High-Reliability PCB Design with Juan Frias

Zachariah Peterson
|  Created: January 3, 2022  |  Updated: January 4, 2022
High-Reliability PCB Design with Juan Frias

The aerospace industry has driven the high-reliability design in the center focus. Juan Frias, our guest for today, is a very experienced PCB designer who has designed for Aerospace, Military, Industrial, Semiconductor, Communications, Medical, and Automotive; he will be sharing the tips for a successful design for manufacturability. We will also tackle Flex and Rigid-Flex design. This conversation will be fun and insightful, so watch through the end and make sure to check the additional resources below.

Listen to the Podcast:

Download this episode (right click and save)

Watch the video:

Show Highlights:

  • High-Reliability Design WITH Manufacturing, how did the Aerospace industry influence this focus?
  • The advantages of working closely with the manufacturing team
    • Focus on improving the design process and eliminating back and forth communication and miscommunications
    • Understanding what will work BEST for your manufacturer
  • Working with flex and rigid-flex designs
    • Space savers
    • Reliability  and stability advantages
    • Choosing between flex versus a rigid-flex board, what are the considerations?
  • Can you use BGA on Flex?
  • How does the manufacturer influence the material selection
  • Board-spin on existing design–the systemized process of ordering materials that are running low
  • The design preparation process for fabrication
  • What do designers need to know about stiffener
  • The importance of creating a prototype to save time and money
  • PCB Validation, test and Inspections, who does what?
    • Typically the customers are the only ones who can do a test with the product because they have the entire system on their end
    • PCB designers perform the electrical tests and control impedance lines
  • Identifying a good designer to do business with–-local vs. overseas
  • See you at the AltiumLive 2022. Register here

Links and Resources:

AltiumLive 2022 Connect: Now open for registration
E-Book: Navigating PCB Manufacturing: Part 1
Three Common PCB Design Mistakes You Can Spot in Your Gerbers
How to Successfully Design a BGA
Connect with Zach Peterson on LinkedIn
Watch Zach’s latest Altium Academy courses on Youtube
Read Zach’s articles on Altium’s resource hub
 

Full OnTrack Podcast Library
Altium Website
Download your Altium Designer Free Trial
Learn More about Altium Nexus

Altium 365: Where the World Designs Electronics

Transcript:

Zach Peterson:
I mean, it's just like throw something in the fabrication notes and they'll handle the rest, or is that not the right approach? 

Juan Frias:
You can certainly do that. 

Zach Peterson:
They're probably going to come back and complain to you?

Juan Frias:
For sure. I mean, yell at you, actually.

Zach Peterson:
Hello everyone. And welcome to The OnTrack Podcast. I am Zach Ria Peterson, your host for today. I am speaking today with Juan Frias who works at a major aerospace OEM. Juan, I'm very happy to have you on the podcast today. And I'm really looking forward to talking about your perspective on design.

Zach Peterson:
For those of you who are not aware, Altium Live is coming up soon. We're going to have some links in the show notes that you guys want to look at. And some of the stuff that Juan and I are going to talk about today really relates to the overall theme of Altium Live. So go check out the link in the show notes, sign up. It's going to be all virtual this year so everybody can attend.

Judy Warner:
Welcome to Altium's OnTrack Podcast, where we talk to leaders about PCB design, tackling subjects ranging from schematic capture all the way to the manufacturing floor. I'm your host, Judy Warner. Please listen in every week and subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher, and all your favorite podcast apps. And be sure to check out the show notes at altium.com/podcast, where you can find great resources and multiple ways to connect with us on social media.

Zach Peterson:
Juan, thank you so much for being with us today.

Juan Frias:
Hey Zach, thank you so much for inviting me. It's an honor to be here.

Zach Peterson:
Absolutely. It was great to see you and talk to you at PCB West. I know when we were down there, I think everybody was kind of letting out some energy that had been pent up for a while seeing as how it hadn't been in person for a couple of years.

Juan Frias:
Oh yeah. Definitely was a good time. Seeing a lot of people. Very good friends there. So yeah a very good time. Very, very good show too.

Zach Peterson:
Yeah. I always like going to the trade shows, when I can. I mean, I'm so busy, I'm sure you're pretty busy in your job, but I always find the learning opportunities and the networking opportunities are extremely valuable.

Juan Frias:
Yeah, definitely about time to do that.

Zach Peterson:
Yeah. About time. Exactly.

Zach Peterson:
So, well, one of the reasons I wanted to talk to you and I've been talking to a few people in the aerospace sector, especially because it's becoming, I don't want to say popular, but it's becoming extremely relevant from a design perspective again, because now things like commercial space are taking off, reusable space flight vehicles. High reliability design is kind of coming back in center focus.

Zach Peterson:
And so, you work at a company that is also a manufacturer and we talk a lot about design with manufacturing, not just design for manufacturing, meaning really having insight into what has to happen on the factory floor and how your specific manufacturer operates. So I think it'd be really great to get kind of your perspective with working at your employer and some insight into kind of how you interface with manufacturing, what that looks like maybe on a day-to-day basis.

Juan Frias:
Yeah. Definitely happy to share. It's very interesting way as it's pretty much my first time doing this kind of thing, having the shop floor just a few steps away from my desk. It's very good to get to know the people and have realtime conversations with all of them. I mean the CAM guy sits right next to me, one of them. I mean, there's a few. And then the manufacturing guys in the shop floor, they're just, I mean, 30 feet away from me. So it is really cool.

Juan Frias:
So we get to know each other and little by little, it's kind of easier to work together because we know what the other person is expecting from you and you make their job easier and they make your job easier too, because there is less issues on the way.

Juan Frias:
So it's really cool compared to working with an external supplier. Well, sometimes it's okay too, as long as you work with the supplier from the beginning. But sometimes there is a miscommunication or something or you have to wait a couple hours or something to get an answer. So there is a very good advantage having the shop floor right next to you.

Zach Peterson:
Yeah. That's kind of interesting because I think if you work in that environment where, like you say, it sounds like you're almost sharing a cubicle with a CAM engineer.

Juan Frias:
Right next to him.

Zach Peterson:
Yeah, exactly. So I think if you work in that environment, it's easy to take for granted what happens with kind of how fluid the process can be. Whereas, if you're doing what I do, where you have a service bureau, you just, like you said, you have to wait and you have to go back and forth with people. There's an email chain. I swear the email chains get very long. Sometimes it's hard to track things. And so I think it can be easy to take for granted how easy it is to work with someone who's right there next to you.

Juan Frias:
Yeah, definitely. Because as you mentioned, sometimes, I mean an email, it could be 400 emails there and information can get lost easily. So if you have the guy right next to you and you ask him a question like, "Is it okay to do this or do that?" He's going to tell you on the spot. "Okay, go for this. This is what we can do. Okay. Yeah. That's what you do on your design and then send it out for manufacturing. If there are any issues down the road, I mean you can revise it and here we go again." So it's a very, very fast pace environment there, which is very good. Definitely.

Zach Peterson:
Yeah. I'm sure if there's someone who's kind of transitioning your design into tooling or getting it ready for production, they see something in the Gerbers, they can turn around and say, "Hey Juan, what is this? Who screwed up?"

Juan Frias:
Yeah. Usually me. Most of the time, but the good thing is-

Zach Peterson:
I didn't want to say that, but-

Juan Frias:
Well, that's what it is, right? So, yeah, I mean the good thing here is that little by little, you learn from your mistakes. And if there's something wrong, I mean, you can correct it on the spot and just revise and send it out.

Juan Frias:
But usually, I mean, I'm not saying it doesn't happen, but usually one mistake happens once and doesn't happen again because you already know not to do that, of course.

Juan Frias:
Actually there is, it's not necessarily a mistake, but I will say something you can improve or make it better for manufacturing, they're going to tell you, "Okay. You know what? This will be better if you do it like this, so next time." Okay, good. If there is a chance to change it right there, let's do it. Why not? But this kind of things is back and forth communication. Either verbally or by email. It depends, but usually it's verbal. It's way faster, which is good because the products are coming flawless almost most of the times. Well, there is always room for improvement anyway.

Zach Peterson:
Yeah. That's really interesting. Kind of having that instant feedback because if you're a service bureau, you send something out and it comes back in terms of improving the design and even maybe improving the design for manufacturability, you don't know. You're just kind of left to figure it out for yourself during testing. But I think that's really interesting and something that is also overlooked in terms of its value, which is, getting that feedback instantly from the guy who's actually running it through production.

Juan Frias:
Yeah. No, definitely. I mean, it goes from the Gerbers to the fabrication drawing, "You know what? Can you change this just to make it a little bit more clear for me?" "Absolutely. I mean, you got it!" Anything they need to make their job easier and helps me to learn and have a better process, a better outcome on all your jobs, your science.

Zach Peterson:
Yeah. So I know with working in defense and aerospace, one of the often quoted types of PCBs that is brought into this sphere is flex and rigid flex. So you work on a lot of flex and rigid flex, is that correct?

Juan Frias:
That is correct.

Zach Peterson:
Yeah. I mean, what kinds of designs are you doing with flex and rigid flex? I think it's something where people kind of assume the enclosure has to move and so that's why you would do flex or rigid flex. Or maybe you're just kind of designing it as an interface board. It's going to connect to two other boards or something like this, like with a board-to-board connector on each end. You're basically taking advantage of the flex ribbon to route signals.

Zach Peterson:
What types of designs are you doing on rigid flex without getting too much into IP, of course?

Juan Frias:
Definitely. Yeah. We are doing some interesting systems that are for communications within the aerospace industry. That's what I can say for now. Basically it depends on the closure where this designs is going is whether you have the luxury of having a connector or not. I mean, if you have the space for a connector and you can put the force together, that's great. That's cheaper actually. But if you don't, then you have to go for the rigid flex and to put two or three boards interconnected with a flex cable. And that's what you have to do.

Juan Frias:
It depends again, because sometimes you don't have the luxury of using a harness or something like that because of the application. So you have to go for the flex. I mean, different aspects, of course. A lot of them are just a connector on a flex. I mean, two connectors and a flex side by side and interconnecting something, a system to the other, that kind of thing. It's between systems is a flex with two connectors and stiffeners, that kind of thing.

Zach Peterson:
Yeah. So that's definitely an easy way to interconnect boards, but you brought up space savings, which I think sometimes is overlooked in rigid flex. I think, I'm a guy who kind of thinks of it like, well, you can move it and you can bend it. You can twist it, which is really cool. And so that immediately brings up an idea of cameras or something like this, or maybe your laptop screen or something. Anything where it has to fold or bend.

Zach Peterson:
But I guess with space savings and being able to view it on a cable versus taking two rigid boards, putting them together with an edge connector or something, seems like there could also be a reliability benefit as well, because now when you have these two rigid boards connected together, they start vibrating. I'd imagine there'd be a reliability problem and possibly fatigue failure. Do you see the same kind of thing with rigid flex or is rigid flex really chosen because it might be more reliable in that type of situation where you do have vibration or mechanical shock?

Juan Frias:
Yeah, definitely. Rigid flex is more stable in that matter. I mean, you have very good connectors from different companies you can use too, but it seems in the long run on my experience that rigid flex could be a best option for these kind of applications. I mean, it depends again on the spacing and restrictions you have. If you have the luxury and it's okay, you go for it. If not, you can look into the options, but definitely taking care or looking closely to the requirements from the system.

Zach Peterson:
Yeah. Well, when you say requirements from the system, I mean, there's going to be a lot to balance in any system, right? Because with rigid flex, you have multiple orientations you could access. Whereas in the past, you might have to make the system physically larger just to be able to access that with a bunch of rigid boards connected together with connectors, like edge connectors, let's say.

Juan Frias:
Yeah.

Zach Peterson:
And oh yeah, go ahead. Sorry.

Juan Frias:
No, sorry. You go ahead.

Zach Peterson:
Well, and then what else would influence the choice of going with a flex versus a rigid flex board? What are the different design considerations, I guess?

Juan Frias:
Well, basically you mean flex versus rigid flex. Again, it depends on the components you're using. I mean, with a rigid flex, you can put pretty much any component you want. On the flex, you are very limited on components you can use. On the other hand, because it's flexible you don't have the luxury to put it in big components or that kind of thing, even though you can put the stiffener that the mechanical restrictions or kind of thing with the components being soldered to a flex. It's tricky. It becomes tricky later on, on the test and even on the field.

Zach Peterson:
Yeah. So that's another aspect of flex and rigid flex that I think most designers may not be so familiar with because, at least for me, I don't do flex or rigid flex. Not yet, at least. We might do a little bit with a rigid section, but at the end, if someone's going to take that and integrate it into a rigid flex board. But I guess you're talking about soldering directly onto the flex ribbon.

Zach Peterson:
I mean, what types of iterations go into that? Is that really a manufacturing issue that you just kind of throw it over the fence or do they have to really tell you, "Hey, this is how you have to design this on the flex ribbon in order for us to be able to assemble it properly"?

Juan Frias:
Yeah, definitely there are some guidelines there. I mean, to be honest, most of my designs are just a connector and sometimes there is a very small passives, like a resistor or something like that, [inaudible 00:15:01] on the flex. I'm not talking about BGAs or something like that, to be honest. It's not my field right now, but it's mainly connectors, end to end on the flex cable. Let's call it that way.

Zach Peterson:
Okay. So I can see one kind of instance where you might want to opt for a rigid flex versus flex. And you had mentioned a BGA. I've never heard of a BGA being soldered onto a flex ribbon. So then you would want to put that on the rigid section.

Juan Frias:
Exactly.

Zach Peterson:
And it's probably only small BGAs. I mean, how many signals can you fit through a flex ribbon?

Juan Frias:
Yeah. I mean you can put a lot of them, maybe. It depends on the layers you use, but it becomes tricky again because the BGA signals may be high speed and while you are adding more restrictions or problems maybe down the road, but that doesn't mean you cannot do it. You certainly can, but it's becoming more complex every time.

Zach Peterson:
So then at that point, if it's high speed, you're basically routing differential pairs over a flex ribbon. Now you have to do controlled impedance.

Juan Frias:
Yes, yes, definitely you can do that. You just need to meet all the requirements for that differential pair, but you can definitely do that with a flex too. Putting the numbers there.

Zach Peterson:
Yeah. Yeah. So, I mean, in terms of getting started with a rigid flex design, and I know I'm asking all this, because this is still a new area for me and the manufacturing process for flex and rigid flex seems so interesting. I mean, what do you do in terms of material selection? How do you select what's available? Who manages that? What role does manufacturing play in that?

Juan Frias:
Well, usually this goes on the marketing team. I mean they talk to the customer and there are some requirements. Then it goes to the, what is the name of these people, this group? Like quotations, that kind of thing. And there is engineering involved too. I'm not there, to be honest. There's other people just making sure experts on material that talk to the customer and come up with a solution there. And then they just put the requirements there. Selections, options, I mean, and then from there, once we have an order, the green light to move forward, we, of course, have to be sure that we have the material available with us so we can start working that. Because you don't want to start working on something and then at the very end realize, "Oh, we don't have the material. We have to wait one or two weeks or maybe more to get the material and get this built."

Juan Frias:
So you usually log the material once you have the order. Log the material so it's going to be waiting for you one, two weeks. It depends how long it takes to get the design ready. So the material is locked so you have assurance that you're going to get a board later on.

Zach Peterson:
Yeah. That's kind of interesting because we talk about shortages and checking stocks and managing inventory all the time with components. I've never heard anybody talk about it with materials. And so now you're talking about it with the actual board materials. I know that some of my first designs when I sent them in for fabrication, first of all, I'll be honest. I didn't even specify the material. Just kind of hoped that they have something that matches that DK value.

Zach Peterson:
But then my next round, I did specify the material, but of course they didn't have it. And so I didn't even check it ahead of time. But I mean, with you guys being the manufacturer as well as the design team, it sounds like you guys have to really integrate all your systems to make sure that not only is the material available, it's not already pulled for another order things, things like this.

Juan Frias:
Yeah, definitely. That's exactly the key. You have an outline, you know how big the board is, so you can kind of calculate how much material you're going to need. I mean, the sheets of material there. So you can put a lock on this and then they are for you because there's an order and everything. So that material is for your PCB, so it's good. It's good to have that because later on you won't have any issues with material shortages.

Zach Peterson:
Yeah. So it's not really so much an issue of you guys start to design and then the materials are already available. You guys kind of do all that work on the front end to lock it in, which is great. I always tell people who watch some of the Altium Academy videos send it off to your fabricator first to make sure they can actually fabricate it. And I think half of the equation in that is make sure they actually have materials that can hit those specs, which you guys are already doing on the front end.

Zach Peterson:
But I do have one question for you. So I mean, what do you guys do when you have an existing design and you maybe need to do another board spin later on and you're going to prep the design for fabrication again. What do you do when any of those materials aren't available? I mean, do you just have to put in an order and hope it arrives on schedule? Do you guys use the flash sheets to find alternatives?

Juan Frias:
The answer is yes. I mean, we usually have stock of the materials we use all the time. I mean, if there is something that we are about to run out of one material or two, we already have a system in place that orders something, some more material right away. I mean, there might be, I haven't seen that. It might happen, I guess, that the material is not available in the short term, meaning one or two months. So we have to look into alternatives and, of course, talk to the customer to get approval if that is the case. I haven't seen that to be honest, but that doesn't mean it cannot happen. But the good thing is it's good to have more options than, than only one, but we usually have a stock of material. If we are running out, we just order more, trying to keep up.

Zach Peterson:
Sure, sure. And then the other thing that has always has been a little esoteric to me in terms of what a designer needs to do or know in terms of ensuring manufacturability. And this is related to materials, what do designers need to know about stiffener and what do they have to specify in the design in terms of using stiffener, making sure fabrication knows which materials they need, all of this kind of stuff? I mean, is it just throw something in the fabrication notes and they'll handle the rest or is that not the right approach?

Juan Frias:
You can certainly do that.

Zach Peterson:
They're probably going to come back and complain to you?

Juan Frias:
For sure. I mean yell at you actually. But that's the advantage of having the manufacturing people right next to you because they're going to tell you, "Okay, this is not going to work. Can you change this? Can you change that?"

Juan Frias:
Here's a quick example. In the past, the stiffeners, when you have a two-hole connector and then you put the stiffener right under that connector. I mean, after the flex, of course. So I used to put the same size drill on the stiffener than the flex. But in this case, they told me they need a bigger hole in order to align because it might get tricky. If one or two holes are misaligned, that's going to be a problem. And that's okay, you can make the holes a little bit bigger because at the end you use a sticker. You are not soldering anything there, so you should be okay.

Juan Frias:
So, that's one of the best practices we have there. It's increase the hole size a little bit in order to align the stiffener to that two-hole connector.

Zach Peterson:
So, I mean, with stiffener, again, this is coming from someone who doesn't do flex. So the stiffener doesn't it get applied before drilling? Or is this a separate material? It gets drilled. You have to hope that the registration is correct. It's applied after drilling.

Juan Frias:
The stiffener is [inaudible 00:23:52] before, usually. SAC.

Zach Peterson:
Oh, I see. Okay.

Juan Frias:
Yes. It's just a material [inaudible 00:24:00] is the most common. It's basically you have a specific shape for that stiffener that matches ideally the connector size. So you can see that connector there. So you drill the flex, it's a separate board and then you put some adhesive and bond the stiffener with the flex. And then you can put the connector, of course.

Juan Frias:
I mean, it depends on the application or how the connector is soldered if you're going to put the stiffener before or after. Usually it's after.

Zach Peterson:
Sure. Okay. Okay. I see. Yeah. So you're fabricating it, you said you bond them up with an adhesive and then afterwards you do the assembly. That makes sense.

Zach Peterson:
And so it's that internal hole in the flex or no, sorry, in the stiffener that has to then be large enough to be able to fit that connector.

Juan Frias:
Yeah. The hole in the stiffener has to be a little bit larger than the one in the flex in order to align perfectly.

Zach Peterson:
Yeah, I see. I see. And then the soldering happens. You said it doesn't happen on the actual stiffener. You said it's actually happening on the flex ribbon.

Juan Frias:
The stiffener is just a 4/4 material. There is no copper there on the stiffener.

Zach Peterson:
Yeah, I see. I see. Okay. I'm getting an image in my head of how this all works. Yeah. And then, okay. So, and I mean, with adding the stiffener, I'm assuming that's a big reliability constraint. So if you have to have connectors like this, maybe it's a press fit connector and it's coming off of the rigid section, that's going to be something more for a high-reliability application, maybe something that's going to be involved in a lot of vibration or mechanical shock. I mean, is that kind of the approach for that type of design? Or is there some other consideration that determines do we need to have flex versus all? Or do we need to have rigid flex versus all flex? Because we talked about putting a BGA there, but what other stuff might go on the rigid section to ensure reliability?

Juan Frias:
Well, ideally all the components will be better, definitely. The flex, I mean, on the flex, you want the flex to be alone because it's going to be bending all over the place, I guess. So, I mean, you have the rigid and the rigid flex you want on the components there, definitely.

Zach Peterson:
But you could do like a permanent bend in the flex ribbon, couldn't you?

Juan Frias):
Yes. Yes. I mean, it depends where it's going to be installed, but you can preform that flex. Definitely. So it's easier and it's pretty much ready to use, of course so you don't have to have the hassle. I think I did that in the past once or twice, but it was basically, it was the angle that holds the flex. It was design and build, of course so that allows the bend to happen without too much of a problem there.

Zach Peterson:
So you mean the angle, the angle along the flex ribbon. So you're running this direction. The angle has to go this way. You basically have to specify in your fab and assembly drawing this is where the angle sits. This is how far it bends over.

Juan Frias:
Yeah. Basically the way you design it, you can do like a curve or something that makes the bending easier for the flex itself. So, doing that, usually it's on the mechanical side, like where they can define this kind of curves and everything in order to make it easy for the PCB designer to design that flex in a way that it will work on the final product.

Zach Peterson:
Yeah. So, okay. So, the mechanical guy is actually doing this on the front end and kind of creating those constraints for you. And they're going to say, this is what our enclosure is going to look like. This is what your bend's going to look like. This is where you have room to fit components. And then, you being the physical designer, it's kind of up to you to figure out how you're going to work within all of that.

Juan Frias:
Yes, definitely.

Zach Peterson:
Yeah. So a lot of collaboration involved. I know that's extremely important for modern designs generally and rigid, but it seems like there's all these other considerations with flex, especially to make sure that it's manufactureable and you fit into these, possibly more complicated enclosures that we don't really see on the rigid side.

Juan Frias:
Yes, definitely. It's a lot of front end back end work there. Related, it's not only the PCB designers, there's more people involved thank God, but yeah, definitely it's something to keep in mind all the time working with the whole team to make things right. Hopefully the first time.

Zach Peterson:
So, are you guys doing just the PCBA or are you doing the full assembly? Putting it in the enclosure? You're doing the final bending on it, if it is a flex. You're doing any bends that have to be done, all of that installation. Are you guys doing that as well?

Juan Frias:
For products? Yes, we do the whole thing. I mean, not the assembly really. I mean, we have something there, but most complex systems there, they're going to an outside vendor. But with our products, we do most of the things. And then we have some products for external customers, we only do the flex with two connectors and it goes to a specific customer there. So we usually do both.

Zach Peterson:
Okay. Yeah. So it seems more like a case-by-case basis, but I can imagine it's very useful to have all of that feedback if it is all happening in house and everyone's able to catch those design mistakes before you spit out a huge batch of boards and they go into that final assembly and all of a sudden they have to be scrapped.

Juan Frias:
Yeah, no, definitely. We usually go for prototypes first to make sure that it's a good design before we spend a lot of time and money, of course, on that. And then once everything is validated, qualified, then we go for production.

Zach Peterson:
So, I mean, in terms of validation and qualification, I mean, what level of tests do you have to specify versus what the customer has to specify? I mean, I've dealt with customers where they don't really know what it is they need. They just know it needs to do A, B and C. And so you kind of have to tell them, "Well, we'll probably need a controlled impedance test or something like this", and you'll have to be able to tell them, "You'll want to test this particular structure on the board." Usually when it's an RF design, they'll need to test it. And so we'll produce a test board or something like this.

Zach Peterson:
But I'm wondering how involved are you as the designer with certain aspects of validation and how much do you have to specify versus what the customer has to specify? Or is it manufacturing that specifies some of this stuff?

Juan Frias:
Yeah, that's a very good question, actually. As a PCB designer, we usually put the electrical test at least, controlling impedance lines, if we have any. Other than that, that's on the part of whoever. However manufacturing has other tests they run. For instance, there is a, well, I'm not going to call it a test. It's an inspection. Basically they put the real board versus the Gerber cut data and compare each other with a machine there to make sure that it was built per print. Of course they run electrical test. Of course they run impedance test, if required.

Juan Frias:
Sometimes I heard this, I haven't seen it, but they do a pulling test to make sure that the stiffener is properly bonded to the flex, for instance. Just to make sure that there are no issues with this.

Juan Frias):
So the customer, well, they usually are the only ones who can do a test with the product because they have the entire system on their end. So if they specify something like we have to meet, we certainly will. We work on that. But other than that, that's pretty much all the tests we do there.

Zach Peterson:
Okay. So you do a delamination test. It sounds like when there is stiffener involved.

Juan Frias:
Kind of, yeah. We kind of test that everything is where it's supposed to be, the way it's supposed to be. It was built per print basically that the [inaudible 00:33:06] wouldn't have it.

Zach Peterson:
Sure, sure. Yeah. That's interesting. I mean, putting all of that into one place, I'm sure it can be difficult to manage, but it sounds like the collaboration is extremely important since you are working with so many other people involved in one thing. Whereas, I think a lot of designers are so used to working with, they just kind of receive the schematics, they do the layout and send it out or maybe they just have the requirements, they do the schematics, send it out to the layout guy and then they kind of call it a day.

Juan Frias:
Yeah. They usually do that, actually.

Zach Peterson:
Well, I know we try not to do that. And I think it's great that you've kind of shown us a good example of what it's like to actually work directly with the manufacturing team since, I mean, in a way, you are part of the manufacturing team. You're just on the physical design end, rather than the actual guy who's running stuff through a process.

Juan Frias:
Yeah. That's definitely a very good thing to do. It's kind of new for me, but enjoying a lot. Learning every day, definitely. With these people, there are things I didn't know before. I mean, it's definitely good to learn something new every day.

Zach Peterson:
So how long have you been working at your current employer? If you don't mind me asking?

Juan Frias:
I've been there two and a half years actually.

Zach Peterson:
When you came into that environment, was it different from where you were at previously?

Juan Frias:
Some parts, yes. I mean, every company is different on the way they do things. But I mean, this is my very first time working with the manufacturing shop right next to me. So it's kind of interesting because it makes your job easier and challenging at the same time, because when you have an external supplier, well, they want your business so they try to, I'm going to say, work with you or do pretty much whatever you want. Of course, they're going to charge you, right? But in this case, well, the guy is right next to you. He's going to ask you to change things because he's going to make things easier and better. And I mean, of course, you want to do it and it's different, because here it's working with the guys, the entire team right next to you, which is pretty cool.

Zach Peterson:
You brought up a great point. Yeah. A good external supplier will do what they can to make sure that you're going to be successful because they're hoping you come back for that run of 10,000 or a 100,000 or however many.

Juan Frias:
Yeah, definitely. Actually, most of them, of course, all of them actually, want your business and they try to give you options, work with you. A good supplier, I mean, and make your life easier, a lot easier. But again, communication and timing it's important and is not the same having the guys right next to you than on the other side of the country or overseas, you never know.

Zach Peterson:
Yeah. I know with overseas it can be difficult sometimes. I've not only tried doing that myself and didn't have a great experience. I also have heard some horror stories from customers who only want to work in the US because they've had such bad experience or they'd gotten just something that was totally defective. And of course the overseas supplier is like, "Well, tough."

Juan Frias:
Yeah, exactly. Or, sending an email and waiting one day to get an answer. It's losing time there with back and forth emails. So it's advantage disadvantage, of course. But you do what is best for your product, your company.

Zach Peterson:
I know all about the sending out the email into the black hole overseas. I'm having to deal with something like that right now, actually. This morning I had to deal with that. That's always fun.

Zach Peterson
Well, I really appreciate your perspective and especially being someone who does the design, who runs a design firm, I don't have as much visibility as I would like into manufacturing. So it's always interesting to get that perspective. So I definitely want to thank you so much for being here, Juan and talking with us for the brief time we've had. And I hope to see you virtually at Altium Live this year.

Juan Frias:
Yeah. I hope I can attend. Definitely. So I guess you're not coming to San Diego this time.

Zach Peterson:
Well, it's supposed to go all virtual now. So unfortunately, yeah. I won't be-

Juan Frias:
I thought they said it's going to be in person too.

Zach Peterson:
They did. They did switch it. Yeah. They switched it to virtual now. So now it's nice because everyone can attend. Yeah.

Juan Frias:
Well definitely I'll see you there then. For sure.

Zach Peterson:
All right. Cool. Well, thank you again. Hopefully we'll be able to chat more and for anyone who's listening, if you haven't signed up for Altium Live, go check out the link in the show notes and go sign up for a virtual conference. And we're really excited to have it be virtual this year because although I think we would like for it all to be in person, of course, we're going to get a lot more people from all over the world attending and I think it's going to be a great event.

Zach Peterson:
Juan, thank you again so much for taking the time to chat with us and to everyone that's listening, keep on learning and stay on track.

About Author

About Author

Zachariah Peterson has an extensive technical background in academia and industry. He currently provides research, design, and marketing services to companies in the electronics industry. Prior to working in the PCB industry, he taught at Portland State University and conducted research on random laser theory, materials, and stability. His background in scientific research spans topics in nanoparticle lasers, electronic and optoelectronic semiconductor devices, environmental sensors, and stochastics. His work has been published in over a dozen peer-reviewed journals and conference proceedings, and he has written 1000+ technical blogs on PCB design for a number of companies. He is a member of IEEE Photonics Society, IEEE Electronics Packaging Society, American Physical Society, and Printed Circuit Engineering Association (PCEA), and he currently serves on the INCITS Quantum Computing Technical Advisory Committee.

Recent Articles

Back to Home