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You know what amazes me? Design software. Agilent, AWR, Mentor Graphics, Ansys, Zuken…all of them amaze me! The power, the flexibility and the add-on tools that I often read about are truly stunning. Of course, not being a designer or engineer I am relatively easy to impress. Yet I do remember the design tools of old, and they didn’t contain a fraction of the power and features today’s tools offer. I am also amazed by the people who so deftly use these tools to design PCBs. These designers lay out boards that would have seemed like science fiction just a decade or two ago.
Recently, I was working with an engineer who had created a High Performance board that was complex—to say the least. In addition to over a dozen layers, it also contained buried and blind vias, filled vias, mixed dielectrics and multiple cavities—the whole shebang. Needless to say, once I quoted this design-marvel, he suffered a bit of “sticker-shock” when he saw the price. Luckily, he had the rare luxury of time, so he asked us about changes he might make to the design to help bring the price down. In this case, this was an individual who was wearing two hats, one as electrical engineer and one as board designer.
What I came to realize was that he had designed this board on a very powerful design platform and that some of the design features that made this board expensive to manufacture, were not really necessary. His primary training was in electrical engineering, after all, not in board design (or manufacturing). The powerful tools he was using allowed him to do some completely functional (however impractical) things in his design. Luckily, we were able to let him know what the major cost-drivers were so he could modify his design accordingly—which helped him to lower the board cost.
Because of this experience, I thought there may be more of you multiple-hat-wearing-engineering-types out there that may want to know what some of the key cost-drivers are for printed circuit board manufacturing as well. So, here you go!
I hope this has been helpful. I’m certain that this is old news for many of you, but based on my recent experience, I thought this may be useful for some of those who find themselves wearing too many hats!
As always, I welcome your questions and comments.
Please come by and say “hello” at IMS if you are planning on attending the show. I will be in the Transline Technology booth #1706. Hope to see you in Seattle!
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