The DIGITAL Route
PCEA 2020: Small Rearview Mirror, Big Windshield
A successful first year promises even bigger things to come.
In this month’s forward-driving column, I glance back at PCEA’s year in “rearview,” which included an energetic jump-start, some challenging air filter retrofitting, some remote diagnostics, and a final refueling at a successful virtual chapter meeting. Next, I hit cruise control and rely on PCEA chairman Stephen Chavez, who focuses on what lies ahead between the vanishing points of highways 2020 and 2021. As always, I’ll also point out some interesting events for you to consider attending.
PCEA Updates
The past year can be viewed as one of the many good metaphors based on cars and driving, pointing out the differences in size between a rearview mirror and a windshield. You only need to glance in a rearview mirror when backing up or trying to see what may be overtaking you. But if you’re driving forward, your main focus should be on the large, clear windshield to see what’s coming.

2020 was a great year for the PCEA. It had to be because it’s the only one we’ve had. A group of designers, engineers and PCB industry professionals found themselves looking for a new role after the dissolution of the IPC Designers Council in November 2019. The group was not ready to hang up their passion for highlighting and representing PCB designers. Additionally, they acknowledged a more intimate organizational structure was needed to better cultivate and grow relationships with all vital stakeholders to understand and communicate each other’s requirements during the vital phases of design, manufacturing, procurement and test.

In January, meetings were called, and the group came together to prepare the vision and restart as a grassroots organization with a mission to collaborate, educate and inspire the electronics industry to create better printed circuits. However, the group soon found themselves masked and quarantined, as did virtually all the electronics industry. Meeting over the past months, the PCEA was forged and incorporated as a nonprofit. Stephen Chavez established this monthly column a few years ago, prior to the launch of the PCEA. He delegated it to me after he was named chairman of the PCEA.

In less than a year, the foundation of the PCEA has been laid. The organization held its grand opening event online and counts over 1,000 members among many local chapters itching to meet again. More recently, the San Diego and Phoenix chapters hosted a successful virtual chapter meeting attended by over 50 industry professionals from all over, including Canada.

October PCEA Chapter Meeting
Local chapter presidents Luke Hausherr (San Diego chapter) and Randy Kumagai (Phoenix chapter) kicked off the meeting on Oct. 28 with greetings and an introduction to PCEA chairman Stephen Chavez. Steph gave an overview and called on people to spread the word that the PCEA was ready to fulfill its mission of leadership, membership and continually growing industry sponsorship. Recent sponsor Insulectro delivered a technical session on design innovation related to PCB materials, given by VP of technology Chris Hunrath and technical director of design education Mike Creeden, who is also PCEA vice chairman (FIGURES 1 and 2).

Topics covered included:

  • Design innovation
  • Hybrid stackup models
  • Material properties and considerations
  • Effects of loss tangent
  • Mixing laminates
  • Embedded capacitance
  • Advanced HDI structures.

After the presentation, the chapters hosted a raffle with some outstanding prizes. Luke selected the winners (FIGURE 3). The grand prize was a seat of PCB Library Expert, thoughtfully provided by PCB Libraries.

Mike Creeden portrait
FIGURE 1. Mike Creeden.
Chris Hunrath Portrait
FIGURE 2. Chris Hunrath.
Luke Hausherr Portrait
FIGURE 3. Luke Hausherr.
Message from the Chairman
by Stephen Chavez, MIT, CID+
What a year! We will never forget 2020. With everything happening in the world today, it amazes me how many have adapted to the virtual world, didn’t break stride in meeting today’s challenges, and continue to be successful. Our industry’s evolution waits for no one, and many have stepped up to the challenge and conquered it. When I think about how 2020 unfolded for the PCEA, we have far exceeded our initial expectations and goals for the year.

From our grand opening on Jul. 14, our membership continues to see strong growth month after month. We are not only growing within the US, but we also have internal growth. Our local and regional PCEA chapters have seen momentum and success. We now have 10 active domestic and international chapters, with eight chapters in their infancy and many others coming soon.

What excites me most about the chapter activities is how each of the chapters is collaborating and functioning as one collective to better the industry. Even for those of us who have been around for many years and actively involved within the industry, this chapter-to-chapter communication and activity has not been seen before. We truly have collaboration, inspiration and education taking place, especially within our chapters, from one virtual event to another. There is an exciting buzz within the industry about the PCEA.

If these activities aren’t enough to make you want to join the collective, then check out our industry affiliations and collaboration, both domestic and international, which is seeing the same type of growth. Our sponsorships also continue to make strides as we continue to get positive feedback and buy-in to what the PCEA is all about. And there are a lot of webinars offered for free, so take advantage of them when you can.

Our future looks extremely bright. For 2021, look for more activities, collaboration and synergy among all PCEA chapters. You’ll also see growth with our industry affiliates and sponsors to solidify our mission to collaborate, inspire and educate. The year will be even better.

If you have not yet joined the collective, I highly encourage you to do so by visiting our website at pce-a.org and becoming a member.

I continue to wish everyone and their families health and safety. I wish you all much success in 2021.

Next Month
As our leader, Steph is doing his job to set the vision, and the PCEA executive staff will be meeting again soon. We will take feedback from the local chapters and work with our sponsors to make concrete plans for PCEA events to help the industry connect and become more educated. I will report on the materialization of these evolving plans in our first column of 2021, so stay tuned.
Upcoming Events
  • Mar. 8-12: IPC Apex Expo (Online)
  • Apr. 13-15: DesignCon (San Jose, CA)
  • May 10-12: PCB East (Marlborough, MA)
  • May 11-13: IPC High-Reliability Forum 2021 (Baltimore, MD)
  • Jun. 7-10: Zuken Innovation World (Scottsdale, AZ)
  • Aug. 31-Sept. 3: PCB West (Santa Clara, CA)
  • Nov. 10: PCB Carolina (Raleigh, NC)

Spread the word. If you have a significant electronics industry event that you would like to announce, please send me the details at kelly.dack.pcea@gmail.com, and we will consider adding it to the list.

Conclusion
It’s sometimes a relief to look in your rearview mirror and clearly see what you’ve left behind. But through a dirty windshield, covered with Covid-19 and other challenges, it can be daunting to drive forward without vision. At the PCEA, we want to be the windshield wipers or the sponge and squeegee to help you wipe away your printed circuit engineering apprehensions. Our collective will help you see where your industry is going, inspire you to take the wheel, hit the gas, and enjoy the ride. Now is a great time to check us out at pcea-a.org and make a New Year’s resolution to rideshare with us. We’re in it for the long haul and have many experienced designated drivers.

See you next month or sooner!

Image of Kelly Dack
Kelly Dack, CIT, CID+
is the communication officer for the Printed Circuit Engineering Association (PCEA). Read past columns or contact Dack; kelly.dack.pcea@gmail.com.