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26 The PCB Magazine • July 2017 tent the same is true when manufacturing mil/ aero products. When the salesman delivers the quote, it is critical that he understands the extra commitment and time which will be demanded to manufacture these products. I am not directly involved in this process anymore so I feel reasonably comfortable sug- gesting that, as an industry, we need a more joint approach to the whole process. We are all in business to make a reasonable profit. I think all too often it is easy to lose sight of the actu- al costs of manufacturing occasional batches of special boards. You may be competing against a company who have not considered the whole picture when they have put forward their quote. Even worse, with the buyer dangling the carrot of future batches and related projects, loss lead- ers and special prices may hit the table. In the long term, it is impossible to compete against this type of approach—nobody wins. The buy- er gets a very false impression of the true cost of their boards. It is simply not sustainable. I would not usually be the person to suggest that extra red tape be added to the process, but in this case perhaps it could help. The manufac- turing standards for these products are very de- tailed and each important process must be car- ried out in a way that is approved and assures the quality of the end product. Why not have a detailed standard for the purchase cycle? An approved method for the calculation of process costs and inclusion of the detailed costs for the inspection and verifi- cation processes. Putting these prices forwards as an open book to the buyer. What would I propose in return? A reasonable specified prof- it margin which reflects the effort and commit- TIME TO SHOW OUR HAND? ment put in by the fabricator. Only with this type of open policy is it possible for the buyer to understand if a pricing model is sustainable and correctly calculated. Then we can truly compete on a level playing field. Particularly for the military applications, I feel quite strongly that we should be supportive as an industry to make sure they have access to products manufactured to the very best of our ability. The nature of conflicts around the world is changing and there is ever more reliance on specialised electronics to keep both military personnel and civilians safe. My perspective has changed as I have gotten older. As a teenager, I had friends who joined the UK armed forces. Some of them joined the elite Royal Marines and Paratroop regiments. At the time, I respected the physical commitment they gave to their job. As my children have grown up and some of their friends joined the armed forces I feel I understand better the na- ture of the job they are doing for their coun- try. Young men and women who are prepared to make huge sacrifices to protect the innocent. I may not agree with the politics involved but I absolutely support every member of our mil- itary who is prepared to offer their service and potentially their life for our benefit. If we can improve our service to them, we must! PCB Marc Ladle is director at Viking Test Ltd. To contact him or to read past columns, click here. Phase 1 of DARPA's Fast Lightweight Autonomy (FLA) program concluded recently following a se- ries of obstacle-course flight tests in central Flori- da. Over four days, three teams of DARPA-support- ed researchers huddled in the sweltering Florida sun, fine-tuning their sensor-lad- en quadcopter unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) during the intervals between increasingly difficult runs. DARPA's FLA program is advancing technolo- gy to enable small unmanned quadcopters to fly autonomously through cluttered buildings and obstacle-strewn environments at speeds up to 45 mph, using onboard cameras and sensors as "eyes" and smart algorithms to navigate. Smart Quadcopters Find their Way without Human Help or GPS

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