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When I am asked how to improve yields or reduce cost with a printed circuit board design, my mind immediately races ahead to the most common cost drivers. Has the part been designed with manufacturability in mind? Does the material selection make sense when balancing cost and performance? How many layers and lamination cycles are needed and could that number be reduced in any way? Has part size and panelization been considered? Are there any specific design features that push traditional design rules? All of these things have a direct impact on the manufacturer’s yield and the subsequent cost of the PCB.
One question that is rarely asked however is this: How does a PCB sourcing strategy impact yields? I know yields are typically associated with the manufacturer’s process capabilities and process controls as related to the printed circuit board design, but let me pose a few questions to help shed light on the impact that PCB sourcing can have on manufacturing yields and subsequent profitability.
Have you ever wondered why it is so difficult to find a fabricator that can meet ALL of your needs? Wouldn’t it be great to find the perfect manufacturer, the one that has amazing service, does exactly what they say they are going to do AND has competitive pricing (total value, not just board price) across all the various technology levels?
The fact is, it is extremely rare for an OEM to have a homogeneous technology level across their entire PCB demand. On any given project, there may be a few 2–4 layer designs, a few 12-layer designs, a difficult motherboard design and maybe even a flex or rigid-flex design.
It is also a fact that PCB fabricators have a sweet spot that best fits their equipment set, engineering expertise, facility size and company culture. Very often, browsing through a website or brochure will leave the impression that a manufacturer provides a “full range of technology”? Two-layer to 30-layer, .010” drill to microvias, standard materials to specialty materials, quick-turn prototype through volume production. At the end of the day, no fabricator wants to turn away business and they try to do their best to supply what their customers need.
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the March 2016 issue of The PCB Magazine.