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Mike Buetow

Some 13 years ago, UP Media Group launched the first virtual trade show for the electronics industry. In some ways – most, probably – we were ahead of the times. People liked it because it was simple to attend, but the platform wasn’t ready for prime time.

That’s not to say it was technically subpar. You could pop in and out of booths and talk to the personnel waiting for you, and I still feel for those folks who, driven by caffeine and excitement (or just an affinity for self-abuse), kept vigil around the clock as attendees in different time zones came on line and into the show. And we held webinars and chats with high-profile experts like Dr. Eric Bogatin. But in the end, attendees seemed to prefer meeting with peers face to face.

Covid-19 is injecting itself into almost every facet of our work and home lives, however, and we have to make some concessions to the times. As such, we have made the difficult but necessary decision to make PCB West a virtual event this year. The call was made following a survey of past attendees and talks with our more than 100 exhibitors.

We are pleased to announce, however, that almost all the technical sessions originally slated for the live PCB West will now be available on demand, starting Sept. 7. That’s more than 125 hours’ worth of high-end technical training. For the full list, see the conference catalog at pcbwest.com.

On the plus side, even those with severe travel restrictions will be able to participate in this year’s show. Each year, we receive feedback from conference-goers that there’s more presentations to hear than they can get to in four days. Since PCB West Virtual 2020 is all on-demand, attendees won’t have to pick and choose this year. Some of the speakers will be available for live question/answer sessions following their presentations. And like the physical show, attendees will receive certificates indicating the number of hours of training received at PCB West.

The exhibitors will be there of course, too. We are grateful to the many companies using this event as a chance to reach new customers. We also welcome the Printed Circuit Engineering Association, the trade group launched earlier this year (and in the interest of disclosure, I’m a director), which will be on hand to talk about its plans for promoting the printed circuit engineering profession.

While I’m on the subject, two of the contributors to this month’s issue are also speaking at PCB West Virtual 2020. Mark Finstad will join co-Flexperts columnist Nick Koop in covering the gamut of flexible and rigid-flex circuits, from material selection and cost drivers to design tips for better physical and electrical performance. And Lee Ritchey will give a pair of five-plus-hour tutorials on power delivery system design and stackup design.

I firmly believe that when the threat of Covid-19 has been mitigated, we will go back to populating offices and factories, and will do so gladly. Same goes for making sales calls and plant visits, and yes, going to industry events like conferences and trade shows. It may not occur immediately, but over time it will happen.

We aren’t there yet, unfortunately, at least not in the United States. Yet training and education must go on. Companies must get to know potential vendors, and designers and engineers must continue to expand their networks. Trade shows remain a highly effective way to do that.

So, with apologies for the promotion, I hope readers from around the world take advantage of this one-of-a-kind opportunity to hear and learn from the best our industry has to offer at PCB West Virtual 2020 in September.

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