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Mike Buetow

The Designers Council is dead. Long live the Designers Council!

As the calendar turned to January, IPC and the entity formerly known as the Designers Council amicably parted ways.

The event, which happened quietly after months of discussions, ended a long and productive chapter in the printed circuit design industry history.

As detailed in our 25-year retrospective on the organization in 2017 (https://pcdandf.com/pcdesign/index.php/editorial/menu-features/12246-designer-council-1712), the Designers Council began as an independent grassroots movement in locales across the US and Europe. Originally a confederacy of like-minded individuals who somehow found the energy and time to commit to bringing their colleagues together, it quickly spun into a top-down organization under the auspices of IPC.

Dieter Bergman, my late colleague at IPC and a former designer himself, was at the forefront of that movement. Bergman knew firsthand the need for designers to gain access to industry standards and, more importantly, the knowledge behind them, in order to keep up with the demands of customers and management. Back then, training was generally provided by older, experienced mentors in the same company. As conferences such as PCB West emerged, education became somewhat more structured and formalized, but there remained a need for on-demand training and at the point of use.

Bergman, along with Gary Ferrari (who eventually became executive director of the Designers Council) and dozens of others, developed a formal curriculum based on the IPC design specs and over the course of many, many  meetings – I know, as I was present to record the minutes, make the copies, get the coffee, and basically supply anything short of back massages – shaped those documents and other supporting sources into a training class and certification exam. Today, some 6,000 or so certifications later, the CID (certified interconnect designer) designation is recognized worldwide.  

For most of its 25 years, the Designers Council operated almost as a standalone entity, alongside and contributing to IPC, but with its own management structure. The latest development has IPC making the organization more like its other committees. The new program, called IPC Design, is said to encompass many different aspects of the programs IPC has. Teresa Rowe, senior director, assembly and standards technology, tells me IPC Drive will have a new advisory group made up of representatives from major geographical regions and headed by Karen McConnell of Northrop Grumman. The certification program will remain as is for now, IPC added.

Meanwhile, the former executive board of the Designers Council is launching its own organization, called the Printed Circuit Engineering Association (PCEA). In a statement, the 10 founding directors said the new association plans to support IPC and its efforts, including in the standards arena. But it will work with other electronics industry organizations and standards bodies as well. (See the full letter at pcdandf.com under the PCEA section.)

For its part, IPC wants to continue a local chapter model, but plans to bifurcate the effort by establishing professional and student chapters. The former, IPC says, will serve to support and mentor the latter, as part of IPC’s larger effort to prospect potential STEM students for future employment in electronics design and manufacturing.  

It’s a good goal. I am eager to see, however, how the new PCEA works out, now that it is free of any constraints of IPC. Trade associations do a lot of good work, but as they gain in size and develop new goals and strategies, it sometimes works against them. My sense in talking to many of the former directors of the Designers Council is the time had come for both groups to start anew. After 25 years, designers have taken their rightful place as essential cogs in the product development chain. Bergman’s vision has been realized, and it’s time for the next chapter to begin.

P.S. See us this month at IPC Apex Expo, booth #2748. And check out PCB2Day, our popular training series, with separate workshops on design engineering and assembly coming to Austin, TX, in late March. Visit pcb2day.com for details.

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