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92 The PCB Magazine • October 2015 by Tara Dunn omni PcB flex talk Tips for Time-Critical PCBs FeATure ColuMn Can you relate to this common scenario? A quotation is received for the fabrication of three different PCB part numbers and a purchase or- der is placed for delivery in five days, on a time- critical project. A few hours later, the dreaded e-mail is received. Questions regarding the de- sign are putting the project on hold. It takes a day, or possibly two, to coordinate the resolu- tion of the questions between your customer, the PCB designer and the fabricator. Next, you are informed that the delivery date for the PCBs is pushed out for the two-day delay in answer- ing questions. Ugh! Now the schedule has to be adjusted, the components you paid a premium for will be sitting there waiting for the boards, and your customer is not happy. This scenario occurs time and time again. Approximately 90% of designs that go through CAD/CAM at a PCB fabricator have questions that must be answered before the fabricator can start manufacturing the board. Some questions are minor and can be answered quickly; oth- ers can require a partial or complete redesign of the PCB. Elizabeth Foradori and I sat down to discuss our ideas about how to best work with PCB fab- ricators to reduce the likelihood of any delays during time-critical development of a new prod- uct. Chapters could be written on this topic, but our hope is that these ideas provide a basis to encourage discussion early in the design process. Prior to Placing a Purchase Order 1. Research and select your PCB fab- ricator early in the process. If the design is going to be a standard design, on common material and fit neatly into any manufacturer's "standard capabilities," that makes things much easier. But if the new design is going to be push- ing the limits of standard technology in any way—microvias, fine line, tight pitch or tight tolerance, selective surface finish, exotic materi- als, rigid-flex—selecting a supplier early in the process, whose capabilities match the technol- ogy needed, will ensure that the design can be manufactured quickly once you are ready to re- lease the files.

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