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The soft option?

Will fpgas be the pcb of the future? By Nancy Eastman.

Whilst pcb manufacturing technology has evolved, the fundamental concept of board level electronics system design has remained the same – take a bunch of components and connect them together to form a circuit.
High capacity, low cost programmable devices have the potential to alter this paradigm. The question for board level system designers is how their skill set will fit into an increasingly ‘soft’ future.
The biggest recent upheaval came with low cost microprocessors, which brought ‘embedded intelligence’ to previously ‘dumb’ devices. The microprocessor’s success was down to its ability to allow a significant part of the design to be moved from a hard wired environment into a ‘soft’ domain. Design at the board level continued to use the ‘hard wired components’ paradigm, but product behaviour – or ‘intelligence’ – could be added as software.
This platform based approach allowed the same physical hardware to be manufactured with lower risk because it was possible to modify the behaviour after constructing the hardware.

Author
Nancy Eastman

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