Optimizing Your Aerospace Concurrent Engineering PCB Development

March 26, 2019 , in Aerospace, Blog

If you hear someone say that two activities are concurrent, you would rightly assume that they were happening simultaneously, as opposed to sequentially. But, as Albert Einstein pointed out, all things should be considered from their proper perspective in order to discern relevance.

Concurrent different tasks at the International Space Station

An example of this is when two astronauts are simultaneously doing different repairs on the Internationational Space Station (ISS). Clearly, they are working concurrently. However, from a wider perspective, in concurrence with the repair job the ISS and a space shuttle are concurrently performing a docking maneuver. Thus, two activities, each comprised of tasks being performed at the same time, are occurring simultaneously, which illustrates that concurrency can be viewed from multiple perspectives of relevancy.

The same is true for PCB, electronic system, and project development where stages may be performed simultaneously instead of sequentially. Each of these is an example of concurrent engineering where the primary objective is to reduce the time needed to produce the board, system or platform and deliver it to the client. The application of concurrent engineering can yield great benefits for you, your team or organization, especially for aerospace development. But before we expand on the benefits, let’s look at what investments should be made for good concurrent engineering and how to optimize it for today's aerospace industry.

Concurrent Engineering Is ...

Concurrent engineering is more of a development strategy than a process. In fact, when implementing this strategy, multiple processes are typically occurring simultaneously. Similar in objectives to other development methodologies, such as lean manufacturing, the motivation for concurrent engineering is to reduce cost, increase efficiency, and improve competitiveness by delivering a quality product as quickly as possible. These are achieved by converting the traditional sequential product development process into parallel processes executed by different teams. Depending upon the level at which concurrent engineering is applied, the number and types of groups and teams may vary.

Concurrent Engineering Teams

Concurrent engineering may be applied organizationally at multiple levels; however, for PCB development, we can generally limit the levels to a project management structure that consists of groups and teams that would be involved with producing the boards. An example where three distinct PCBs are required for a larger electronics system may be as shown below.

  • Project Management
    • Electronics System Integration
      • PCB Group A
        • Design team
        • Manufacturing team
        • Test team
      • PCB Group B
        • Design team
        • Manufacturing team
        • Test team
      • PCB Group C
        • Design team
        • Manufacturing team
        • Test team

The structure above illustrates how concurrent engineering may be applied to an electronic system comprised of multiple PCBs. The number of PCB groups is arbitrary. However, for fast, quality PCB development, the essential teams are as shown. Each team should be staffed with the appropriate personnel to ensure the highest quality results for their team’s operations. To achieve the greatest benefits from this approach, the PCB groups must have open communication as modifications or changes for one board may impact the design or build of the others.

For many projects, the concurrent engineering approach at the project level would extend to include other systems in parallel development with the electronics system. For example, satellites which are aerospace platforms may have separate structural, software, and propulsion systems being developed by different groups of engineers, programmers, and scientists. For large platforms, such as space vehicles, multiple projects may be required that may also be proceeding simultaneously. Not only can concurrency be implemented for systems integration within a project, but it can also be instituted for the management of parallel project development within and across organizations.

Optimizing PCB Development for Aerospace Concurrent Engineering

Referring back to the project structure presented above, it is desirable that design, manufacturing, test, and other pertinent information is accessible and shared among teams within a group and between teams in adjacent groups. This enables the development to be as adaptive as possible to changes in design or client requirements. This flexibility when coupled with a contract manufacturer(s) that possesses agile manufacturing expertise and equipment capabilities to quickly respond to changes or modifications results in optimized PCB development.

Concurrent engineering at the project level and above has been successfully utilized in the aerospace industry, where it is not uncommon for several organizations to contribute to a single platform. With the advent of the new space race and increased competition due to the expansion in the number of entities entering the aerospace industry, your PCB development needs to be as fast as possible, adhere to strict standards and regulations, and deliver high-quality boards to your clients. This is best accomplished by implementing a concurrent manufacturing strategy for each PCB developed with each team following good design guidelines as listed below.

  • Build competent teams

Design, manufacturing, and test teams should be formed with members that have expertise in their area, PCB development, and if possible, the product. This will ensure relevant discourse so that each team is up to speed throughout the process.

  • Setup open communication protocols

The establishment of methods and means for regular planned and immediate unplanned communication should be done at the outset.

  • Execute each stage with collaboration from other teams

Each team should employ best practices for quality and efficiency for their stage operations. Additionally, methods, data, and guidelines that enable the other stages to perform optimally should also be utilized. For example, the design team should use design for manufacturing (DFM) furnished by the CM, the manufacturing team should perform any testing required or requested, and the test team should make use of design and manufacturing for design for testing (DFT) and circuit board testing that will aid with vetting the PCB.

  • Update process as necessary to respond to changes  

In order to optimize the development of your aerospace PCB, the process must be able to identify and respond to modifications and changes quickly. Therefore, working with a CM with agile manufacturing capabilities is a must.

Tempo‘s Custom Avionics for PCB Manufacturing Service
  • CM for 2 of the industries top 10 aerospace and defense manufacturers and 2 of the 10 satellite producers.
  • AS9100D and IPC J-STD-001E with Space Addendum certified manufacturing processes.
  • ISO-9001, IPC-600 and IPC-610 commitment to quality certifications.
  • Accurate quote in less than a day.
  • DFM support from Day 1 of design.
  • Entire turnkey PCB manufacturing in as fast as 3 days.
  • Sources components from the most reputable suppliers in the industry to reduce procurement time and help with component security.
  • Performs multiple automated inspections during PCB assembly to ensure PCB quality for prototyping.
  • Standard quality testing, including X-ray and inline AOI.

Tempo Automation, is the industry leader in fast, high-quality prototyping and low-volume production. Our commitment to quality is evident by our adherence to AS9100D, J-STD-001E (with space addendum), IPC-600, IPC-610, and ISO-9001 standards. We are experienced in building flight-ready boards for space platforms and possess the expertise and advanced equipment to provide the necessary agility for your development.

And to help you get started on the best path, we furnish information for your DFM checks 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 about concurrent engineering or how to implement it for your aerospace PCB development, contact us.

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