the Route


A Status Plan for Implementing AI Takes Shape

Artificial intelligence as applied to electronics design and manufacturing is in its infancy, but interest is high and questions abound as to what it means – and even what it is.

AI is seen as similar to the Internet in 1995: a big, wide-open technology that companies had to embrace and understand. Success depends on narrow implementations that permit companies to see clearly what the return or improvements will be.

AI holds the potential to revolutionize the creation and manufacturing of electronic products. Unlocking this potential, however, requires collaborative efforts to ensure its effective understanding and implementation. Without concerted action, the realization of AI’s transformative promise in the electronics industry may remain elusive.

To address this challenge, the PCEA Technical Action Group (AI TG) convened a meeting of select representatives of early adopters and providers of AI tools for the electronics sector. The primary aim of this gathering is to solicit input from industry stakeholders to shape an AI Status and Action Plan.

This plan will serve as a roadmap, guiding the industry’s efforts in leveraging AI across circuit board assembly, design, and fabrication processes. It will outline key initiatives, milestones, and strategies necessary for the successful integration and utilization of AI technologies.

We held our first task group meeting in April. The goals of the meeting were: first, to obtain consensus support for authoring a document to educate and to help facilitate acceptance and implementation of AI-assisted tools. And second, we wanted to start an outline of the document. Both goals were achieved.

The document, tentatively called a roadmap, will consider AI as it is applied to the electronics industry. It will review key problems and challenges, IP issues and case studies. It will offer use models, data management recommendations, and propose standards. And it will identify educational needs and guidelines.

Given the dynamic changes occurring, the AI task group’s efforts will be structured as an ongoing and open effort intended to benefit the whole of the electronics industry.

The initial draft has been circulated among representatives from almost 25 companies. The focus is to develop a white paper detailing the status of the technology, the priorities, standards, obstacles to implementation, and timeline.

One of the obvious issues is that AI tools depend on a mode of crowd-sourcing in order to build and refine their models. Developers need users to share designs and data so that the models can learn from real-life situations. Many companies, however, are reluctant to share that data, which in practice would be used to enable their competitors. One of the observations that came out of the discussion was that industries such as medical are way ahead of electronics when it comes to adopting open-source standards. Can the gaps be bridged in our space, or are they too large to overcome?

Under the guidance of Phil Marcoux, an advisor to AI companies and well known in the industry for his early adoption of future mainstream technologies such as SMT and multichip module packaging, the AI Task group plans to roll out the roadmap document this fall at PCB West.

Readers interested in participating on the task group may contact me at

Speaking of PCB West, those interested in AI might take a look at the conference schedule. Among the talks scheduled are ones on Harnessing the Power of AI in PCB Design: Addressing Challenges and Unlocking Opportunities and AI and PCB Design: Where are We and Where are We Going? There also will be a special panel discussion on Oct. 9 as part of the free sessions.

Enjoy your summer!

Mike Buetow is president of PCEA (;