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Do you support plans for National tests of PCB layout program use-ability?

Discussion in 'Circuit Simulation & PCB Design' started by Flyback, Jan 28, 2016.

  1. Flyback

    Flyback Well-Known Member

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    Hello,
    A simple PCB is basically a simple structure, there is no earthly reason why laying out a simple PCB in a ‘high-end’ PCB layout program should be difficult.
    (By ‘high-end PCB layout program”, I mean one of the more expensive ones which features things like “Differential pair bus routing”, “Track-pushing” and the kinds of features that are needed to lay out a large, high speed signal, microprocessor board.)

    If laying out a simple PCB in the Eagle PCB layout program is simple (which it certainly is), then why is this not simple to do in a ‘high-end’ PCB layout program?
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    I’ve just been sacked from a PCB layout job after a two-day trial. The PCB layout package concerned was a “high-end” package, that is, one of the more expensive ones.
    Why is it that simple PCBs are very difficult to lay out in the “high-end” PCB layout packages?

    I can, however, use the Eagle PCB Layout program without problems, Eagle is very very different than other packages –much simpler. Anyone who understands a PCB’s basic structure, and can use a windows PC, will easily be able to use Eagle. This is not the case with any of the other “high-end”, proprietory PCB layout packages.
    The “high-end” PCB layout packages are only useable to people who…
    1…have very good I.T. skills, akin to those of a Compute Hacker, or…
    2…are “in the know”, or….
    3…have lots of highly expensive Applications visits.

    It may sound cynical but I believe that the “high-end” packages deliberately avoid publishing effective “simplified guides” to their packages, because it would diminish their income from overly-expensive applications visits. It’s the only reason I can find for the fact that a PCB that is a doddle in Eagle is a considerable struggle in the “high-end” packages. Another point is that no-one will use a bootlegged “high-end” package without a licence if there’s a high chance of them getting totally stuck and needing help from the PCB software company. This is why there are no good “simplified guides” to using them. It encourages people to use a (non-bootlegged) licenced version and also purchase the maintenance contract and renew it each year.
    Also, I believe that the “high-end” packages deliberately put bugs in the software, so that users dare not work on bootlegged unlicenced versions and also users keep up paying the maintenance fees. The existence of these bugs, means that the “high-end” packages need users to be possessed of very good I.T. skills. Due to this situation of the “High-end” packages being deliberately made more difficult than they should be, the type of person needed to operate them tends to either be “in the know”, or someone with very good I.T. skills. –In fact, the I.T. skills needed to operate a “High-end” PCB layout package are akin to the skills of a Computer Hacker.
    In the big companies, you often find that the PCB layout guy is an ex-electronics technician or SMD machine operator who knows components, and just has an excellent flare for I.T and the “computer hacking” type way of working.

    Unfortunately, though Eagle is simple to use, it lacks certain features such as 'Track pusher' and 'Differential pair bus router' etc etc. What would be best is if Eagle were to get augmented with these features. Does anyone know if there are User Language Programs that can be used with Eagle to achieve Bus Routing capability?

    I once spent 8 weeks in a company that was using a “High-end” PCB layout package, even though all their PCBs were simple types. Their layout guy had been using that package for 10 year plus, and had done all the company’s PCBs. In spite of this, during my time at this company, the Package Apps Engineer was in the company for 3 whole days during my time there (at great expense), and this was a regular occurrence. It shows the bad state of affairs regarding the “high end” packages that people still need ‘hand-holding’ after that much time (10 years!), especially when all their PCBs were just simple ones. I actually asked their PCB guy if I should change the “workspace” for a PCB job, and he replied “I don’t know, I never use workspaces”. –This just highlighted everything about “high-end” PCB layout packages, because in that package, you are always in a “workspace”, the “workspace” is the epicentre of the package, it’s just not possible to “not use” them…What this guy meant was, that he hadn’t a clue what a ‘workspace’ was, (because the layout package is so confusing) and that he was just relying on repeated visits from the Apps guy in order to allow him to survive using it.
    These kind of situations are common in many companies.

    Many companies, perhaps if they only have a few simple PCBs, actually like the fact that their PCB layout program is overly confusing. This is because it supposedly reduces the chance of any competitor being able to do anything with the layout/schem files if they were ever to get hold of them.

    In earlier days, I lost a few jobs by not being able to manage whichever company’s “high-end” PCB program. It was no consolation when I eventually happened on the Eagle PCB software package, which is very simple, and would have allowed me to succeed in those previous failures if I’d known about it then. One great feature of Eagle, (aswell as its great intuitiveness & simplicity of use) not shared by almost any other package, is that if someone is testing a PCB and needs the schem and board files…then Eagle has a free viewer that allows anyone to fully interrogate both schem and board. The free Eagle viewer actually allows the user to have full access to all the Eagle features, so viewing is made effective, as well as incredibly simple.

    The only way to describe the currently available “high-end” PCB layout packages is that they are gross, tangled leviathans, made unnecessarily complicated. This though, is sometimes their attraction..Whilst at Jesmond Ltd, we had some driver PCBs designed by a Rotherham company. They had done all the designs in a certain PCB package. However, after finding out that we also used that same package at Jesmond Ltd, they then decided to re-do all the designs in a different “high-end” PCB layout package. –This, presumably, to reduce the chances of us being able to modify the boards ourselves if necessary…instead probably having to pay the Rotherham company to do any modification work for us.

    And by the way, I watched a PhD Electronics guy struggle to lay out a simple lighting test board in the company’s “high-end” PCB program at one company..after three days he managed nothing, and had to ask for help from the PCB CAD operator guy (who , incidentally, used to be a SMD machine operator)….it just shows that its often just a case of being “in the know”
    Once someone has learned a high end PCB package, they then defend it to the hilt regardless of whether its good or bad..after all, once you’ve learned it and are using it, it’s a nice little earner to say the least…and due to the ridiculous difficulty of learning these high-end PCB packages, you can be guaranteed that you’ll never suffer much competition in the labour market, so yes , I can quite see why someone who has ended up learning it would say it’s the be all and end all.
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    No doubt then , that all would agree to the following test to see if high end PCB layout programs really are hard or easy……
    In order to see if High end PCB Layout programs are not more difficult than they should be, a test should be done as follows….
    PCB LAYOUT PROGRAM TEST
    Thirty electronics graduates should be chosen at random, none of whom should have any prior experience of using a high end PCB layout program…

    They should each be given the task (over 8 hours in a day) of making a 2cm by 2cm PCB (1.6mm thick) comprising nothing more than a 0805 resistor and 0603 capacitor connected in parallel on the top layer. The bottom layer should be completely covered in copper, to within 1mm of the edge of the PCB and should be connected by three vias (round, 0.6mm hole diameter, 1.2mm total diameter) to the net of one terminal of the resistor/capacitor. The components should be named “R1” and “C1” in silkscreen.
    There should be solder resist correctly covering the top layer, except for over the solder mask, which would be outside 0.2mm outside the copper of the resistor/capacitor pads.
    There should be a solder paste layer, covering each pad of the R and C to within 0.2mm of the pad’s edges.
    A rectangular silkscreen “box” of 0.3mm line thickness should surround each component. Any silkscreen should never be nearer than 0.3mm to a pad.
    Different net copper should be at least 0.3mm apart.
    No part of any pad should be nearer than 1mm to a via hole.
    Via holes should be at least 1mm apart.
    No hole should be nearer than 1mm from the board edge.
    Each of the components should be correctly placed into a library named “TEST”. The components should have their centres correctly centred so that a file of pick-n-place coordinates can be delivered to the PCB assemblers.
    There should be no solder resist on the bottom layer.
    After finishing the PCB, the gerber files should be correctly produced, to include layers as follows…top copper, bottom copper, silkscreen, solder mask, solder paste.

    The trial people will each be given a pre-made version of this PCB , so they have a better idea of what it is they are meant to do.
    Let’s get this test done with a high end PCB layout program, and lets see just how easy these high end PCB layout programs are not!

    The result of all this, will be that the Government works out what a shambles the high end PCB layout fraternity is, and realises that this is holding up the country’s industry, meaning a reduction in tax revenue due to lower productivity….then the government will sort it out…By either askin for proper “simplified guides” to be made, or a new PCB layout program made, or rather, just stick with Eagle for simple boards, and make an augmented Eagle for the DDR3 type boards.

    A PCB is a simple structure, there is no earthly reason why laying out a simple PCB in a high end PCB layout program should be difficult.
    If laying out a simple PCB in Eagle is simple (which it is), then why is this not simple to do in a high end PCB layout program?
    (by the way, the above trialees should have internet access throughout the 8 hours)
     
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2016
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  2. DerStrom8

    DerStrom8 Super Moderator Most Helpful Member

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    The problem is that the usability of PCB design packages is extremely subjective. What you find very easy could be very difficult for other people. You can't define a test to determine if one is "easier" to use than another. You say you found Eagle easy, but I know some people who found it very difficult to learn. Personally I use Altium, which I picked up on fairly quickly but it is considered a very high-end piece of software.

    I'm sorry to say it, but your entire plan is flawed. It can't possibly succeed because different people have different strengths and weaknesses, and will find the packages' difficulty levels very different from other people.
     
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  3. Flyback

    Flyback Well-Known Member

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    Thanks, but i would like to point out that if an Electronics graduate cannot lay out a simple PCB inside of a day (as described in the "TEST" of the first post), then there is something very wrong with either that PCB layout package, or something wrong with the available "getting started" guides for that package. I am sure you agree with this?
    When i used Eagle i found there was a zero learning curve, it was like falling out of bed, whereas the high-end ones almost require an individual to be good at computer hacking to get into them. -Unless of course, an individual is "in the know", and has pals who can show him/her the ropes.
    Eagle also has plenty of simple "getting started" guides posted all over the web, for those people that need some 'hand-holding'.
    Now, with all respect, surely you do not expect me to believe that Eagle could possibly be found more difficult than any "high-end" PCB package such as Altium?
    So surely you agree to this "test"?
     
  4. dave

    Dave New Member

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  5. jpanhalt

    jpanhalt Well-Known Member Most Helpful Member

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    First, I am sorry you got sacked after just two days. I feel like I/we have lived through a lot of your job adventures and truly wish you could get more stability to that part of your life.

    As for the evaluation, it won't happen. Even more important, if you could pull it off, it won't have any effect. Why should a company use different software to design boards of different complexity? That would be silly. Engineers or designers would have to learn multiple programs that could easily be done with just one program. If Deming (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W._Edwards_Deming) taught industry anything about efficiency, it is that standardization almost always wins in the short run, and always wins in the long run. For example, the simple board you design today may be needed as part of a larger design tomorrow. Why do it twice?

    John
     
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  6. Flyback

    Flyback Well-Known Member

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    Thanks but that's not the main point here.
    The point is that a simple PCB as described in the first post, is that simple that it should be possible for a fresh electronics graduate who has never used a pcb program before, to produce the gerber files for it inside of a day. (or at least the completed schematic file and finished PCB file) Surely you agree? That is what the test is for. If the test is failed, then it unquestionably means that either a new package should be made, or current ones should produce better "getting started" guides.
    Its a 2 by 2 PCB with 2 components on it......the test would give people a day to do it!
     
  7. DerStrom8

    DerStrom8 Super Moderator Most Helpful Member

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    I found Eagle and Altium both easy (though Altium took a little longer to learn, it still wasn't long at all). My point is that your definition of "easier" is subjective and will be different from mine, for example. It will vary from user to user.

    You also have to take into account the features of software packages. There are a LOT of things that Eagle can't do that Altium (and other packages) can. There is a reason many design companies use Altium or OrCAD. They may be more difficult to learn than Eagle for some people, but they can do a lot of things to speed up the design process in the long run.

    And for the record, after using Altium for the past year or so, I find it easier and faster to design a board in Altium than it would be in Eagle (that's even after using Eagle for 3-4 years prior to Altium). That's why it's important, if you ever want to go into the electronics design field, to familiarize yourself with a variety of different tools so that you're ready for whatever the company might throw at you. NEVER focus on just one design package, one operating system, one programming language, etc. People who only study one tool will likely not succeed in their career until they can learn how to use more tools.
     
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  8. jpanhalt

    jpanhalt Well-Known Member Most Helpful Member

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    First, I don't think you have had time to get a good perspective. I would suggest cooling it until the day is a bit brighter. But to specific points in your reply:
    No, I don't agree. I would never hire anyone at an engineer level just to do simple PCB's. During the evaluation period, I might challenge them with a simple PCB just to see if there was any hope. Our new medical technologists (generally equivalent to a 4-year degree -- there are many variations) were on a 90-day probation period extendable to 180 days. Everything they did during that period, regardless of their previous training and experience, was reviewed. You were on a probationary period and were give a simple task to use the company STANDARD software. You didn't see the larger picture.
    I don't have a clue who that company was, but I can be pretty sure its business was not comprised of putting a resistor and capacitor in parallel. Again, you missed my point. That company did not want an engineer who could only do simple circuits with a piece of software that was incompatible with the software used throughout the enterprise.

    Check out how Deming changed Japan's industry post war. He took it from worse than "cheap Chinese" to the standard of quality in 20 years.

    John
     
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  9. throbscottle

    throbscottle Well-Known Member

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    Sorry you only lasted 2 days in that job. Obviously it was not the job for you, and you would have been unhappy if you'd stayed. A job you will love awaits you somewhere. Always look on the bright side :)
    I see your point - like using a sledgehammer to crush a gnat, or using photoshop where ms paint would do, or taking a yaught to paddle round the boating pond, etc etc etc. it is endemic.
    OTOH, learn one thing and learn it well, and it will serve you well. Doesn't help if everyone is using a different thing though.
    I imagine there are some very thick and very expensive books you can buy which tell you everything you need to know about those packages...
     
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  10. Flyback

    Flyback Well-Known Member

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    Sorry but that's not the point, obviously you wouldn't just hire someone to do simple PCBs,

    ...please read my post #5, that is the point.
     
  11. DerStrom8

    DerStrom8 Super Moderator Most Helpful Member

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    ...Or the company should find a candidate for the job who is better at figuring things out on their own and/or has more experience. A self-sufficient employee is a successful employee.
     
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  12. Flyback

    Flyback Well-Known Member

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    In UK there is a big shortage of people who can do PCB layout with high-end packages, this just shows that better "simplified guides" are needed. After all, a simple PCB is a simple structure, the software to do it should be simple. What is it about that logic that people don't get I do not know.

    Once someone has learned a high end PCB package, they then defend it to the hilt regardless of whether its good or bad..after all, once you’ve learned it and are using it, it’s a nice little earner to say the least…and due to the ridiculous difficulty of learning these high-end PCB packages, you can be guaranteed that you’ll never suffer much competition in the labour market, so yes , I can quite see why someone who has ended up learning a high-end pcb layout package would say it’s the be all and end all.
     
  13. jpanhalt

    jpanhalt Well-Known Member Most Helpful Member

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    Do you have any evidence the government gives a damn about that? It is more concerned about terrorist attacks.

    John
     
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  14. DerStrom8

    DerStrom8 Super Moderator Most Helpful Member

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    I doubt there's any more of a shortage in the UK than there is in the US, or any other first or second world areas. If they let you go, it's because they felt you weren't right for the job, or the job wasn't right for you. You can't legitimately fight back telling them it's their fault for using software that you don't know how to use. A company is not going to change its practices just for the sake of one inexperienced employee. Like I said, if you want to succeed you'll need to study these high-end programs and get more experience with a multitude of tools. Don't complain just because you haven't learned how to use the right tools for the job.

    You're completely missing the point (you've been doing that a lot in this thread). The point is that the tools, even if they're more complicated to learn for some people at first, can do a LOT MORE than a simpler program can. It is a fact that Altium has a wide variety of features that Eagle does not, and that speed up the design process once learned. It is worth learning the high-end packages because it will save time throughout development, which saves the company money and will make them more likely to keep you hired on.
     
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  15. Flyback

    Flyback Well-Known Member

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    The Gov't gives a damn, because when PCB layout packages are made as easy as they should be , the government will earn more money through taxation of the more productive industries, and will be able to pay for the anti-terror campaigns.
     
  16. Flyback

    Flyback Well-Known Member

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    If it was just me that couldn't do it, then I wouldn't mind, but UK co's are drastically short of high end pcb layout program staff....it shows that the test I speak of in post#1 is needed.
    Again I repeat, a simple PCB (eg a small 2 Watt LED driver PCB) is a simple structure, the software to do it should be simple. What is it about that logic that people don't get I do not know.
    Its simple in Eagle, why not the rest?
     
  17. DerStrom8

    DerStrom8 Super Moderator Most Helpful Member

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    If they were really that short of high-end PCB designers then they wouldn't have let you go.

    For the last time, in order to make a program easier to use , it would require the removal of many of the features that make the software useful and faster to use in the long run. It would be a pointless exercise to do the "test" you speak of.

    And in the time you spent writing and complaining about the software and the company that let you go, you could have been practicing with the free version of Altium (I'm just presuming this is the package you are referring to) and reading the Altium TechDocs (which are very in-depth, by the way).
     
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  18. jpanhalt

    jpanhalt Well-Known Member Most Helpful Member

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    I just did a back-of-envelope calculation of what your study will cost. Answer: $50,000 to $200,000 USD. Apply for a grant, unless you have that amount laying around, and go for it. What is stopping you? Let us know how it works out.

    John
     
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  19. Flyback

    Flyback Well-Known Member

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    Sorry but I don't agree with this, it must be possible to make a simple guide to explain to someone how to do the simple PCB TEST given in post #1.
    The real reasons people haven't made these simple guides are actually given in the top post here.
     
  20. Flyback

    Flyback Well-Known Member

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    ..no problem , i have a big UK newspaper who has the money ready now, they also have their headline ready, "UK electroncs graduates can't make a simple circuit board".
    It is just a matter of time before we go for it.
     
  21. DerStrom8

    DerStrom8 Super Moderator Most Helpful Member

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    Answer me this question: Why ask what people think about an idea when all you're going to do is fight them tooth and nail about why you think they're wrong?

    I answered the question, I don't think there's anything more to be said.
     
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