Even with a slowing world economy, new technological
issues will keep the demand for EMC engineers exceeding the supply.
an interview with CE Editor Sherrie Conroy, Todd H. Hubing, the president-elect
of the IEEE EMC Society, describes an optimistic outlook for the future
of the EMC industry. Hubing, a professor of electrical and computer
engineering at the University of Missouri at Rolla, left IBM's Electromagnetic
Compatibility Laboratory in 1989 to join the faculty at UMR because
he wanted to spend less time fixing EMC problems and more time trying
to understand them. Here he shares some of his insights.
Q. What do you see as the industry's
key issues in light of the current economic and global conditions?
A. Well, perhaps the most obvious trend we've
observed in the past year has been a slowing of the world economy.
The telecommunications industry has been particularly hard-hit, although
other industries are certainly feeling the impact. Overall, it appears
that companies are being cautious about spending, but they are still
supporting their EMC labs. Based on the number of unfilled job openings
posted on the EMC Society's Web page, I believe that the demand for
qualified EMC engineers still exceeds the supply, although the gap
is not as great as it was a year ago.
Downturns in the economy often present good opportunities for EMC
engineers to get up to speed on the latest developments in their field.
It's hard to take classes or do research when you're constantly putting
out fires at your company. I'd encourage anyone who has more free
time as a result of the slower economy to use this time to become
Q. What are the most critical technical challenges
for EMC engineers in 2002?
A. One of the key technical challenges EMC
engineers are beginning to face is the proliferation of wireless devices.
Wireless technologies present a few technological challenges that
EMC engineers in general haven't had to cope with. Digital circuits
have to coexist with analog and RF circuits in more products than
ever before. Designing these products to be reliable at the lowest
possible cost is a significant technical challenge.
On-chip EMC design presents another significant challenge. We are
seeing more designs implemented on a single chip (or multichip modules).
When these devices are built into a system, they can be a significant
source of EMI. We've seen good devices and bad devices in our lab.
Unfortunately, there are very few guidelines to help chip designers
create consistently good devices. There is also a need for more-meaningful
standards and test procedures for evaluating semiconductor device
Q. How are technological developments affecting
the goals and work of the EMC Society in 2002?
A. We are constantly reevaluating our organization
and restructuring when necessary to keep pace with changes in technology.
We recently created a new technical committee devoted to signal integrity.
Signal integrity and EMC are closely related fields, but have traditionally
been the responsibility of different people within a company. Now
we are seeing products that send signals between devices or systems
on copper at hundreds of megabits (or even gigabits) per second. At
these data rates, signal integrity engineers need to be well versed
in EMC, and EMC engineers must be aware of signal integrity issues.
The distinction between the two areas is blurring. The EMC Society
has always provided a forum for technical papers and presentations
on signal integrity. TC-10, the technical committee for signal integrity,
will formally promote and encourage this trend.
Q. As an expert in electromagnetic modeling,
what do you believe are some of the key advances in this area that
can translate into improvements in the reduction of radiated EMI in
products? How will advances in computational tools affect the direction
of EMC research and EMI solutions for
A. At the university, EM modeling tools play
a critical role in our research. Modeling results and measurement
results help us to understand exactly how a particular configuration
behaves. We can model radiated emissions, radiated susceptibility
or transient susceptibility problems using computer tools. Although
any given computer model has its limitations and no model is appropriate
for all situations, measurements also have limitations and are not
always practical. Applying both models and measurements to the same
problems, we can often get a pretty good idea of how a system behaves.
Despite the tremendous improvements we have seen in raw computing
power and clever new modeling techniques over the past couple years,
I would have to say that the most significant advances have been to
the user interfaces on many computer modeling codes. Codes are just
beginning to get easy enough for engineers to use without spending
hours or days setting up each new problem. However, there is still
a lot of room for improvement. Today's codes play an important role
in EMC research. However, until we see user interfaces that guide
the user through the modeling process while ensuring that the modeling
results accurately convey what the user wanted to know, I don't believe
computer modeling codes will be widely used in EMC compliance labs.
Q. How can the EMC Society help manufacturers
continue to improve methods for designing EMC-compliant products?
A. A key function of the EMC Society
is to facilitate communication between manufacturers, EMC compliance
engineers, EMC researchers, and EMC educators. The state of the art
in electronic design advances rapidly. EMC engineers who don't keep
up with changes in device technology, packaging technology, standards,
test methods, software tools, debugging techniques, etc., can't provide
optimum EMC solutions for their companies.
The EMC Society has a variety of programs designed to keep EMC engineers
informed of issues relevant to their profession. Our most visible
projects are our annual symposium, IEEE EMC Transactions, and the
IEEE EMC Society Newsletter. We sponsor a variety of projects including
our distinguished lecturer program, chapter activities, EMC education
projects, and standards development projects. We are constantly looking
for new ways to serve the EMC profession.
Q. What areas are the IEEE EMC Society's
primary focus for new standards?
A. This is a question that would best be
answered by Don Heirman, our vice president for standards. However,
one activity that I am particularly excited about is a project recently
approved by the IEEE Standards Association Board to develop a formal
standard and recommended practice for evaluating computer modeling
and simulation tools. The IEEE EMC Society's Standards Development
Committee, chaired by Steve Berger, is sponsoring this project with
technical support provided by TC-9, the society's technical committee
for computational electromagnetics.
There is an urgent need for standards that can be used to compare
different modeling codes. Market literature and word-of-mouth are
not reliable ways of determining whether a specific code will be able
to meet a customer's modeling needs. I believe a meaningful and comprehensive
set of standards will have a significant positive impact on the quality
and usability of electromagnetic modeling software. We should also
have fewer disenchanted customers, which should translate to more
users and a significantly greater market.
Q. What are the EMC Society's most critical
relationships with other organizations in the coming year?
A. I can think of several relationships that
are critical, but one that we are particularly concerned with at this
time is our relationship with other organizations that sponsor EMC
symposiums worldwide. In the past, we have been proud to be associated
with a variety of conferences and symposiums such as EMC Zurich, EMC
Europe, the Wroclaw Symposium, and conferences in China and Japan.
In our efforts to be more international, we have stepped up our level
of involvement in these conferences and others outside the United
States. However, the number of international EMC symposiums has grown
significantly in the past few years. To some extent, these symposiums
compete for attendees and exhibitors. In the coming year, the EMC
Society will be working closely with the organizations that sponsor
these symposiums. We believe it is in the best interests of the EMC
profession to help as many of these symposiums succeed as possible.
This is most likely to occur if the different organizations cooperate
on matters such as scheduling and technical scope.
Todd H. Hubing can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.