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60 DESIGN007 MAGAZINE I FEBRUARY 2018 as smoothly and efficiently as possible all the time. As well, all customers want the lowest price possible for their circuits and being effi- cient is an intuitive response. But what's more important to the customer? Is it the price of the circuit, or is it the best design for their new product? The customer might argue both, and it would be hard to disagree. Consider A New Way: DFA Let's look at two theories in practice with a similar design. In the typical DFM model, a circuit would be designed with the supplier's specific capabilities in mind. For instance, the board size may be increased from the engi- neer's request to make room for the supplier's minimum trace width/space limitations, or the space between copper and the edge of the cir- cuit. Or it could be to make room for larger diameter via holes because of the minimum hole size and annual ring requirements. These are not uncommon specifications defined as limitations from a circuit manufacturer. How- ever, let's look at the outcome to see how the product may be affected. If the board size must increase then, in a typical situation, the entire product size must increase. In our cur- rent product environment of smaller is better, that would be a significant compromise for the customer to make simply to stay within their supplier's standards. Let's consider an alternative theory: design for application, or DFA. If DFA is used in place of DFM in the same scenario, the board may be designed as intended and the circuit and product may remain at the original size it was imagined. The long-tenured supplier may choose not to make a circuit with these speci - fications. Or they may choose to look outside their standards and improve their processes to meet them. The advantages for the circuit manufacturer include the ability to continue to service a good customer, to expand their capabilities and challenge their limitations. This may cost the customer, initially, in the form of a higher priced circuit. However, they would have the opportunity to compare the increased circuit cost to the cost of a larger product profile and its acceptance in their industry. Product development engineers will appreciate the chance to weigh all the options intelligently, thereby landing upon the most valuable decision for the product and the company. DFA has its challenges to be sure. The opera- tors at the circuit manufacturer must be willing to try new processes and discuss all options. They must argue the pros and cons with equal enthusiasm to eliminate long-standing biases. And management must be able to sell the idea of change as being good for both the company and its employees. That's not a simple task. As well, the customer must understand that their current requirements fall outside of their sup- plier's standards and be patient and coopera- tive while they strive to improve. This idea challenges decades of success of circuit manufacturers to educate their custom- ers. But, it is just as exciting for the customer to educate the supplier. When they have suppliers that are willing to work with them and discuss available options as opposed to demanding the design be changed to suit their abilities, it should provide increased communication and maybe loyalty as well. The situation is a win for both parties. The customer gets the best possible solution to their challenges and the supplier improves and expands their capabili- ties. As time goes on, it would be reasonable to assume that the supplier's standards and limitations may be improved permanently and costs may be reduced for these improvements. DFA. it's a new idea, but one worth explor- ing! DESIGN007 John Talbot is president of Tramonto Circuits, which designs and manufactures flexible circuits and printed circuit boards. Is it the price of the circuit, or is it the best design for their new product?

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