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50 DESIGN007 MAGAZINE I NOVEMBER 2021 Matties: We oen hear that the designers don't fully understand the fabrication process. I think that your column is in a great position to help them understand the critical areas they need to know. O'Neil: Right. Years ago, there was a disconnect between designers and fabricators. As the big shops have closed, front-end engineering has gone away for a lot of these folks, and those who have worked in the industry have le, so there's a gap. Folks who come straight out of school and then go down the street to the big tier-one guy here in Tucson [Arizona] don't really get any kind of education about building a circuit board. So, they come up with some radical and funny ideas of how you go through this process. We encourage those folks to come to the shop or at least pick up a book, like Dan Beaulieu's PCB 101. We hand that book to new employees, platers, and anybody who walks in the door. But every time we tour either a graduate stu- dent, an EE, or a fresh-out engineer, they're always amazed at what actually happens in a printed circuit board shop. To get that basic with designers is critical so they don't have to keep coming back asking questions. We wel- come questions because that gets the product out faster, but we aim to establish that base level about what we really do here and what it takes to make a circuit board. Matties: ey may not understand the 300 steps of complexity. O'Neil: Absolutely. ey come out of our tour with their eyes wide open. Matties: How important is it for the designer to really understand the manufacturing process? O'Neil: It's critical. Besides designing the board, we go through design for manufacturing (DFM) in the front end to determine whether we can build the board before we quote it. But if the designer had insight into what it takes, rout- ing, drill hole size, those things would be taken into consideration right off the bat instead of designing the product and then realizing his fabricator can't do that. "Let me go over to 'A.' ey can't do that. With 'B' and 'C,' there are some real restrictions, not only with shops, but the equipment they have to do that type of fab- rication." So it's critical, absolutely. Matties: Right. Now in your column, you will touch on some of these topics that are most critical for the designer to learn or understand. O'Neil: at's correct. e number of layers has gone down because of part sizes, but real estate is very critical. How you utilize it is so critical for what happens on the shop floor. Matties: So, in these 40+ years, what have been some of the best memories or the most surpris- ing moments in the industry for you? O'Neil: I have seen technology change, and the board design change. Every six months another design was coming out, and the quick turn, and how just-in-time manufacturing made it down to the circuit board level. I have worked at OEMs before, and you weren't even considered any- body in the organization, you were just there. When it went to independent shops, there were some guys, bucket shops really, that suddenly had to get with the program. Surface mount was the one that really got everybody going. I was talking to a quality engineer the other day, and he goes back to when CAD and CAM Years ago, there was a disconnect between designers and fabricators.

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