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    Integrated Electronics Manufacturing and Design Collaboration

    Zachariah Peterson
    |  April 5, 2020
    Integrated Electronics Manufacturing and Design Collaboration

    Advanced devices require collaboration among multiple team members, both to ensure functionality and manufacturability. With embedded systems, this extends beyond a hardware team to include software developers. If you want your new product to be manufacturable at scale, then at some point, you will need to involve your manufacturer in the collaborative process. This is especially true with high speed digital devices and high speed analog devices.

    If you consider the factors in these advanced systems that affect performance, most of them boil down to two important design aspects: layout and material properties. The layout choices you make will affect device functionality by influencing losses, crosstalk, EMI/EMC, and other aspects of signal integrity/power integrity. The same goes for the materials you choose in your stackup. If you can collaborate with your fabricator early in the design process, you can overcome problems in all of these areas and avoid costly redesigns before production.

    So what is the best way to collaborate with your manufacturer? This is where you need an integrated electronics manufacturing and design system that allows information to be passed between all parties in real time. This goes far beyond emailing specifications and design changes between your designers and your manufacturer. Instead, you need a system that allows a designer and manufacturer to push design updates to each other in real-time.

    Designers Need Work With Manufacturers Early

    Manufacturers will tell you in no uncertain terms: designers need to talk to fabricators early in the design process. Furthermore, a more advanced design requires earlier fabrication. If you approach your fabricator after you complete your layout, you may find that one of your layout decisions for overcoming a power integrity or signal integrity issue is completely unbuildable. Unless you want your new design to remain in digital form, you’ll be forced to go back and redesign unbuildable portions of your design, possibly rewinding back to the beginning of the design process. This often leads to compromises in functionality, electrical performance, and/or reliability. Here are some basic points to check with your manufacturer before you create your layout:

    Board and Interconnect Architecture

    Some designers will be fine working with the traditional trace-and-via interconnect structure. They may not be working in the HDI regime or using standard FR4 substrates. Other design teams need to work on the cutting edge—requiring advanced materials, unique layer transition structures, rigid-flex or fully-flex substrates, or unconventional track geometries. You’ll find plenty of these design decisions in the HDI and microwave/mmWave worlds.

    Your manufacturer should be able to give you some advice on the range of structures which they can reliably fabricate. Something as simple as picking up the phone or sending an email to ask about manufacturability of proposed designs goes a long way toward preventing a redesign and ensuring higher yield. Taking some time to learn about your fabricator’s processes can also help you determine whether certain designs will be manufacturable with high yield. This is especially important with unique layer transition structures (such as ELIC, VeCS, VIPPO, and landless vias), interconnect designs (such as GCPW and SIW), and embedded shielding structures.

    Laminate Stocks

    While it might sound obvious, checking laminate stocks before design is also critical for ensuring electrical performance. If you wind up being forced to settle for a laminate with higher losses, your link budget could be impacted, and you may need to change your layout to accommodate. Similarly, settling for a material with a different dielectric constant changes impedance and tolerances on length tuning. All of these points should illustrate the importance of collaborating with your manufacturer early in the design process.

    Integrated electronics manufacturing and collaboration on layout changes
    Your manufacturer can help verify if this fanout and escape routing strategy are the best choices for your board.

     

    Assembly

    This is one of those areas that can be taken for granted, especially when everyone focuses on DFM. If you are using a separate assembler, there are some aspects of assembly, such as soldering to die-attached paddles with thermal vias, that assemblers can reasonably accommodate. Meanwhile, some fabricators will give your board no-bid status. It can be difficult to work out these disagreements, but collaboration through an integrated electronics manufacturing platform will allow you and your manufacturer to find a balance.

    Required Documentation

    Most manufacturers will list this on their website, but it never hurts to ask which design file formats, BOM formats, or any other information your manufacturer will need to reliably build your board. If you’re looking to have a unique board architecture produced, it’s best to err on the side of caution and provide more information than you would for a standard PCB.

    What Does Integrated Electronics Manufacturing Look Like?

    When your designers and manufacturer work together with an integrated electronics manufacturing and design platform, a fabricator and designer can collaborate on any required design changes early in the design process. Your manufacturer can suggest design changes and push them back to the designer. The designer can then evaluate these suggested changes, and then choose to accept or reject them as needed. This is the type of environment you’ll find in Altium Concord Pro.

    In addition to collaborating on any required layout, material, or stackup changes, a designer and manufacturer can determine possible replacement components. Every component has a finite lifecycle and will become obsolete. When your collaboration tool also provides sourcing information, you can spot components that are nearing the end of their life cycles and locate new components as needed. Up-front consultation and continuous collaboration go a long way towards eliminating time-consuming redesigns.

    Assembly and integrated electronics manufacturing
    You can get to assembly quickly with the right collaboration tools.

     

    When you use the integrated electronics manufacturing and design tools in Altium Concord Pro™, you and your manufacturer will be able to collaborate on complex design decisions in real time. You’ll have access to a powerful data management system that integrates with the industry-standard PCB design tools in Altium Designer®. These two powerful applications give you a complete PCB design and production planning solution in a single platform.

    Contact us or download a free trial of Altium Designer® and Altium Concord Pro™. You’ll have access to the industry’s best MCAD/ECAD co-design, PCB layout, documentation, and data management features in a single program. Talk to an Altium expert today to learn more.

    About Author

    About Author

    Zachariah Peterson has an extensive technical background in academia and industry. He currently provides research, design, and marketing services to electronics companies. Prior to working in the PCB industry, he taught at Portland State University. He conducted his Physics M.S. research on chemisorptive gas sensors and his Applied Physics Ph.D. research on random laser theory and stability. His background in scientific research spans topics in nanoparticle lasers, electronic and optoelectronic semiconductor devices, environmental sensing and monitoring systems, and financial analytics. His work has been published in over a dozen peer-reviewed journals and conference proceedings, and he has written hundreds of technical blogs on PCB design for a number of companies. Zachariah currently works with other companies in the electronics industry providing design, research, and marketing services. He is a member of IEEE Photonics Society, IEEE Electronics Packaging Society, and the American Physical Society, and he currently serves on the INCITS Quantum Computing Technical Advisory Committee.

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