The Formation of the Printed Circuit Engineering Association


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I spoke with Gary Ferrari, FTG Corporation, at IPC APEX EXPO 2020 about the formation of the Printed Circuit Engineering Association, which—having been started two months ago—has attained lots of interest from the industry. The PCEA hopes to bring together designers, engineers, fabricators, assemblers through local chapters to focus mainly on education and learning.

Patty Goldman: Hi, Gary. I understand something new is going on with the designers in our industry.

Gary Ferrari: We received a lot of calls from people, representing several disciplines, who wanted new courses, seminars, and learning opportunities. A group of instructors and other colleagues in the industry said, “We want to do something more than just certification.”

The new organization is called the Printed Circuit Engineering Association. There are local PCEA chapters, where each group can maintain its own identity. Also, from past chapter experiences, we recognized that the chapters weren’t just attracting designers as members of the chapters; we were also getting engineers, process engineers, fabricators, and assemblers. We held joint meetings with other organizations, so it was very mixed and broad.

Goldman: But that’s good, right?

Ferrari: Yes. We wanted to create something that didn’t indicate that it was only for designers because we have all those other disciplines that are knitted together. All of a sudden, it exploded. We’re being contacted by people we haven’t heard from in a long time. The response has been unbelievable. People want to help, and we’ve been getting a lot of publicity for it. The leadership team elected officers. I’m not an officer, but I am an advisor, and we have a team that’s growing like a weed in your front lawn. Some of the chapters we had with IPC that had disappeared years ago want to get involved again.

We anticipate local chapters distributed throughout North America. We have even received requests internationally. Since the PCEA is an association, the chapters are under one umbrella; however, they still remain and function independently. Each chapter governs themselves and may have their own way of running things, but being part of the association is beneficial to them because now they have other resources they can tap into. We want to work with other associations as well because they’re dedicated to specific areas. By having alliances with them, we can enhance the areas that they’re not comfortable with by melding expertise areas accordingly. It has worked successfully in the past.

Goldman: Is the plan to have regular meetings where everyone gets together?

Ferrari: Yes. Most of the chapters will set their own schedule locally, and then we will probably have two large gatherings throughout the year. The plan is to grow the educational portion of it, from formal training to learning by talking to, and networking with, colleagues. When designers or engineers get together and talk shop, they learn something regardless of who they are and how young or old they are.

Further, on the executive board, we have industry icons that have been around for years. We have hundreds of years of industry experience among us. The most important thing to tell you is how long this has been going on. The PCEA has been active for about 1.5 months [as of IPC APEX EXPO 2020 in early February], and everyone wants to know what’s happening and how to be part of it.

Goldman: That could be your byline: Bringing designers and engineers together to talk shop and learn.

Ferrari: Absolutely, and as I said earlier, we had such a mixture over the past 20 or so years. The various groups got along. Designers, engineers, and assemblers were interested. Look at it this way: The designer is in the middle of a hub. They take the pictorial representation of functionality, a schematic or something from an engineer, convert that to the physical world in the form of a layout, and produce the information in the language of the assembler, the tester, the field service, etc. They play an important role in the product development process, which, unfortunately, has not been truly recognized throughout the industry.

Goldman: They haven’t always been recognized as important from all sides.

Ferrari: Correct.

Goldman: The designer can’t take their design and throw it over the wall. Everybody needs to communicate back and forth. Communication is required between all parts of the chain. Reading publications is one thing, but having good communication, from the beginning to the end, is key.

Ferrari: We have a plan for getting the industry involved. We know what we want to do, and we’re getting through the initial paperwork and organizational planning. It’s an exciting period.

Goldman: This is an association in its infancy.

Ferrari: Definitely, and I’m so thrilled that younger people are taking hold of this and want to do something. Some of us old-timers are happy because we’re not pushing anything. We’re there to help them, and they’re just running with it.

Goldman: That’s great. Thanks so much, Gary.

Ferrari: You’re welcome, Patty.

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