DfM Chat

Who better than a fabricator to explain design for fabrication?

Join Sunstone Circuits CAD/EDA manager Nolan Johnson this Thursday for a one-hour chat on DfM. Trained as a software engineer, Johnson wrote applications software for Mentor Graphics before transitioning into technical marketing roles. He managed Mentor’s OEM verification development projects, including Dracula and CheckMate. Johnson then concentrated on operating technical training centers for semiconductor manufacturing and telecom analysis equipment at both Electro Scientific Industries and Tektronix.

At Sunstone Circuits, Johnson has assisted in the many successful initiatives of its core product line, including an integral role in the development of the PCB123 design software, including enhancing the software’s schematic functionality and Live BOM (Bill of Materials).

Nolan’s chat takes place May 10, 2 to 3 pm Eastern time at PCB Chat. There is no charge to participate.

Why DfM?

Design for manufacture is the practice of designing board products that can be produced in a cost-effective manner using existing manufacturing processes and equipment. — Ray Prasad

I’ve mentioned before that one of my early design gurus gave me a piece of advice that stayed with me throughout my design career. He said that after I finished a drawing or design, I should stand back and ask myself if I could build the product from the information I was providing. Well, to do that I had to know how the product would be built and the processes involved in manufacturing the product. Fortunately I was raised in a fabrication environment and had a fair knowledge of metal fabrication.

But when I started designing PCBs, I didn’t have the luxury of being around a PCB fab shop, where I could spend time with people who built the boards. I had to depend on other designers who had a wealth of knowledge about PCB fabrication.

Several years later, I worked for a couple companies that not only did design work but also had a board shop. Any time I had a question about something, I could walk over to the board shop and get some on-the-job schooling. The folks there would not only tell me what I needed to do to make the job more manufacturable, they’d walk me down the line and show me the whats and whys. I can’t help but think that this made me a better designer. I know that it gave me a better understanding of how the things that I was doing in a design affected every step and downstream process.

Over the years since I became involved in the magazine and conference side of PCBs, I’ve stressed the importance of DfM and the manufacturing process. We made it a significant part of the message and information in everything we produced, including the magazine, conferences and in later years, our websites. But DfM is still one of the major issues in the PCB design world. With the compartmentalization and outsourcing common today, it may be more difficult to get out to the board shop that builds our boards.

However, it is doable. Even when – for whatever reason – it isn’t feasible, designers and engineers need to know everything possible about board fabrication and assembly. So we keep running articles in the magazine and doing sessions at PCB West on DfM. We’re also working on some in-depth DFM courses for Printed Circuit University (PCU). In fact, we just loaded a video on PCU called Why DFM? that is available to all PCU members. (Membership is free.) In the video, Darren Hitchcock of Multek talks about some basic issues about which every designer should know. It is just a part of our effort to get every designer educated on DfM and other subjects relating to PCBs. Visit PCU today to see for yourself.