I-Connect Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week


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What a difference a year makes. A year ago, I was getting ready to be on the road for two weeks covering back-to-back trade shows: DesignCon and IPC APEX EXPO. Around this time last year, I was wondering if I could make that trip with just a carry-on. (I did. I may never use a big suitcase again.)

In February, the whole world stopped because of COVID-19. We were all forced to come up with new ways to do our jobs, and the professionals in the PCB industry proved to be among the most creative at adapting to a changing landscape.

I interviewed dozens of manufacturing managers and owners who basically started over—revamping workstations, building in social distancing inside small facilities where it didn’t seem possible, and sanitizing their shops every hour, on the hour. Many of these managers then donated thousands of PCBs for ventilators in the fight against COVID-19.

Call me an optimist, but I have high hopes of being airborne again in 2021, hopefully to an industry trade show such as DesignCon in April or PCB East in May, which are slated to be in-person events as of this writing. Let’s hold a good thought. A few promising vaccines have been rolled out, and things are looking up for 2021.

We always hear that the PCB industry is “mature,” full of people past their prime who don’t know how to change with the times. I think 2020 puts the lie to that idea. I’m honored to be a journalist covering such an amazing group of people.

In the words of U2, “I will begin again.” Happy New Year!

Happy Holden Discusses His Favorite Career Moment
Published December 30

We’re fortunate to have co-workers like Happy Holden, a true pioneer in HDI and manufacturing process automation. But when we asked Happy to name his favorite career moment, he didn’t dwell on technology. In this video interview, Happy fondly recalls a time when his children went fishing on David Packard’s giant ranch, and Packard cleaned the kids’ fish for them, not long after he served as deputy secretary of defense under Richard Nixon. Someone has to clean the fish!

EIPC Technical Snapshot: PCB Surface Finishes
Published December 28

Some of you have mentioned that you feel “webinarred out” after viewing online industry events for most of the past year. If that’s the case, don’t despair: Technical Editor Pete Starkey is attending many of these online events and reviewing them for our magazines. Pete’s review of this EIPC Technical Snapshot webinar on surface finishes was one of the most popular articles of this past week.

Just Ask Heidi: Is Power Integrity the Hot Discipline of the Future?
Published December 28

Our “Just Ask” series has been a popular one this year—another lucky by-product of this crazy year. (“Everyone is at home on their computer now; I bet they have some questions they’d like answered.”) I had interviewed Heidi Barnes of Keysight Technologies when she was a panelist at AltiumLive, and I knew that she’d be a great source for questions about signal and power integrity. Also, I’d never met anyone who had won NASA’s Silver Snoopy award. Here, Heidi discusses which EE disciplines might be the most in demand in the future.

Book Excerpt: The Printed Circuit Assembler’s Guide to Smart Data, Chapter 1
Published December 30

The I-Connect007 eBooks have proven to be popular, covering PCB design, fabrication, assembly, and much more. This excerpt from Chapter 1 of “The Printed Circuit Assembler’s Guide to Smart Data,” written by Sagi Reuven and Zac Elliott of Siemens Digital Industries Software, is one of the most-read articles during the week after Christmas.

Millennials and Seasoned Veterans: Your Future Lies in Both
Published December 29

This article by columnist Dan Beaulieu drew a lot of eyeballs this week. Yes, as his title says, this industry is slowly becoming a mix of young technologists and the “graybeards,” though we folks of a certain age seem to have a numerical advantage over the youngsters for the moment. But Dan makes a great point: We can learn from each other. Sure, the new grads should learn all they can from the senior people looking toward retirement. But the young people have a totally different point of view, and we’d be wrong not to listen to them.

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