Thoughts on DesignCon

Back from DesignCon, and thankful I was able to avoid the horrific weather that delayed many traveling to and from this event.

It was the first time in years I attended DesignCon, held at the Santa Clara Convention Center and under the new management of United Business Media (UBM). (As an aside, UBM was our parent company for a few years — small world!)

Our primary focus at the event was to launch (PCU), a new online, e-learning and training site for the industry – and a longtime dream of UPMG President (and now Chancellor) Pete Waddell. In a nutshell, the reaction to the site was outstanding. Mere mention of our having built it on the bethesignal e-learning platform was enough to capture attendees’ attention. Add in sharing a booth with Bogatin Enterprises and the presence of the well-known Signal Integrity Evangelist (aka Eric Bogatin) — and we had plenty of enthusiastic eyeballs. (Fortunately, Eric was not seen lobbing candy from the booth at attendees as he has often been known to do during some of his seminars!!)

Mentor Graphics is our first PCU Design Excellence Curriculum sponsor and held a drawing at DesignCon for an annual scholarship to printedcircuituniversity. The winner to be announced shortly.

Show floor traffic was solid, steady, and quite often heavy during both days of the event as attendees wandered in and out of technical sessions. Comments I heard included being pleased with the traffic, but unhappy with disorganization of some technical sessions, and some negative comments on exhibit set up. I’d also say – a very “sparse” evening reception — unlike the usual PCB West style!! So, we’ll see what direction the event takes next year under this new management.

One show down … on to IPC Expo/Apex in April.

–Frances Stewart

DesignCon Wrapup

Overall I was impressed with DesignCon. I still see it primarily as a show for chip and IP designers, but I could agree with anyone who says it is a show for electrical engineers involved in the entire design process. To me, the conference was lacking in practical design topics in the PCB space. Granted, there were only about eight sessions in the “PCB Summit” portion of the program, but aside from the Lee Ritchey, Eric Bogatin and Bruce Archambeault sessions it was pretty thin.

I do have to mention a panel I attended called Science Fiction…Is it Really Fiction? The panel was chaired by Gabe Moretti and included Eric Bogatin, Gentry Lee and Charles Pfeil. It may please you to know that, according to Gentry Lee, by the year 2200 we will have unlocked the keys to immortality and be able to choose how long we live. Something tells me I won’t live long enough to see it.

Exhibitors in the PCB space included laminate suppliers, a couple of board shops as well as EDA companies. The thing that impressed me most was the traffic. The show was busy every time I was on the floor. In fact I did not get to see some people I wanted to see because they were always busy with potential customers. Some may think that exhibitors are always glad to see the press, but customers – even potential customers – always come first.

Even though the PCB portion of the show was very small compared to the total conference and exhibition, overall I give DesignCon a thumbs up, with one exception. Somebody needs to talk to whomever put the show directory together. I thought at first it might just be me, but talking to other people the consensus was that this was the most difficult to use directory we’d ever seen. If there was a rhyme or reason to the way the directory was organized I couldn’t find it.

The best thing about DesignCon for me this year was reconnecting with people I haven’t seen in years. Some were people from the publishing world and others were from the EDA industry. It was good to see and talk to them all.

All in all, DesignCon was worth the trip.

DesignCon Day 2

Yesterday was the typical busy day for media types like yours truly. A quick breakfast with a couple of the exhibitors and then some editorial meetings. It has been several years since I wore the editorial hat at a trade show and I’d forgotten how distracting it can be to have a business conversation in an open space. Especially when people I hadn’t seen in 8 years or so would walk by and wave. The only thing that saved me was the fact that this is such a small and incestuous industry that the same thing was happening to the person I was interviewing.

I was reminded in one of the sessions Tuesday that the whole EDA market — boards, chips everything EDA, is smaller than Wal-Mart. Just an fyi to put things into perspective.

A couple of notes on the tech conference. DesignCon is trying to address the PCB side of the design world. They’ve put most of the emphasis on signal integrity, bringing in heavy-hitters like Bruce Archambeault, Lee Ritchey and Eric Bogatin. I also saw Rick Hartley on the show floor but don’t think he is speaking this week.

Some things I learned Tuesday. Rogers, the laminate supplier known for RF and microwave applications, is committing considerable resources to the digital market with its Theda products. I want to specifically thank Sean Mirshafiel, a market development manager at Rogers, for a conversation that educated me to some of the finer points of of copper laminate. Sean provided me with the seeds of several articles topics that we’ll talk about in PCDF soon.

Bhavesh Mistry and Vince Accardi of National Instruments brought me up-to-date on release 11 of the Multisim simulator for both academia and the commercial marketplace. Multisim is integrated with National’s NI Ultiboard layout software and its NI LabVIEW measurement software.

Today I have a couple of test drives with some EDA people and I’m looking forward to getting my hands dirty.

DesignCon Day 1: Light on ‘PCB’

Today is Day One of the exhibits at DesignCon. I sat in a couple of classes yesterday by Bruce Archambeault and Lee Ritchey. Today’s itinerary is mostly meetings with exhibitors and a couple more classes. Unfortunately the program is not as deep in PCB subjects as I first thought. Out of just over 100 sessions in the program, I identified less than 10 that bore the “PCB Summit” logo. Kinda makes me wonder about the definition of PCB summit as DesignCon defines it.

Most of the classes are 40 minute sessions, so I should have plenty of time to visit with as many of the exhibitors as possible.

The only pre-breakfast news was from Intercept Technologies announcing a new “enhanced Interface” for their Pantheon layout software and SiSoft’s Quantum Channel Designer software for signal integrity. Intercept has been putting a lot of effort into updating and enhancing their signal integrity capabilities lately, and I’ve put them on the itinerary for later today.

More as the day progresses, so stay tuned.


DesignCon Desertion

In the Monday blog I suggested that anyone who wanted me to pass along specifc comments or ask specific questions at DesignCon next week should shoot me an email or respond to the blog. Now I know that designers have seen the blog, and two people actually sent me emails. So I guess that means that the rest of you are very happy with your software or just have nothing to say.

Are ya just to busy to write? Or do ya just not care? Come on folks, give me some ammunition.