PADS helps make high-pressure devices very small

If you’ve ever been underwater for more than a couple minutes and needed to gulp air, you’ve probably used products from Pelagic Pressure Systems, Inc.

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I really enjoy making designs as small and stylish as possible”

Mark Varneer, Engineer, Pelagic Pressure Systems


Pelagic designs and manufactures pressure-monitoring systems and pressure-sensing components used by the military and by sport and recreational divers around the world. Their product line includes the smallest wristwatch/dive computer on the market. They offer products under the Hollis, Oceanic, and AERIS brands and are part of the American Underwater Products family of companies. (


Mark Varner, Engineer for Pelagic Pressure Systems, Inc. likes to design things as small as possible. Which makes him good at what he does, designing stylish and functional wristwatch-sized equipment that looks as good with a designer dress or three-piece suit as it does on a wet or dry suit at 100 feet underwater.

“My background is in mechanical design, electronic design, and board layout,” says Mark. “My expertise is in fitting complex functions in a very small space, literally a wristwatch. But, in the case of Pelagic’s designs, they’re strictly only a timepiece half the time.” Mark likes this kind of challenge. And he uses PADS to do it.


Mark is an expert “packager.” He’s been doing it since the late 1970s. He starts with the space he has to work with and fits the circuit board, mechanical components, and anything else required into it. For something the size of a wrist watch, he’s working in cubic millimeters.

“For a new design, I’m working on the mechanical and electrical designs at the same time,” says Mark. The electronic engineers use PADS for schematic capture. For mechanical design, Mark uses AutoCAD* for 2D drawings and Pro/ ENGINEER® (now called Creo™ Parametric) for 3D models. By the time he’s got the package figured out, he knows pretty well how much PCB space he’s going to have. He creates the board layout in PADS and imports the critical mechanical components as DXF outline drawings from AutoCAD into PADS. Then he has all the critical heights and sizes he needs for fitting the board layout into the few cubic millimeters allotted for it.

“Some of our competitors use ASICs for their functionality, so they might have just a few components for the whole system. We do everything with standard microcontrollers and commercial components in our PADS library. We can do everything we need and make it fit into the space, and keep costs down.”

Mark has been using PADS since the 1980s. He likes the user interface and capabilities. But as new features are introduced, he says he sometimes needs to turn to Mentor to take advantage of them in his designs. “I’m really pleased with the support folks at Mentor,” Mark says. “They always have an answer in a very short time, fifteen minutes or less.”


With PADS for schematics and layout and AutoCAD drawings, Mark helps Pelagic create innovative diving products that are as stylish in the office as they are functional underwater.

Pelagic Pressure Systems, Inc.

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