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“Simplify, simplify, simplify.”
—Henry David Thoreau
Thoreau penned his simple lifestyle mantra more than 150 years ago and it still as valid today as it was when he first captured and recorded his thoughts on paper. He was not the first to extoll the importance of simplicity, but he said it in a memorable way.
Achieving simplicity has been deemed a worthy objective by many philosophers over centuries, and people often profess to seek simplicity in their lives. In the world of high tech, simplicity is arguably one of the foundational objectives of most of the technologies that surround us today. Certainly this is true in terms of how product designers are trying to create interfaces that allow even the most nontechnical users to get what they need from electronic products with a minimum of hassle.
However, that interface simplicity is undergirded by a massively complex electromechanical substructure of circuits, sensors and components. Pop open any high-end electronic device and you will be met by an impressive mass of densely packed components and circuits. Presently, those components are available in a wide array of formats, with a number of different lead shapes and forms along with the device’s mechanical outline. Presently, there are J-leads, I-leads, gull-wing leads, posts, balls and no leads at all. Mechanical outlines are generally square and rectangular, but the bodies can have a wide range of dimensions in X, Y and Z. While area array technology has helped to make things smaller, it has also upped the complexity factor from a design perspective by mixing grids and land shapes and sizes.
Why so many options? It is because there is not, nor has there ever been, a truly coherent approach to the process of selecting package structures for ICs or any other components for that matter. Yes, a roadmap for electronic component lead pitch was introduced with the advent of SMT, and that roadmap said that every next-generation lead pitch should be 80% of the size of the previous generation lead pitch.
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Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the November 2014 issue of The PCB Design Magazine.