Tuesday, March 3, 2009
PCB Design for Manufacturing: Soup to Nuts
Sunstone Circuits and National Instruments announced a collaboration this week, with National Instruments joining Sunstone’s “ECOsystem design environment” for PCB design. Sunstone is aiming for a design approach that brings customers from disparate CAD files, mechanical layouts, bills of materials (BOMs), and the like into one sleek supply chain that integrates module design, parts ordering, physical planning, and more.
National Instruments adds a new gear to the machine. Customers using NI Multisim and NI Ultiboard can order prototype PCBs via the Sunstone ECOsystem, and Sunstone is hoping more off-the-shelf hardware providers will follow suit. Electronics assemblers are stretched to the limit for resources and resource management, Terry Heilman, president and CEO of Sunstone, explained, and automating the process, eliminating human error and time-wasting activities, is the way to bring PCB design and prototyping into manageable and valuable work schedules. The full news story about National and Sunstone’s collaboration is available on smtonline.com.
Small design problems snowball, classically, causing massive problems at the manufacturing stage. Design for manufacture (DfM) is one of the most important tools prototype/new product designers can use to stay on time and on budget. Consider a disconnect between mechanical and electrical design. At the design phase, with DfM, component height tolerances are established and the finished assembly fits properly in its case when manufactured. Without DfM, one component may be too tall for the PCB’s case, for example. A new component must be substituted, BOMs changed, new parts ordered, etc.
By adding National Instruments to the ECOsystem, Sunstone is amassing companies that specialize in certain areas National for PCB assemblies, Digi-Key for component sourcing, Screaming Circuits for PCB build and properly networking them to serve the electronics designer and manufacturer most efficiently and transparently. Fewer people and less time, less waste, lower investment are all goals for the ECOsystem users.
Recently, I was part of a team that launched SMT’s newest sister publication, PVWorld. We launched the Website on schedule, not without any bumps and baubles and retracing our steps. The element that kept work flowing was a close interaction with the website designers, content managers, and other online gurus that instructed us and knew how to resolve every issue that came up. Can it work? Can the new product introduction (NPI) supply chain progress smoothly like a well-oiled machine? It may not happen every time certain parts are not available through certain distributors, last-minute changes from above may push designers back a step or two, freak snowstorms may hold up a delivery truck on its way to the EMS provider some wrenches in the gears cannot be helped. But the ECOsystem concept represents an ideal that Sunstone is pushed toward achieving, adding partners at a fast clip, including the most recent National. The ECOsystem works like a consortium product, with all companies contributing toward the goal of DfM.
Meredith Courtemanche, managing editor