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Designing a flex circuit to be prototyped domestically? No problem. Designing a rigid-flex circuit for production offshore? Got it. Designing a part that will be prototyped domestically with a seamless transition to offshore production? That can be a little more challenging.
We have probably all been there. The prototypes are needed on a very tight delivery schedule and are built domestically. The testing is complete and the same files are sent to an offshore manufacturer for the production build. The order is placed and suddenly, the engineering questions start coming in. Can the materials be changed? Can the hole size or pad size be altered to improve manufacturability? These common questions now require time and effort to evaluate and ultimately, time and effort to complete the rev spin before production product can be released. Recently, Omni PWB’s Elizabeth Foradori and I sat down with Ashley Luxton of Graphic PLC to learn his recommendations for minimizing these disruptions. Our discussion focused on the importance of supplier selection, universal considerations, and key areas that have more significant variation. To listen to the discussion, click here. Following are some of the highlights from that discussion.
Supplier Selection: Choose your supplier carefully and consider the different options available. There are manufacturers that own both domestic and offshore facilities, domestic manufacturers that partner with offshore facilities, and manufacturers that work only domestically or only offshore.
When working with a manufacturer that has both domestic and offshore capabilities, it is critical to communicate with them early in the design process. The fabricator, understanding both the domestic and offshore preferences and capabilities, will be happy to make recommendations for material selection, panel utilization, and also how to maximize yields for the production volumes.
A domestic supplier who partners with an offshore manufacturer will be able to offer this same type of guidance. Due diligence is recommended. Most domestic manufacturers that partner with offshore suppliers do so to offer their customers a full service option. Significant effort is put into learning their partner’s technical capabilities, material preferences and operations. The lines of communication between the facilities are well established. There are also domestic suppliers that purchase product from offshore suppliers to support a full range of volume requirements for their customers, but have not put the extra effort into learning and understanding the details of their offshore partner’s technical capabilities. This model provides the customer with volume production from offshore, but may not be the best solution when looking for design guidance to ensure a smooth domestic to offshore transition.
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the August 2015 issue of The PCB Magazine.