DFM: The Foundation for White Box PCB Manufacturing

Tempo Automation

September 6, 2018 , in Blog

“Tell me where it hurts” or a similar inquiry may be the first words you hear when meeting your doctor outside of normal checkups. For your doctor to narrow the focus of testing and increase the chances of an accurate prognosis, they need as much information about your health conditions as possible. Once diagnosed, the success of your recovery depends largely on your willingness to follow your doctor’s orders. Although you may eventually get better, not adhering to your doctor’s prescribed regimen may involve the added cost of prolonged illness or pain.

Your PCB development process can also be excruciating if it fails to leverage the full benefits of design for manufacturing (DFM). Following good DFM guidelines is essential for board fabrication and PCB assembly. It’s certainly possible to incorporate DFM into your design despite minimal engagement with your CM or limited knowledge about PCB manufacturing. However, forming an open, transparent relationship with your CM and understanding how your design decisions impact the steps of the manufacturing stage can translate into faster quotes, reduced turnaround time and significant savings. These advantages can be fully appreciated by comparing and contrasting the implementation of DFM in the isolated black box approach of PCB manufacturing with its role in the transparent white box approach.

Examining a PCB

DFM for Black Box PCB Manufacturing

Isolated PCB design

Today, many PCB designers and electronic product manufacturers implement some form of DFM during the design stage of PCB development and strive to incorporate rules and guidelines that fall within manufacturer equipment capabilities. However, it is still common for designers to use generic values for component footprint layouts, board edge clearances, drill hole sizes, solder mask clearances and trace routing before even searching for a CM to manufacture their design.

Isolated PCB manufacturing

Designing in isolation, although common, prevents CMs from effectively conveying their processes and equipment capabilities, which the manufacturability of your design depends on. As a result, you and your CM will likely require back-and-forth communication, design file modifications and perhaps even major redesign before your boards can be developed.

This common black box approach to PCB manufacturing (where the designer is unaware of the CM’s requirements and the CM is not privy to the designer’s intent) is highly inefficient and can result in days or weeks before even an accurate quote can be generated. Besides the extended feedback loop to make and incorporate changes, another considerable drawback to this type of arrangement is lack of knowledge of the CM’s quality control and design testing ability. If your design is highly complex or intended for a critical system platform, these issues can become more acute.

DFM for White Box PCB Manufacturing

Bringing the CM to the designer

Utilizing the black box approach to PCB manufacturing usually results in your boards being fabricated and assembled; however, this PCB development process is far from efficient. Although DFM rules and guidelines may be used, they are not specific to your CM’s capabilities and may cause extensive delays, major redesign or lower quality PCBs. For instance, implementing the wrong solder mask clearance may result in portions of your board being unprotected or solder bridges, both of which can severely limit the operational lifetime of the board, if not corrected. However, these (and other) incorrect DFM specification issues that may cost you time and money can be eliminated by partnering with the CM that will actually be building your board during the design stage. Doing so ensures that your DFM specifications are tailored to your CM’s capabilities and processes, thereby minimizing the overall quote and turnaround times and reducing costs.

Bringing the factory to the designer

With white box PCB manufacturing, your design intent (including any requirements, limitations and preferences to meet your functionality goals) should be open and transparent to the CM. Similarly, the entire PCB manufacturing process, including equipment, processes, capabilities and limitations, should be transparent to you. The goal is to empower the designer to virtually drive the manufacturing stage of PCB development through the design. This approach is implemented online; however, the designer can effectively direct the manufacturing process as though they were physically located at the factory.

To better understand the impact of white box manufacturing, let’s take a look at how these two approaches to PCB manufacturing affect your PCB development:

BLACK BOX

PCB MANUFACTURING

VERSUS WHITE BOX

PCB MANUFACTURING

Generic to the industry Source of rules and guidelines Your CM
Prone to inaccuracy Accuracy Highly accurate
May be extended Feedback loop Minimal
Days to weeks Time for quote < a day
May be extensive Turnaround time Minimized
May involve additional costs Cost Minimized

 
Implementing a white box approach to PCB manufacturing can save you time and money that can be better used elsewhere in your PCB development environment. White box manufacturing facilitates the implementation of accurate DFM rules and guidelines explicitly based on your CM’s capabilities and processes.

As the industry leader in fast, turnkey PCB prototype manufacturing, Tempo Automation is the torch bearer for white box manufacturing among PCB manufacturers. Our goal is to reduce the feedback loop to real-time while delivering precise, high-quality boards to you. We employ quality control that meets or exceeds many industry standards for critical systems including aerospace, medical devices and automotive.

Tempo‘s Custom PCB Manufacturing Service

  • Accurate quote in less than 1 day.
  • Performs entire turnkey process in as fast as 3 days.
  • Emphasizes DFM to eliminate time-consuming back-and-forth design corrections.
  • Sources components from the most reputable suppliers in the industry to reduce procurement time.
  • Performs multiple automated inspections during assembly to ensure PCB quality for prototyping.
  • Provides support throughout the PCB manufacturing process, beginning with design.
  • Smooth transition from prototyping to production.

We will partner with you on day 1 of design and support you throughout the entire PCB development process. And to help you get started on the best path, we furnish information for your DFM and enable you to easily view and download DRC files. If you’re an Altium user, you can simply add these files to your PCB design software.

If you are ready to have your design manufactured, try our quote tool to upload your CAD and BOM files. If you want more information on DFM or how white box manufacturing can push your performance to greater heights, contact us.

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