Engineering and manufacturing are so closely entwined, yet frequently pitted against each other. It shouldn’t be that way – without engineers, we wouldn’t have a product to build and without manufacturing, it wouldn’t be easy to bring ideas to life. So where does this bias come from? Put simply, job differential.
Engineers have a lot on their plate, to put it lightly. They’re responsible for bringing a thought on paper (or a napkin) to life as a fully functioning product by creating schematics, selecting components, building working Gerber files, and assembling a BOM. It’s completely understandable that, sometimes, items are overlooked or forgotten.
At NAS Electronics, we appreciate everything engineers do, and we are immensely grateful for all of their hard work. And this month we want to point out a few things our favorite engineers do that we love!
- They Build A Better BOM
- They Keep Revisions Under Control
- They Get Their Data From The Datasheet
- They Keep Everything On One Side
- They Know That Tents Aren’t Just For Camping
We see it all the time; descriptions don’t match the part numbers, package sizes don’t match the PCB pad layout, internal part numbers get misused or mislabeled. It is all understandable, but each one causes a different production issue. Our favorite engineers take the time upfront to ensure everything matches up. Don’t get us wrong; we’ll always do our best to verify it, but that takes time and can cause production delays. This is the most crucial thing engineers can do for their manufacturing team and, because this is a tedious and painstaking process, we are all the more grateful when the BOMs are clean and simple to produce!
Let’s start by saying there is no such thing as too much revision control. Every part number, value, trace on the PCB, and pad size affects your production output, so don’t leave it in the hands of purchasing or manufacturing to interpret your design accurately. We know there are several reasons not to up-rev a product, but typically none of those reasons have to do with quality – they’re to save someone time or energy. Whether it’s a simple value change, or a completely different layout of the PCB, the engineers we love will always revise the product.
Standard package sizes are all well and good, but any time you use a non-standard package, check the datasheet for the pad layout recommendation. In our experience, the primary cause for non-standard package solder defects comes straight from the datasheet. Side mount LEDs, BTCs, and non-standard through-hole components are all prime candidates for solder issues due to pad design. In almost all cases, the part manufacturer recommends a different pad layout than what is on the board.
Whenever possible, our favorite engineers keep it all on one side. While we realize that engineers are working with size and layout restrictions, having all surface mount components on one side helps lower cost and production time dramatically. If that isn’t possible, ensure all your larger components are on one side, with passives and smaller footprints on the other.
The same can be said for through-hole: mounting through-hole components on opposite sides of the board can force the manufacturing team to using hand or selective solder, when wave would be far more cost and time effective. Whenever possible, put all components on one side of the PCB, surface mount and through-hole.
One of the simplest and cheapest improvements an engineer can make is to “tent” the vias. Instead of opening up the solder mask on the via holes, leave them closed. Unless those vias are necessary for testing on the PCB, closing the mask can save time and money. This opens up manufacturing options and reduces the risks of bridging, solder escape, and other defect conditions. To use a common example, a board that would efficiently run through wave solder with closed vias, may have to run through selective solder, incurring additional labor costs when masking off the vias (or hand solder, which is always the last resort). By tenting the vias, you can save as much as 50% on the cost of labor!
Ready To Get Started?
The engineers we’ve worked with throughout the three decades we’ve been in business have successfully taken their products to full-scale production. So whether you’re starting a new business or looking to expand internationally, we can help simplify the manufacturing process: BOM scrubbing, DFM recommendations, EOL alerts – we have all the acronyms that let you do more and stress less. Contact us today to discover how we simplify manufacturing.