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42 The PCB Magazine • October 2015 The area of cycle time most visible to the market is the total product cycle time through the fabrication process. This is an area of great importance to both OEMs and bareboard cus- tomers. As circuit board fabricators are constant- ly pressured for cost reductions, speed is defi- nitely one thing worth paying for in 2015. For North American fabricators, there is a great deal of emphasis on quick-turn and development work, resulting in a high-mix, low-volume mar- ket whereby job setup is a key factor in the cycle time. In fact, it is not uncommon for 10–20% of the total product cycle time to be eaten up dur- ing layout, CAM and planning, which must be completed prior to releasing a job. Leaders in the quick-turn and prototyping market reserve a significant percentage of their capacity for supporting this demand. Even so, they realize it is important to reduce cycle time for steps like sequential lamination, drilling, imaging, and final test. Following are actual examples of indus- try practices that successful fabricators in the quick-turn market embrace that can help those companies who want to reduce cycle times in their operations. Less is More Some fabricators, such as Streamline Cir- cuits, differentiate themselves by running a largely toolless process, which means that ev- erything is digitized from laser drilling to LDI imaging and from LDI solder-mask to digital legend printing, and finally to flying probe test- ing at the end of the line. With a 100% filmless process, Streamline can tool more than 20 jobs per day, which, once released, can move rapidly through the shop from start to finish without waiting on test fix- tures, phototools, or legend screens. Investing in the latest equipment, such as a digital legend printer, 25-micron AOI, and 18-micron LDI ca- pability and increasing press capacity also con- tributes to improved cycle time. The Importance of Culture Another critical aspect for cycle time that can't be conveyed in a brochure, is culture. An example of this is at APCT Inc., in Santa Clara, California, where a healthy culture is embodied throughout every level of the company. Every- one, from top management to shop floor op- erators, is committed to quick-turn, including the theory of constraints mindset and a sense of urgency, which will contribute to the custom- ers' needs being met day in and day out. This approach has allowed APCT to establish a core competency as a high-speed HDI operation, one that can consistently produce a 10-layer board, by Jason Marsh inSulEcTro PuttiNg it all together The Economics of Reducing Cycle Time in PCB Fabrication FeATure ColuMn Figure 1: Streamline's orbotech nuvogo dual wavelength lDi unit, capable of 18 micron resolution.

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