and efficiency. 

Shaughnessy: Thanks, Carlos. 

Plaza: Thank you, Andy.

For more information about PCB design curriculum at IPC APEX EXPO, check out the December 2022 issue of Design007 Magazine.


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