Board Fabrication Tips and Myths

Judy Warner
|  Created: June 26, 2019  |  Updated: February 5, 2021

Amit Bahl, the Director of Sales and Marketing at Sierra Circuits, is here today to discuss a more holistic view of not only board fabrication, but also assembly as Sierra Circuits does both. He’s going to teach you ways to think more about your total cost of ownership. We also do some fun myth busting around PCB fabrication and assembly.

Listen to the Podcast:

Download this episode (right click and save)

Watch the video:

Show Highlights:

  • Amit says his story is pretty simple: he’s here to service PCB Designers, whatever they want or need, Sierra Circuits makes it happen and have been doing so for 30 years in Sunnyvale, California. Amit spent his high school years setting up drill machines and packaging circuit boards and got his training very early on. His father started the business in 1986. 

  • Their business is quick-turn and they do PCB fabrication, assembly, component procurement, all really quickly from a few buildings on Evelyn Avenue.

  • Tips on looking at fab and assembly more holistically: The number one mistake is a failure to send boards in, in an array; customers tend to forget to send the array panelized drawings but Sierra takes care of that for their customers. 

  • What data do you really need upfront? Two types of data, first for the quote and also for manufacturing.

  • For quotes: Gerber or ODB data or IPC 2581 data. Then there’s everything else for fab that has to be perfect: material, surface finish, any special requirements, PCB stackup; all detailed out in a fab drawing including impedance and dielectric control.

  • It’s imperative to communicate with the fabricator and visit your board shop. It helps designers understand what happens on the floor, to see where variations can come in on different machinery and to design keeping in mind that each process is in a different department.

  • Some myths surrounding fab and assembly. Websites are not always updated regularly, you cannot design based merely according to what’s on the website. Pick up the phone! 

  • PCB materials only hold up for a maximum of three to four laminations because of thermal stress. 

  • Don’t trust the data sheets, even for electrical properties - every material behaves differently. Isola 370HR is very reliable and consistent.

  • Price and value are not equal - look at the total cost of ownership. Do you hire supply chain first and put pricing pressure on vendors, or are you hiring a quality department first and putting quality pressures on the vendors? Focus on quality and attention to detail is essential.

  • Trust begins with relationships and with trust, specific aspects can be left to the fab house.

  • Sierra will be at AltiumLive 2019, October 9 - 11 in San Diego, where face to face relationships can begin.

  • Sierra is launching a Google Maps Street View for their facility, where designers can ‘walk through’ the shop virtually. This should be ready within the next three weeks.

  • Trends: HDI, laser drilling, flex & rigid flex.

Links and Resources:

Sierra Circuits Website

Amit LinkedIn

What is Design? Podcast with Kelly Dack

AltiumLive, San Diego, October 2019

Sierra Circuit’s HDI Design Guide


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About Author

About Author

Judy Warner has held a unique variety of roles in the electronics industry for over 25 years. She has a background in PCB Manufacturing, RF and Microwave PCBs and Contract Manufacturing, focusing on Mil/Aero applications. 

She has also been a writer, blogger, and journalist for several industry publications such as Microwave Journal, PCB007 Magazine, PCB Design007, PCD&F, and IEEE Microwave Magazine, and an active board member for PCEA (Printed Circuit Engineering Association). In 2017, Warner joined Altium as the Director of Community Engagement. In addition to hosting the OnTrack Podcast and creating the OnTrack Newsletter, she launched Altium's annual user conference, AltiumLive. Warner's passion is to provide resources, support, and advocate for PCB Design Engineers worldwide.

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