Manufacturing friendly products save costs

A lot is taken into account when developing a new electronics product: functionality, schematics, components, mechanical construction, and regulatory approvals. Manufacturing friendliness, on the other hand, may not be at the top of the list and it is often not an area familiar to designers.

Additionally, as manufacturing technologies change over time, optimal design parameters shift and process capabilities will often be different from one manufacturer to another. Product manufacturing friendliness, or the ease by which a part can be produced, has a direct impact on the product’s cost and quality. In the worst case the product as initially designed can be virtually impossible to manufacture. While these problems can be solved, they typically occur late in the design cycle and will require additional change and process optimization. The time and effort required for changes typically gets more expensive the further down the product introduction cycle that problems are identified. The best time to address potential issues is early on in the design phase.

Manufacturing electronics prototypes proofs the product design and often illuminates areas where there is room for improvement in a new product design. By simply changing component orientation, placement, or changing the basic manufacturing process, the flow can often be improved and produce a better yield or reduce the required number of processing steps. There are occasionally cases where a product intended for volume manufacturing requires substantial manual assembly and hand soldering making the product essentially unsuitable for achieving the intended manufacturing volumes. Performing a manufacturing characteristics analysis early on at the initial design phase will typically reveal significant opportunities and savings potential.

The process that assesses the manufacturing characteristics of a new design is called a Design for Manufacturing (DFM) analysis.

Basic manufacturing analysis
Basic DFM analysis for an electronics product evaluates the PCBA and looks at how well components can be placed and how well the PCB design is suited for the soldering process. The analysis can be done manually or with a tool. The exact characteristics to be analysed depend on the service provider, but typically the process will include checking that components are not too close to each other, checking the solder mask and solder paste coverage, verifying fiducials, and performing a pad stack analysis. Some service providers also check the bare PCB layout. This check is made for critical issues like solder paste covering the pads or product performance related items like trace parameters and shapes.

Lead time analysis
A DFM analysis is not very useful at the prototype build time if it turns out that the components selected for the prototype have lead times that are too long or are unavailable. It is essential that any DFM analysis includes a check for component lead times and continued availability. If a DFM review is done early in the process and the design is found to include hard-to-get components, there is sufficient time for the design to be revised and those components replaced with ones that are more readily available.

Life time analysis
In a similar fashion the DFM analysis should also check for expected component life-time availability and verify their RoHS status. Designing an obsolete or soon to be obsolete component into a new product is an expensive error which can be virtually eliminated by a thorough DFM analysis. The avoidance of conflict minerals is another important factor to be considered. Manufacturers need to know that the sources for their components are legitimate and that the materials used are procured ethically. Do you want your new products to include the stigma of using components with materials taken from conflict zones? (Read more)

There are several levels of detail a DFM analyses can include; however, many service providers perform only a very basic PCBA evaluation. When teaming with a company to have a DFM analysis, be sure you know the level of service that will be provided, as an inadequate review can cost you in the long run. For a comprehensive DFM analysis, select a company with practical experience, with a wide range of manufacturing technologies suited to your product, and the knowledge of how your specific design will impact the manufacturability and the cost of the product.

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