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MAY 2020 I DESIGN007 MAGAZINE 61 ally fabricated PCB. When preparing your de- sign for printing, you will need to understand that every manufacturer has different capabili- ties, requirements, and turnaround time. You'll need to take all of these into account to man- age your project efficiently. If you already have your manufacturer fig- ured out, keep all of this in mind from the very beginning of the design process. You don't want to get to the fabrication stage of prototyp- ing and realize at the last minute you've over- stepped your manufacturer's limitations. Picking the Right Partner or Service If your project is complex, especially if it's a brand new design, you will want to consider expert help. It makes sense to leverage such help with layout review. Rapid prototyping fabrication services can help shorten the turnaround on complicated designs, which saves money during production while helping you stay on schedule. However, just because you can get boards quickly from a manufacturer doesn't mean you always should. Look for manufacturing partners that can pro- vide detailed, comprehensive feedback on your PCB design before your prototypes are fabricat- ed. This will reveal yield or reliability issues with your design, improve the integrity of your production schedule, and ultimately improve the quality of the boards. The manufacturer will also be able to tell you if your design fits within their capabilities and limitations, saving endless prototyping headaches later. Some PCB manufacturers offer multiple pro- totyping services. For example, we offer our ValueProto service through custom PCB man- ufacturing with access to experts, as well as a free DFM check with an online custom report for each job. Conclusion Prototyping is a necessary step on the road to production, so it's important to pick the right strategy for your project. An approach that works for one board may not be right for the next, and it will take time and experience to know which strategy is the best fit for each case. Be flexible in your approach to prototyp- ing options. Whether you choose to etch your own prototypes in your garage or engage pro- fessional experts from your PCB manufacturer, remember to plan ahead and don't get discour- aged if one prototype is not enough. DESIGN007 Further Reading 1. M.B. LeBlanc, "How to Prototype Without Using Print- ed Circuits Boards," Instructables Circuits. 2. O.N. Dahl, "DIY PCB: How to Create Your Own Printed Circuit Boards," Build Electronic Circuits. Bob Tise is an engineer at Sunstone Circuits, and Matt Stevenson is the VP of sales and marketing at Sunstone Circuits. To read past columns or contact Tise and Stevenson, click here. Bob Tise Matt Stevenson

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