Earlier this week I talked to a designer who works for one of the large set-top box manufacturers. While some of their designs are punch and crunch, single-sided phenolic boards, he told me that in some cases they have to “dumb down” their more complex designs to get prototypes made in North America. Either the technology is not available in the US or the costs are so prohibitive that it is becoming a real problem. At PCB West I heard Happy Holden talk about the U.S. losing ground in manufacturing technology. This makes me wonder if North America will soon lose out on the prototype market as well.
For solid reasons companies usually have their prototypes made close to home and then go off shore for production. Well, the whole logic behind prototypes is to test both the electrical and physical design. But if designers have to dumb down the prototype design and then rely on off shore manufacturers to produce the boards in current technology, then I see that as a real problem.
What about you? Where do you go to manufacture designs that require HDI or other technology centric fabrication?