- A Computer Systems and PCB Engineer with over 25 years of experience in embedded systems, FPGA, and PCB design
- Is an avid tinkerer and is passionate about the creation of electronic devices of all kinds
- Holds a Bachelor of Engineering with First Class Honors from the University of Southern Queensland
- Currently Senior Product Manager for ECAD in Autodesk Fusion 360, and 16 years prior with Altium
- Recently licensed HAM radio operator
- Call Sign?
- Lots of Ham radio operators that listen to the podcast
- Do you still build and design PCBs?
- What EDA Tool do you use?
- History in the industry
- Eagle and Fusion 360
- How they integrate
- Is the plan to change the name to Fusion PCB?
- Eventually one program?
- Layout from inside of fusion?
- The Future
- Of Eagle?
- Any juicy news?
- Trends in the EDA tools
Special thanks to whixr over at Tymkrs for the intro and outro!
About The Hosts
Parker Dillmann is MacroFab's Co-Founder, and Lead ECE with backgrounds in Embedded System Design, and Digital Signal Processing. He got his start in 2005 by hacking Nintendo consoles into portable gaming units. He also runs the blog, longhornengineer.com, where he posts his personal projects, technical guides, and appnotes about board layout design and components. Parker graduated with a BS in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Texas.
Stephen Kraig began his electronics career by building musical oriented circuits in 2003. Stephen is an avid guitar player and, in his down time, manufactures audio electronics including guitar amplifiers, pedals, and pro audio gear. Stephen graduated with a BS in Electrical Engineering from Texas A&M University.
Host 1 00:11
Welcome to the macro fab engineering podcast. I'm your guest Benjamin Jordan.
Host 2 00:17
And we're your hosts Parker
Host 1 00:18
Dolman and Steven Craig.
Host 2 00:20
This is episode 253.
Host 1 00:24
Ben is a computer systems and PCB engineer with over 25 years of experience in embedded systems, FPGA and PCB design. He's an avid tinkerer and is passionate about the creation of electronic devices of all kinds. Ben holds a Bachelor of Engineering with first class honors from the University of Southern Queensland, and is currently Senior Product Manager for E CAD in Autodesk fusion 360 and 16 years prior with Altium. Ben is also recently licensed ham operator.
Host 2 00:56
So Ben, thank you so much for coming on to our podcast.
Host 1 01:01
It's it's a great pleasure. Thanks for having me.
Host 2 01:05
And so my first question is, since you're a recently licensed ham operator, what is your callsign?
Host 1 01:11
K N six GPS. So I feel like that's one of the cool money call signs, you know, ending with GPS. I don't know how I had so lucky with that one, but it's awesome.
Host 2 01:23
Do they randomly assign them to you?
Host 1 01:27
I think they're allocated by the testers in in batches. And then they more or less randomly are assigned once you pass the exam.
Host 2 01:36
They don't just like keep the cool ones for themselves.
Host 1 01:40
They have a vault of cool names in the back.
Host 1 01:42
They could that they might. But yeah,
Host 2 01:45
We have a lot of hot ham radio operators that that listened to our podcast. So I had to ask, I used to work with a guy whose callsign was ham and cheese.
Host 1 01:57
I think you have to do extra favors for people to get that kind of callsign. But actually, the first part of the callsign is has a meaning and a code. K is a letter K and six, for example is attached to the region that I did my examine, because I'm here in Southern California there. They're all starting with K and six here in this region
Host 2 02:26
That I'm in. So it's like your area code of your phone number
Host 1 02:30
Kind of Yeah, yeah. It's it's divided up. The first part of it's divided up geographically. And oddly enough, the higher the levels you go to the fewer characters. It's from my understanding, so I've just got the technician grade license now. But later on when I go for the general and advanced certifications, I'll end up with a shorter call sign.
Host 1 02:59
I guess it gets more exclusive.
Host 1 03:01
Yeah, yeah. What's what's the, I guess, Eagle Scout or the Grand Wizard version of ham operators like what's the top of the top
Host 1 03:10
It's it's advanced. This service technician then there's general and then there's advanced, this really just three levels. And basically you get more privileges the more you do. So right now I can just operate in the basic set of ham bands, HF VHF, UHF, some microwaves, but not much, and limited power levels. But then as you pass the the higher grade exams and effort for honestly, for electronics engineers, it's not it's not difficult stuff, because you've pretty much studied it all already. Which is partly why I decided to do it, I thought there's things I don't know and I want to know more I want to learn more about antenna theory and you know, different modes of propagation and how you can use atmospheric effects and to do just do different experiments. But to to do that you have to get a license obviously, they can't just have anyone randomly doing spewing noise into the electromagnetic noise into the environment. So it's got to be regulated and fair and all that. But you need to show that you know, you know more theory and more of the dangers of different things as you go to different frequency bands and power levels. There's things you have to have to consider there was a guy I did work with at Altium who was a very experienced been an advanced ham operator for years and years designs his own RF power amp Fyers has a massive RF dummy load and it's like you get to this, you get to this stage where you have to acquire some pretty specialized equipment or build it yourself and know how to sew. At RF, he said this thing to me one day that just made me laugh because it triggered my imagination. And RF things get weird. And what he meant was if you're dealing particularly with if you're dealing with high power, high frequency stuff, unpredictable things can happen. If you don't know how electromagnetic energy works, like you could start transmitting from a power amplifier you just designed and other things around your house start cooking over. So you know,
Host 2 05:53
It's like the story of I can't remember who invented the microwave. But the story goes is the the person was standing in front of a radar dish, and notice that the chocolate in his shirt was melting. Like, well, they're getting bombarded by that same energy. person is?
Host 1 06:13
Yeah, yeah, if when I was, when I was a teenager, I had a friend who was in the workforce already, who is, you know, six or eight years older than me and sort of taught me about electronics early on, and got me into it as a hobby as a kid. And he had stories of people warming themselves up in winter by standing in front of a dish. And not realizing that this may have implications later in life, like not being able to have boys or getting cancer, perhaps, or some other more serious ailment. But that was my first sort of exposure to what or mental exposure to what could happen in the RF sort of world. And that's
Host 2 07:03
Just the old school version of CRISPR. So do you do you still build and design PCBs?
Host 1 07:13
I do. I'm actually currently working on because I just started at Autodesk this summer, the end of summer. And, and I, I used to use and love Eagle before I worked at LTM, over 17 years ago, I was I was using Eagle like many other people at that time, I I was actually still working on my bachelor's degree. So as a student, and a goal was the tool of choice because it was pretty easy to pick up. And they had a free version for for students and hobbyists. And that's, that's what I could use. And I tried all sorts of other things try to a very early version of some of the other open source tools, and they were all just impossible. At that time, I think things have come a long way since then, that ego was it. So I just I learned to read the manual. And did a lot of simple two layers, small boards because it was limited with the free version. But not long into that I got a job at LTM because I was my real focus at the time was FPGA, you know, coding and VHDL and Verilog and that sort of thing. And they had an opening for someone like me to work on FPGA IP core. So I did that for a while and you know, one thing led to another I ended up becoming kind of the Altium Designer guru for a long time. And just this year, he switched to Autodesk and working back with Eagle again. So it's kind of like I went from a stick shift sportscar car to an automatic people mover for 16 years and now I'm learning to drive stick again so I feel a bit rusty and rough. But I knew I had to I had to sink my teeth into it and really learn it well. So I started with a pretty ambitious project I'm designing a board right now that has a lattice CPLD one of the mark XO family CPLDs at its core, and the goal is to build a board that can be a touchscreen interface, basically a GPU for microcontrollers. So I got got some Touchgrind TFTs from by display that use a standard sort of 40 pin connection And that's going to be wired up straight to the FPGA or CPLD device that's got a bunch of SDRAM for bitmap storage and double buffering. And then hanging off of that I could have any other kind of microcontroller that just had, all it should have to do is send simple serial commands, I load this bitmap in this position on the screen and, you know, receive back the touch sensor input. So that's the idea. Taking me a lot longer, because in addition to actually just doing that design, I'm actually the product manager for fusion 360 Electronics now. So what does that mean, I'm spending more time in meetings, sort of, as I go through the tool, evaluating workflows and seeing what we can do that it's going to make electronics design really a pleasurable experience for anyone who, who wants to give it a go in fusion. So he's kind of my main focus.
Host 2 11:02
That's where I want to go next. So what does a besides being in meetings all day, what does a senior project manager do as a
Host 1 11:09
Product manager, so Okay, so because of all my years experience in ECAD, in particular, in particular, with Altium, because it's a, it's probably the most popular in that sort of mid market professional range. All day Autodesk, basically asked me to come on board, because they have their head some people who are from that industry and know it well. But they wanted to set up a dedicated role since since we're moving electronics design into Fusion 360. Now, Fusion 360 is known mostly as a CAD and Cam tool for mechanical design, and modeling. And people have been using it for driving CNC machines and laser cutters and waterjets and realizing their physical products. But But the big vision and plan for fusion 360 is it's it's the design to make platform for any kind of inventor or engineer who has a good idea. And there's, there's no product pretty much anywhere in the world except for, you know, a kind of product. Increasingly, we all know, every product being invented now has some kind of intelligence in it some kind of smart capability. So you have to have electronics, it just makes sense. And how do you get that you acquire a very popular and loved technology, and that's a goal. And then you you work with that to improve it and build, build that into your main offering. And that's fusions 360. But while we're at it, because it's a totally new user experience, and sort of design environment, we get to redo some things, and shed some of our preconceptions from the last 30 years of ECAD. And we keep the things that are valuable and that people need for designing serious printed circuit boards. So great routing, great schematic, the ability to customize your workflow and, and use the libraries and the content that you've spent years building up, or that you might download from semiconductor manufacturer websites, you can you can keep all of that goodness and keep the content, but do things in a much, much more connected way, between ECAD and MCAT. And so, and then down the road, hopefully other areas as well. So that's, that's kind of the big grand vision. And fusion was a good fit, because it's the same kind of audience that eagle had. It's starting from a free version for students and hobbyists, giving them something that'll allow them to explore and learn and do do serious real designs. But all the way up into the, into the professional engineers who need you know, they use these tools day in day out, they absolutely rely on them, and they need them to be efficient and easy to use, but also customizable, configurable, you know, all that sort of thing. So that's kind of why fusion was a good fit.
Host 1 14:41
You know, I've a quick question. If we rewind just a second. So you jumped into Eagle or earlier on and then you had, I suppose a kind of a hiatus of 16 or so years, and then you jump right back into Eagle Getting back into it. Did you? What did you notice? What did you see? Like? Was it significantly different? Was the user experience still the same? Was it? Did it surprise you? Or was it just like getting on a bicycle and riding again,
Host 1 15:15
It was not like getting on a bicycle and riding again. Everybody's different, you know, but I will be, I will humbly admit that when I haven't used software for 17 years that I explained, just enough in that time, that some some things were were different that obviously, there's a lot of new capabilities that were added over those years, especially the last four years since Autodesk acquired Eagle, a lot of additional power has been put into things like routing, Polygon management, and of course, the MCAT integration with Fusion. So all of that's kind of new. In a sense, some of that stuff's actually easier to use for me, because it's just sort of it involves a lot more automation, and it just works kind of in a way I would expect it to. And then there's, there's the other side of me that hasn't run a ULP script in many, many years, for example, and Eagle as any serious Eagle user knows that, you get a lot of power out of things like that. And you get a lot of I
Host 1 16:29
Just shown Steven that every single day.
Host 1 16:33
We argue about this pretty regularly. Yeah,
Host 1 16:36
But at the same time, at the same time, my personal philosophy as a product manager is if you have to write a lot of extra scripts, to get something to work the way you need it to, it probably should just be a feature of the software, because chances are, most people need that. And it should just work and have it and follow the user experience paradigms, the rest of the tool, so it's easy to find and figure out.
Host 1 17:00
So that's Stephens argument.
Host 1 17:04
That's the exciting, but I can live with the cognitive dissonance of both. Because there's there's value to both. And not every engineer does the same kind of work, right, some. So took, let's go back to RF for a second. If you're doing microwave PCBs, you have a very unique set of challenges that regular PCB tools, none of them that, that I've been exposed to have a good set of tools that cater to the microwave circuit board designer, you. Inevitably, those professional microwave designers have to use simulation tools, and they end up designing their RF layouts more or less in the simulation tool, and then having to translate the data or re build it in PCB CAD, for production. And that's a hassle. So in those are the kinds of situations where you might customize something or say, you know, what, there's enough microwave engineers using this product that perhaps it should be an add on that they can, they can all get, they can all download it and add it if it's something that they need in their workflow. So yeah, I think, I think there's always a need for customization and scripting, because everybody's situation is a little bit different. And, and it gives you a lot of extra power at the same time. I want to refactor a lot of what's got to be done in the past in your LPS into actual first class features of the fusion 360 electronics. So there's, we are actually working on that for quite a few of them.
Host 2 18:49
There's a I think it was in version six of Eagle. Oh, this is a long time ago. But um, but yeah, because there used to be a ULP like, how would you put a bitmap on an eagle board? And it was it there was a ULP for it. And so you had to go fight and the up came with with it with the install, but you had to know where it was? Well, in version six, Eagle, I don't know. What was it called Eagle CAD software things
Host 1 19:19
CadSoft. Eagle was the the original owner. Yeah,
Host 2 19:23
Yeah. So they just added a, a menu item in like, an edit or whatever that just said, important bitmap, and it was just a link to the ELP built in the menu system. So they didn't fundamentally change how the ULP worked. It just went ahead and did the steps of run ULP with that extension, yeah,
Host 1 19:45
Dx F input was one of those two, and DX F input was is needed for custom, you know, Logos as well, just like bitmaps It's also used for
Host 1 19:58
That kind of stuff. Yeah, mechanical stuff. Yeah,
Host 1 20:01
Broad outlines. Yeah. But a lot of that stuff should just be baked deal so that it runs a lot faster and, and while we're at it, we can refactor some of those things and add, add features that have been missing, or enhancements that will make it a nicer user user experience. So that's really a lot of what I'm doing as the product manager now is going through and evaluating where are we at? Where do we need? Where do we want to be? And what are the steps to get there for prioritizing things? You know, so there's Matt Berger, and just posted this on the forum in response to a customer. Just yesterday, or the day before that there's, there's some foundational work going on right now to drastically improve performance, but also lay the groundwork, if you if you have this house, this is how I put it if you have this house, that's one story. But you're renovating and you're gonna build it up to three storeys to be to make it way, nicer living spaces, more capacity, higher ceilings for everybody and you. But the base house you have is good, you don't want to waste, knock it down and rebuild from scratch, necessarily, maybe there's some things about it, you just really love, right. And that's what we have with Eagle so but to build up to more stories on top of that, we have to lay with the brakes, some of the foundation and re re pour and strengthen and reinforce that concrete. So. So that's, that's what's happening. There's a lot of work. And in the meantime, we want to improve some workflows and add some features people have been needing for a long time. And add the ability to bring in content from other places and improve the library workflow like this, there's so many things and, and will continue to work on those and improve those and release those new capabilities. But at the same time, everyone needs to know, we're also doing some deep foundational stuff that's really going to unlock us for some massive improvements down the road,
Host 1 22:23
You will p 2.0.
Host 1 22:27
You can assign any button to any ULP.
Host 1 22:29
That might that's actually one of the foundational projects too, because the whole rest of fusion, the whole rest of fusion has Python based API for customization and, and in the modern world. Like we, we wouldn't cut off your LPs, anyone who's been using Eagle for any amount of time has you LP stuff customized and scripts that they want to use to automate. So those have to be supported going forward. And that is that is currently supported. It needs some improvements here or there. And we're working on that. So that that's still there, it's going to stay. But we're also wanting to support moving forward the fuse, the whole fusion API ought to work as well for ECAD as it does for the MCAT side. Because it's it's insanely powerful that API and Python scripting, so many people can't easily get their heads around C, or C Plus Plus style language like ULP. But almost anybody who's sort of technically minded can learn a bit of Python and do some cool stuff. So that's why Python just took off as probably the world's most popular language now. So actually
Host 2 23:48
Looking at the Autodesk fusion 360 Python API stuff.
Host 1 23:52
Yeah, good. I could see the gears turning in Parker's head as soon as he said that pi pod. I didn't know
Host 1 23:57
Host 1 23:58
I expect great things from you. Pakka. Well,
Host 2 24:07
That was that's actually, for me at least that's pretty good. Thanks. I heavily leveraged the ULP system in Eagle. And I do a lot of Python. So it's like that's that's I get I get the throw away see in my brain now. I shall probably never do that do too much microcontroller. I was about to say you do
Host 1 24:26
Embedded stuff. Oh, I never do that. I love seeing
Host 2 24:30
Oh, they got micro Python now though. They Well,
Host 1 24:33
They do. mess with my head a little bit. Just the idea. It's like, Wait, that just takes me back to pick basic or basic 52 from you know, the AD AD 52 days? Yes, I'm that old. In fact, my first micro, my first microprocessor class was in college. When I was studying just my associate's degree Many years ago and that was a that was the 65 co2 and even then the students were saying come on the six five a two is so old. Why do we have to learn on this thing? College had all this classes and equipment single board computers in labs they had it all set up they didn't want to change the theme. Yeah our value that experience because not many people can say the first assembly language program was written on a six fiver to only old people like me.
Host 2 25:36
That actually just got my gears turning about when I learned assembly. So I learned on a nine s 12. Freescale. But that was that was also really old when I went school, but like thinking about like, trying to write a technical manual on assembly and teach it to people's like, No, you wouldn't want to change that class structure, you might want to change it once every two decades. Right?
Host 1 26:00
Yeah, it's a huge amount of work. Yeah, huge amount of work.
Host 2 26:07
I guess arm assembly would probably be what you'd want to do. Now, if you're a student.
Host 1 26:12
Yeah, and it's It's strange but important language. arm assembly is. It's, it's not like anything else I cut my teeth on. So I went from six fiver to to at at 51. And then from there religious to see coding. In my career, I mainly just did see coding. So much more productive. But you want, you still need to learn some assembly for two reasons. One, it's very character building.
Host 1 26:44
It'll grow hair on your chest.
Host 1 26:47
And I pause for effect, because it's so true. And until you've done some, you can't really know why it's character building. And the second is, if you even if you're even if you're working with quite a powerful microprocessor there, there are times that you need to go into what the compiler made, and see and understand what it made. So you can decide, is this optimizing the way I want or is, is my data structure or the variables I'm creating? Are they actually matching in hardware, what I had in my head when I wrote the software this way. So it should be understood it at very minimum as a means of informing you while you're developing and debugging. But that's, and I don't think any serious developer would disagree with that. And if you really want to get the most out of it, you need to learn enough. So they can go and hand optimize certain things or write a function that you're going to call and see, but you need to write it in assembler, because you want to be fussy about how its implemented. There. There are some cases, particularly with digital signal processing. And there's a lot of microcontrollers now that have pretty powerful features. But you mentioned, you know, anything sort of Cortex M four, or bigger, let's say can do some pretty powerful, decent DSP stuff. But if you if you want to get the most out of that without going to a more expensive part, you have to be able to do at least a little bit of hand optimizing.
Host 1 28:41
Yeah, I was I was actually talking with our firmware developer at work just the other day. And he was mentioning that he did exactly that way. He wrote a handful of snippets of code and then compared them in assembly. And even though he wrote them differently, the compiler just assumed they were all the same, which was actually an OK assumption. And he was able to optimize pretty significantly and just completely write his code in a in a kind of a wacko way. But it made sense for the compiler. And it was only because he, you know, dug that deep.
Host 1 29:17
Yeah, yeah, DSP is the classic case for that, too, of course, I mean, if you if you want to do an F IR filter, you probably are actually, you know, even more so in an infinite impulse response filter, you know, it's as structure with multiply accumulates and some feedback. And some coefficients. You almost always want to implement something like that in assembly language. So that you know, it's using, it's using the hardware. There's purpose built for that to get get the most out of it and why? Well, you might not actually need it if you're just doing audio processing might be fast enough letting the compiler take care of it. But that's just profligate SCI. Fi is the $30 word, real engineers would optimize it or write it, write it in assembler. Knowing that, well, now I have tons more CPU cycles available for all the other stuff I want to do, or for improving adding features to this product later on.
Host 2 30:28
That's when you get those forum posts. That is, how can I make two Arduinos? Talk to each other? Gaining need more horsepower. So back to Eagle and fusion. So you were talking about how it's your job basically, of looking at the future? And how does it all integrate together? So how do they integrate together now and what's the plan of moving that into the future?
Host 1 31:02
Well, and this, this is a slightly sensitive topic, because naturally, eagles still, you can still buy a subscription and get eagle and install it as a standalone desktop app. But you also get fusion 360. And you can make the to talk together. But we have put essentially what is what amounts to Eagle inside of fusion 360 with some changes to the UI, and that is is where there's more possibilities, because we've linked the whole product design into one tool set. That there's there's more things you can do, for example, between the mechanical assembly and the PCB CAD that you couldn't do before, for example, in Fusion if you've got your 3d PCB and fusion, in a mechanical assembly and the board's part of that assembly, but you've also got your schematic and PCB files there, I can move a component in the mechanical space. So I can move a connector or an LED to align with a light pipe or something else in the mechanical assembly. And there's a lot of little iterative tasks that are needed for whole product design like that, where you have to move things around and try different things. Fusion 360 and its routing in the 2d PCB will actually synchronize that change and even reroute the parts if you move a connector or a chip, it'll reroute that to the best it can of course, given you know constraints, and that it's it's pretty impressive what can be done if you bring everything into one environment. So that's really the future eagle is being maintained in the meantime, because we recognize it still people you know, who rely on it daily, it's it's their bread and butter PCB design tool, we're not going to just tear the rug out from under those people. So it's not, it's not going anywhere in a hurry. It's been maintained. There'll be bug fix release, type stuff going on. But the new power is and the investment is being made in fusion and and we're not going to expect anyone to move from Eagle to Fusion 360 until it's good enough, that would be just naive and unrealistic. So actually
Host 2 33:56
Test drive that stuff now like is that in my
Host 1 34:01
Play? Yeah, if you if you have a goal, if you have an eagle subscription today, you have fusion 360, and it has the electronics built in. And you could you could compare, you could use Fusion for an electronics design. There's a few subtle differences at the beginning, if you're if you're used to using Lego, you probably start just with a schematic. And then you add a board and if you put them in the same folder, and they have got the same name it knows to synchronize them. Usually, you have to have a high level electronics design document for for example, and you go to the File menu, you can create a new document and then add a schematic to that add a PCB to that.
Host 2 34:42
So it's kind of like how Eagle had projects.
Host 1 34:46
It's like an eagle project. Yes. Okay. Yeah, that's a test
Host 2 34:49
I that that sounds very interesting. So I never knew about that. And I've been using Fusion 360 in Eagle four. I've been using 360 Since back going on was called 123 D, which is like six, seven years ago. So I want to know, if one two 3d turned into 360, they seem,
Host 1 35:12
I think they probably share some technology. But I'd been I wouldn't, in my mind, they're not really the same thing. But I think they probably do share some some underlying technologies like a lot of Autodesk products do.
Host 1 35:27
I was watching some of the videos earlier today on the Autodesk website, in the in the eagle portion, about how Eagle kind of meshes with 360. And some of the stuff in there is really, really cool, I have to admit, so I'm not for any, anyone who's listened to our podcast for longer than five minutes, they know that I'm not an eagle user. But I have to admit that like, I'm super jealous of, of how it does integrate in Fusion 360, because I'm a fusion 360 daily user, I use it both for my home projects. And for everyday at work, I do a lot of 3d CAD, and I also run our mills at work. And I use Fusion for all of that. But the ability to to draw your PCB in fusion, and then suck that into Eagle. And then you have the outline, and you have your mounting holes and everything. And then you can do adjustments, and they talk to each other actively both fusion and Eagle. That's incredible.
Host 1 36:30
Yeah, yeah, that's, that's the whole Kedem kid co design paradigm right there. And there's, again, there's more that can be done when they're in the same underlying platform, let's say. So and this is why this is why we're merging these worlds. So the level of integration, that that's between the mechanical assembly and the printed circuit board layout. In Fusion, if you're doing the PCB in fusion, it's it's another level deeper again, of facility and automation than what you get just with Eagle and fusion. as separate sort of tools, they weren't great. But you get, you get a deeper level of ability to synchronize more and have more insight into both worlds, the mechanical and the, and the electronics. So we're really going with that is, you know, there's a number of different things that we might, and what we hope to enable is, you know, that this many people in the future who who are kind of super engineers, who kind of do everything, and even as it is today, there's a lot of Eagle users, a lot of electronics engineers, and electronics designers who still need mechanical CAD, at the very least, for designing all their, you know, 3d packages for their libraries for the parts. And for building a good, accurate model of the of the finished board for documentation for presentation purposes. And heck, there's even more you can do, if you have your library, your electronics library, set symbols and footprints in fusion, your electronics design and fusion and you place an LED on your board, and every board has at least one pretty much right? That led is is or can be automatically set up with an emissive property, you know, color and light. So that when you go into the fusion 360 rendering environment, it will become a proper light source in the render. And so you could have other physical objects in your assembly like a light pipe, or an illuminated dial on a potentiometer. And you can actually see in a photorealistic way, how this is going to work and will it look good in the final product? Or do we need to move things around or change? What type of LED we're using or you know, there's so many that's just one little specific scenario, but there's so many things that if we join the workflows, it becomes a lot easier and faster to iterate and get a good product out the door.
Host 1 39:35
So I I'm assuming you probably can't answer this question, but I'm still gonna probe on this is the goal eventually to make fusion and Eagle One thing as opposed to two applications that talk to each other?
Host 1 39:51
It is an n bit not to do not to do it in any kind of way that would harm Eagle users today. So, yes, that is the plan. But again, I'll just reiterate, we're not going to remove eagle or stop supporting it. Until we're absolutely certain in that. And this involves a great deal of customer feedback, not just our opinion, but what people are actually telling us who use both. When they tell us yes, you know what, I'm switching diffusion, finally, because finally, it's now at this stage, where it actually has more than I need than what Eagle had. And it works just as well, if not better. That's when we know when when our actual users are telling us they're moving, then we know we can say, Okay, well, Eagle is it doesn't make sense to keep two products normally, with essentially identical and maintain both of them.
Host 1 41:04
I find it to be really exciting, because a few years ago on this podcast, Parker and I were talking about sort of the future of of E and M CAD design, and we were talking about how cool it would be if in your 3d object, you could select this is my PCB, and then go to the layout of that PCB, and it does it seamlessly in your 3d environment. And that's exactly what
Host 1 41:27
It does today in fusion.
Host 2 41:30
Yeah, that's what we were talking about. That episode was, we were talking about Autodesk when all those bought Eagle, we we talked about that. And I think a couple years later, that actually happened. And we're still starting to see more of that now. That's actually the thing is I'm going to try out the fusion PCB stuff. Because that's, I got some fairly simple boards, that are mostly mechanical boards that just have a couple LEDs on them. Sounds like a very good candidate to try that stuff out on. So another question, if you want to answer Ben, is any, like trends you seen in EDA tools? We talked a lot about this E CAD and CAD stuff, but is there anything else that you're starting to see that new feature sets and that kind of stuff?
Host 1 42:21
Trends in ABA? Well, there's there's an increasing trend for OS OS OS? I'll answer that by saying this, okay, so it's 2020, in CAD tools, sort of really hit the desktop, right around the same time that MCAT did, you know, in the mid 80s, because computers started being made that were good enough to do it. And back then it was an end for a couple of decades, it was a two day problem. So then the trend went into interacting with M CAD. And that's had maybe 10 years of development now. And we're seeing that really come to a maturity with tools like fusion. And, you know, when I was at Altium, Altium, kind of kicked that off with supporting step back, way back in 2006. They they released or maybe it was oh eight, they initiated this, they kicked off that for the Holy cat industry, and then everyone followed them. So now, now, and this is where Autodesk is a pioneer is going beyond just sending files back and forth, that make pretty pictures, but actually bridging that gap truly with the ECAD and MCAT to have native data and and facilitate true real time collaboration between mechanical design electrical design, whether it's done by one person or done by teams. So the so all along, improvements in the industry have been made to all the other issues around designing electronics. So that's things like maintaining, building and maintaining your part library for symbols and footprints and 3d models. Now. That's been a process that most CAD users hate to do and most cad tools have some kind of quirkiness in the way that it manages part libraries. And, and so there's that then there's the actual schematic design. And this is growing debate of whether you even need a schematic or not to describe a design because ultimately, the net the end result is a netlist that dictates your physical connectivity on the board. and a set of rules for things like, you know, signal integrity and stuff, all that sort of stuff. And then and then Pete, as far as actual board layout goes. I don't think anyone in the industry has ever been able to really do particularly well with automating parts placement. And, and where all the technologies and efforts have been focused is in routing. So routing is very much it is where PCB designers spend most of their time. So of course, it gets the attention it deserves, in terms of software improvements, usability enhancements for resolving constraints and getting things done quickly. And all that stuff, stuff for high speed design, that's all really important. But, but by and large, ECAD tools are at that place now where all of that is fairly mature. So I think I think the trend now is in resolving some of the problems that are peripheral to the actual core design capability itself, that's still getting maintained, that's still getting improved and updated as time goes on. But there's all these other things around that. And ECAD M CAD was the first sort of obvious place to address those peripheral functions in terms of, you know, we've got to be able to collaborate with others in this product, overall product design. But there's still a lot missing there and a lot of opportunity. And this this ability to collaborate and part of part of that is also getting from your design idea, and your actual board layout to manufacturing.
Host 1 46:56
This is why companies like macro fab exist now to because you guys see the market need and opportunity for Okay, well, let's, let's suppose you've got the best PCB routing tool, or auto router on the planet. Well, that's nice. So you can get your board design, but you still have all these problems, finding parts, making sure they're in stock, getting getting your board made, getting feedback about your design, quickly and easily to show areas where maybe it's sub optimal for production. So this whole getting to production, that's a big area, and a lot of a lot of focus, I think is on the industry, or from the industry is on that. But that needs to result in CAD vendors like Autodesk. Also working to close those gaps to make sure. Okay, as much as electronics design is kind of a, an introverts dream job. Right? It is. But you have to, at some point work with other people or, or at least other processes to get this thing into a real product. And that's where that's where a lot of think the current and future gains are for us. So
Host 2 48:29
Someone's gonna come back and be like, No, I built a injection molding plant in my garage. Like do it all themselves.
Host 1 48:40
There are people who will do that.
Host 2 48:42
This is slightly backtracking a little bit. But my last question will be if the greatest one of the greatest things, at least for me, I won't say the great thing. And one of the things I really liked about fusion is Stevens talked about this too, is the ability to basically go get a part at a distributor and pull it in the McMaster plug in thing we use typing and McMaster you can actually like browses the website, technically, I think is what it is. And so you can get the STEP file directly get it all in. Now, we talked about this on several episodes of the podcast, but MC, let's go hardware engineers don't really like if a vendor gives you the part footprint, a lot of times hardware and you still don't trust that they will design the design themselves. If if you can bridge that gap in in hardware engineers minds of making that. Okay. That would be like mind blowing. Like, yeah, game changing.
Host 1 49:50
It is it it takes time. Okay, so I was looking at this exact thing. You know, even even as far back as, gosh, really 2010 2011 where we had set up a cloud based online library that was accessible to every user, and all sorts of, you know, user analysis, interviews, surveys were done. And yeah, lots of people, then were saying, No, I, I would never use that on a production design. I always build my own footprints and symbols. And there's two reasons for that. One is personal preference. So I'm very fussy about the symbols in the schematic, I want to stick to IEEE 315 standards. And if, if I'm using a discrete transistor, I want to I want to show it to discrete transistor on the schematic by having a circle around it, because that's what is specified in IEEE 350. So there's that that's part of it. And people say that's not part of it. But it really is a bigger part of it, then they're usually willing to admit, is just personal preference. But when it comes to footprints, my dad had this saying, write about motorcyclists, because he writes bikes. And he said, is to say is to me all the time. He said, There are old motorcyclists, and there are bold, motorcyclists. But there are no old bold motorcyclists. And PCB design engineers are like those motorcyclists, as a lot of them have tried using some library given to them by a friend in the past. And it had a mistake, and it caused waste and scrap and difficult conversations if not being fired. So they're all really wary of content made by somebody else. But by now, I'd say, talking to people in more recent years, at least 50% of them are willing to use those things. And they have an open mind about it. But the key differences, how do we validate this? So there are, there are tools out there, that and services online that offer downloadable content, or you can connect to it directly. And they have to offer some kind of quality assurance that those footprints symbols are accurate. Or give you an easy means of checking them against a datasheet. And, and so I've in more recent times, I've made a lot more engineers, hardware designers who say, Yeah, I use I use third party content all the time. I just have to check it first. And once I've used it once, and I know it's good. I'll actually move it into my own personal library. And then then I know I can just reuse it without thinking too much about it.
Host 2 53:07
Yeah, I think that's the personal preference thing. It's probably 90% of it. Now that 10% though is checking it in lots of because I think the main difference is between mechanical and electrical is is is some companies T SOPs. 16 might not be the same as another company's T SOPs. 16
Host 1 53:29
Yeah, you're absolutely correct. That is, whereas
Host 2 53:33
A 440 thread screw. Don't argue with that 440 thread screw is defined in the machinist handbook, and it's going to be the same.
Host 1 53:41
Yeah, that's why I was I was come back to the standards if if the company who's producing the content is, is doing it to IEEE 315 For schematic symbols, and IPC 7351 for the footprints, and the JEDEC package outlines. So Jeric is a weird thing, because we tend to refer to and this is something I'd love to like really nail the industry down on, but it's, it's like too hard. Data Sheets tends to refer to the JEDEC package. Registration, which is standardized. That is not the footprint. It's just the actual semiconductor package. So we we talk about footprints in a CAD library, and we say we're going to place it SLIC eight, but we're referring to Jake associate registration. And that and then the problem is there's there's the semiconductor manufacturers will use that and say that's what they're using, but they'll make some variation of it and change something. And so, a T Mi SLIC eight footprint may be very risky to try to use that with a microchip Soca footprint part. And really the footprint is actually specified by a different standards organization again, the IPC. So it's like, who's going to corral over this? That that's sort of there, normalize them all, that's what we need is some normalization.
Host 1 55:32
I wish that was the case. So what you're describing there, I've seen it multiple times where you look at a library. And instead of seeing a footprint that is SOC, eight, you see a footprint that is the part number of the part. And it is a footprint that only represents that part. And then you end up getting these libraries that are hundreds of parts long.
Host 2 55:55
I mean, you're directly attacking me right now, Steven,
Host 1 55:58
I'm attacking myself because I do the same thing. Like, if you think has a specific part number then yet,
Host 1 56:04
And if you go, if you go to any company that produces libraries, like LTM, does, like Autodesk has a content team, they'll strictly follow what the datasheet says to do, because it's the only way to cover your butt. Right? Right. Right. But it unfortunately, means there's tons of duplication, where, you know, really, practically, by looking at the dimensions, and comparing that and reading the fine print, you discover x, it's a JEDEC SLIC, eight standard dimensions. But for whatever reason, this company's policy is to call it out just for this specific part in the data sheet, maybe the plastics a bit thicker or something. But the 3d footprint could be identical. And then they're not giving us any way of knowing for sure, so that we can easily reuse things and save a bit of time. So I think there there might be, there might be an opportunity for software and machine learning to deal with them in a sort of automated way. That'd be nice. It would.
Host 1 57:12
So I actually have one question. Left also, because because I see, I see this, this really ripe territory. Now that we have the 3d world and the E world coming together as one thing. So I do a lot of simulations at work. And I've got a separate simulation program that's separate from my 3d program that's separate from my ECAD program. What would be great is if those were all together, and I had 3d electrical simulation, in my program in my one program,
Host 1 57:46
Yes, actually, that's another strong strong case for unifying the workflows into one package. So if I have an end, we have that today with Fusion, if you do your electronics design in fusion, and you've got that, you can do it in Eagle Two, because you still get high quality models in Fusion if it's coming from Eagle, right. But basically, if you're doing your electronics and fusion and your mechanical and fusion, you can now assign heat. And material properties will be assigned to the parts in the board. So all the little icy legs are actual cubbies, you can say this is this is copper, or brass. And you've got copper in the board. And you can actually do a thermal analysis so that that kind of multi physics engineering can't be done. If you have separated tools not not easily, not easily involves a lot of, again, custom scripts and translations, where you lose data fidelity between one package and another. And it's, you don't want that. So that is that is the big vision is to be able to also simulate and fusion 360. Today, you can do spice circuit simulation, you can do on the MCAT side, you can do thermal analysis. This, there's some other and I'm not I'm not so familiar with the MCAT in Fusion 360. But I believe you can do some stress type stuff as well. So you know, there's different physics involved there. And you can do rendering, which is essentially if you think about it, rendering is kind of like simulating, it's like optical simulation. That's what Ray tracing really is. And so, so I fully intend one way or another to build out the simulation options for doing more from a certain point you need to be able to do signal integrity, analysis, power integrity, and thermal analysis is already there. So wouldn't it be cool if we can simulate the DC loads on a printed circuit board. And go Okay, so what's this going to look like thermally. Now, as far as I know, there, there are no tool chains out there today that could do all of that in one package, you have to go out to a dedicated, or at least a separate multi physics engine from your design tool. And it's very costly and hard to use as to make things even even worse. So I'd like for PCB designers to be able to go okay, I want to I want to do some basic crosstalk, basic reflections analysis, oh, let's see, what are DC if this chip is running at 100%, CPU utilization? What's it going to look like? Thermally? In the mechanical space, do we have enough cooling? Or do I have to relocate? Can I get away with what we've got if I just moved the part, to a different part of the enclosure? So that's the kind of thing you can do when everything's in one. Good, sweet.
Host 1 1:01:16
That's some, that's some serious power there.
Host 1 1:01:20
That's the idea.
Host 2 1:01:22
So Ben, do you have anything else you want to share any juicy future
Host 1 1:01:29
I kind of already did share the juicy news that that we're doing some foundational work to pave the way for the future. And that's going to drastically improve performance as well. So it'll make the editors much more responsive to the user and faster to work in. So that's a good thing, or whenever you can do that. Really, aside from that. I can't give away too much else. But there are some new features and better workflows coming the way of the users for electronics in the in the near term. There's Yeah, I won't give away too much. Please stay tuned, keep your eyes open for a one of the things one of the things that actually is a benefit also to fusion and tools like that, that is based is that is a very aggressive release schedules. So there's always something new coming up. And, and, and so just recently in the last release, and this isn't in the public release just yet, but it's coming very soon, it's committed is support for any kind of true type font in schematic and PCB so you could have so this is something Eagle can't do, that fusion can do is support any kind of symbols or text or fonts that you have in your system. So you could you could get a font that has, you know, all the little recycling logos and led for free symbols and whatever you might need to put on the silkscreen on your printed circuit board. You can add that in and use use this custom font to
Host 2 1:03:12
Make all my designators Wingdings now,
Host 1 1:03:15
Totally do that.
Host 2 1:03:16
I think that's going to drive the developers at Mac fab insane. And they started doing that.
Host 1 1:03:22
Yes, there's a tool it's a bit like the character map. I don't know if you've seen the character map or its most operating systems have something like the character map, where you get to preview a whole font and all of you get to see all of the Unicode symbols that aren't accessible from normal keystrokes. And you can copy them and paste them in. So it's got a it's got a little tool like that where you can browse the whole font and find some of the weird characters like the Greek letters and whatnot that that are super useful in electronics so so there's that I mean that but there's that's just a small thing is there's a lot there's a lot like that coming that just overall improvements in the tool in addition to the foundational work we're doing so stay tuned. All right.
Host 2 1:04:14
Thanks so much, Ben for coming on to our podcast. Where can people find more about you and what you do do you have social media?
Host 1 1:04:23
Yeah, I don't I don't do a huge amount and I need to I need to ramp that up a bit more so definitely reach out to me on on Twitter at Jordan I spelt jet at symbol JORDANYT E. Jordan I at Jordan I and I think the same on Instagram. And as the that those two and LinkedIn are really the three places i i kind of hang out. I'll be doing more. content wise, I made literally hundreds of videos As for LTM, over the years, I'm not ready to really start cranking out videos on fusion. But pretty soon I will be beginning that so people can look out for that on my YouTube channel, which is my youtube channel name is SkinMedica. And there's not a lot there right now, but I would, I would say, please come and subscribe and I'll be I'll be doing some videos showing people my own thoughts and thinking as I walk through fusion 360 especially on the electronic side.
Host 2 1:05:41
You got your first subscriber if you don't have one right here. Cool.
Host 1 1:05:44
Appreciate it. I have some I have few 100 subscribers, but I just haven't done much lately. I've been added by hit married.
Host 2 1:05:53
Or Ben, do you want to sign us out? Sure.
Host 1 1:05:58
That was the macro fab engineering podcast, and I was your guest, Ben Jordan.
Host 2 1:06:04
And we're your host perkiomen. Steven Greg. Later everyone take it easy.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai