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Electronica 2014 - Eurocircuits PCB products and services scored high interest with the visitors.

This year's Electronica was the 50th anniversary of one of the world's largest electronics exhibitions. Over 73.000 visitors from over 80 countries were welcomed by 2.737 exhibitors from 50 countries. In the midst of all this, Hall A5 - booth 502, was Eurocircuits. See our video below.

 

7 colleagues strong, the Eurocircuits team presented its new services and products to the large numbers of high class visitors who crowded onto the booth.

 

Demonstrating the new eC-test-mate.

During the 4 days of the exhibition, our team welcomed over 700 new contacts and plenty of existing customers. Our products and services were well received by all our visitors.  Our users told us how highly they value the service and support we offer them.  The response at the show gives us confidence that our ongoing strategy is right: to provide electronics designers in a single convenient location the tools and services they need to bring their design and products to the market in time and on budget. 

One of the highlights of the live demos of our PCB services was the appreciation of the way our smart menus can help designer achieve their optimum PCB design flow.

 

See more of what we showed and explained at the show in our special BLOG

Furthermore we would like to share some moments of the exhibition with you in the following short film. 

MOVIE: Electronica 2014 - an impression

 This film gives a 1'30" impression of the buzz at Electronica this year. We hope to see you there again in 2016, from 8 to 11 November.

 

You can always view this video in full screen mode by clicking the right symbol  on the navigation bar and upgrade the resolution by clicking the setting symbol .

If you have any questions, click the Chat box on the right of the screen and chat with one of our experts.

Posted under eC-events Read More...

New Eurocircuits products and services presented at this year's Electronica 2014

Electronica 2014 (11 – 14 November in Munich) was for Eurocircuits the busiest ever. Our booth team was kept busy from beginning to end presenting our newest products and services to existing customers and more than 700 new prospects.

eC-equipment

Interest was high in two new products launched at the show, and we received our first orders on the booth:

  • eC-pre-heater for faster and more reliable hand-soldering and de-soldering.
  • eC-test-mate – our award-winning fixtureless test system for populated PCBs.

Both have been developed in response to our prototype PCB customers looking for high reliability test and assembly solutions at prices suitable for small batch operation.

eC-pre-heater

The eC-pre-heater has been developed to make manual soldering and de-soldering faster and more reliable by reducing heating times and the risk of thermal stress. This makes it particularly effective when soldering critical components or PCB layouts with a high heat-absorbency. 

The eC-pre-heater gives you complete control over the pre-heating process.

  • Load the PCB onto the machine and set your preferred height above the heaters or work on the glass
  • Attach the external sensors to measure the actual temperature on the board, top and bottom, for maximum control of the process.
  • Choose which sensor shall drive the controller
  • Decide whether you want to use the front or both heaters
  • Set the temperature that best suits this board or these components using the simple key-pad.
  • When the display shows that the board has reached your chosen temperature, start soldering or de-soldering.

The low profile, ergonomic design and insulated casing make the eC-pre-heater comfortable, convenient and safe to use.

The eC-pre-heater is developed and produced by Eurocircuits and is now available for ordering

See our eC-pre-heater in action here.

eC-test-mate

The eC-test-mate provides a cost-effective test solution for prototype and small-batch populated PCBs without losing the time and money needed to prepare test-fixtures. For many projects the cost/time needed for test-fixtures is prohibitive, making full programmed functional testing impossible. With eC-test-mate test or no test is no longer a question.

eC-test-mate comprises a docking station and 3 ergonomic test-heads. Each test-head has 21 test-pins and integrated hardware for a specific range of tests: test-head T1 for general applications; T2 to test communication interfaces and T3 to provide additional measurement functions as needed. Combined they offer comprehensive functional testing for small-batch assembled PCBs.

eC-test-mate is straightforward to use.

  1. Incorporate the test-head footprints into your design. If space is tight, the test-head-footprints can be placed on a snap-off coupon.
  2. Write your test program using eC-my-test software. Clear commands and structured menus make programming and debugging simple.
  3. Plug the test head into your PCB and run the test.

To help you to start testing even faster, we also offer an optional Starter Kit which consists of a populated demo PCB and the corresponding test-scripts.

For full information, manuals and footprint data for EAGLE and Altium CAD systems, click here.

Watch the eC-test-mate movie here.

PCB services

We marked Electronica 2014 with extensions to our PCB pooling services. Many visitors new to our services also responded enthusiastically to the range of tools available on the website to validate their data-set and tailor it for their current order.

The extended services and new tools are all part of our ongoing strategy to offer electronics designers a single convenient location for all tools and services they need to bring their products to market on time and on budget.

Tools:

  • Smart menus – PCB Configurator. Visitors appreciated the data validation (Design for Manufacturability) tools build into our Cost Calculator menus, and the ability to run Design Rule Checks on the Gerber data and to view any potential manufacturing issues on screen thus avoiding any delays to delivery. A typical data validation scenario which rang bells with several of the designers was designing a board with 0.150 mm technology and then calling for 70 micron copper to handle heavy current. To ensure good etching and a reliable end-product 70 micron foil requires a minimum track/gap of 0.200/0.250 mm. Using the data validation in the Cost Calculator the designer can check this out early in the design cycle, minimizing the risk of a design re-spin. See our blog Optimum PCB Design Flow.

  • Marking Editor. Designers welcomed the opportunity to place order numbers, logos, QR codes and other batch information exactly where they wanted them on their PCB.
  • PCB PIXture. This new software package allows the designer to print a graphic image on his PCB as a black/white or gold image defined by the soldermask. There was considerable interest in this product at the show as designers felt that there is a strong trend to make visible more of the electronics in new products. PCB PIXture gives them the opportunity to make their designs stand out from the competition and to generate powerful messages to their customers.
  • Panel Editor. In other cases designers needed to create special delivery panels to suit their PCB assemblers, whether in-house or sub-contractors. The Panel Editor allows them to do this online without the losing the time needed to make drawings.

Services:

Responding to the requests of our customers we have added new options to our pooling services. These include:

  • 4-layer FR4 with 1mm thickness a standard option in STANDARD pool
  • Blue and White solder mask are standard pooling options in STANDARD and BINDI pool
  • eC-stencil now also in 100µm thickness
  • BINDI pool: maximum order size now increased to 50 m2 for 2L boards and 25 sq. m2 for 4L.
  • Mask PIXture available in BINDI pool
 

7 colleagues strong, the Eurocircuits team presented its new services and products to the large numbers of high class visitors who crowded onto the booth.
 
 

MOVIE: Electronica 2014 - an impression

 This film gives a 1'30" impression of the buzz at Electronica this year. We hope to see you there again in 2016, from 8 to 11 November.

 

You can always view this video in full screen mode by clicking the right symbol  on the navigation bar and upgrade the resolution by clicking the setting symbol .

If you have any questions, click the Chat box on the right of the screen and chat with one of our experts.

Posted under eC-events Read More...
Posted by   Dirk stans  on 06 Aug 2014  | Posted under   eC-services Hits: 3736
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PCB PIXture – a new function for PCB Visualizer.

PCB PIXture is a new tool for PCB designers who want to increase the visual impact of their boards.  Typical applications include front panels, keyboards, PCB assemblies sold as independent units, consumer electronics … - anywhere where the distinctive appearance of your PCB will make an important selling point.  PCB PIXture allows you to take a photograph, logo or other graphical image and have it printed onto your PCB using standard PCB fabrication technology.  The image can appear either in black and white as a solder mask image (maskPIXture) or in black and gold (goldPIXture and goldlogo).

PCB PIXture is a “smart menu” in PCB Visualizer.  As such, it joins the four new design tools we have introduced over the last few months.  These have been developed to help you fine-tune your production data files and make sure that your boards are delivered exactly as you need them:

PCB PIXture

We announced the PCB PIXture concept in a BLOG on our website in October 2013.  The response was enthusiastic: the blog is by far the most viewed of all our blogs, and users voted 2:1 that PCB PIXture was a cool tool.  We have now completed the development, and PCB PIXture is a standard option in our PCB pooling services.

There are three options:

  • maskPIXture
  • goldPIXture
  • goldlogo

maskPIXture

We print the pixellated image in black and white solder mask.  As this is a complete solder mask layer it has no effect on the functionality of the PCB.

 
maskPIXture

goldPIXture

We produce the board with a gold overall surface finish and then define the image using black solder mask.  We then screen a transparent soldermask over the top to seal the surface.

 
goldPIXture

goldlogo

Define your logo as a graphical image or in vector text.  We will produce the PCB with overall gold surface finish and define the logo as a solid image using black solder mask.  We will then screen a transparent soldermask over the top to seal the surface.

 
goldlogo

How to use PCB PIXture

PCB PIXture is a poolable option in our STANDARD pool service.

  1. PCB PIXture uses a PCB Visualizer wizard.  Either upload your job in the normal way and click on PCB Visualizer in the basket, or use the “Analyse your data” function.  To get a budget price, select “PCB PIXture” in the soldermask boxes, and for goldPIXture and goldlogo select “Surface finish Che Ni/Au overall”.
  2. Click on the PCB PIXture wizard button in PCB definition.
  3. If you have not already specified on which side(s) you want a PCB PIXture select now,


     
    PCB PIXture side


    and select soldermask Black or None for the opposite side.


     
    soldermask for the opposite side
  4. PCB Visualizer will now display the full PCB PIXture wizard.


     
    PCB PIXture wizard
  5. Select your PCB PIXture function.


     
    PCB PIXture tools
  6. Select an image from the list of stored images or browse to add a new one.  Images can be in JPEG, PNG, TIFF, GIF, or BMP format.
  7. Place the image following the instructions on the screen.  For maskPIXture and goldPIXture, PCB Visualizer will automatically pixellate the image.  For goldPIXture and goldlogo the surface finish will be changed automatically to Che Ni/Au overall.  If you resize the image, the wizard will preserve the width to height ratio.


     
    goldlogo
  8. Click “Apply” to close the wizard.  If all other parameters are correct to your requirements, click “Save changes” to put the updated job back into your basket.  You can then “Proceed to checkout” as normal.
  9. If you want to check the finished image before we commence production, use our Pre-production approval overview function.

MOVIE: a peak on PCB PIXture's functionality

This film gives an overview of how to introduce pictures and logos on your board using the PCB PIXture interface, part of our PCB Visualizer software.

 

You can always view this video in full screen mode by clicking the right symbol  on the navigation bar and upgrade the resolution by clicking the setting symbol .

If you have any questions, click the Chat box on the right of the screen and chat with one of our experts.

 

Posted by   Dirk stans  on 26 Aug 2014  | Posted under   Eurocircuits Hits: 2832
This blog is also available in following languages

Pooling: what is it and what is its history?

Order pooling is now a well-established technique used to cut costs for prototypes and small batch PCBs.  But what is it and what is its history?

What is order pooling?

Order pooling

Order pooling means combining several different customers’ orders on the same standard manufacturing panel.  “Order pooling” or “pooling” is probably the most common name but the process is also called “order combination”, “panel sharing”, “multi-panels” …

Pooling orders on standard panels cuts costs in 3 ways:

  1. 1 set of tooling and machine/process set-ups is shared between all the pooled orders
  2. Material utilisation is greatly improved
  3. Standardised panels make production much more efficient.

Together these can cut production costs by as much as 90%.

Order pooling is not the same as “panel filling” where a customer buys a whole panel of the same PCBs, and gets as many circuits as will fit on the panel.  This offers good material utilisation, but only if you need that many circuits; if you only need 1 or 2 small boards it can work out quite expensive.  In practice it reflects how conventional fabricators will actually produce the PCBs on standard panels.  At Eurocircuits we use it only for the occasional unusual combination of production parameters for which we don’t get enough orders to pool.

Of course, to make pooling work successfully the fabricator needs enough orders with the same technology to achieve a good “fill” on the standard panels.  Too few orders mean that material utilisation will be reduced, driving up costs.  Or not all board types can be pooled every day, extending deliveries.  Cutting corners by combining boards with different technologies on the same panel (for example, by combining 2- and 4-layer boards) risks serious reductions in quality.  At Eurocircuits we handle more than 70,000 orders a year  This allows us to offer the widest range of pooling options without impacting price, delivery or quality.

 
Production

Online pricing and ordering

Today, order pooling for prototype and small batch PCBs is usually combined with online price calculation and ordering.  This exploits an added advantage of order pooling: ease of costing.  As the fabricator knows the set-up and production costs of the standard panels for each technology, pricing depends broadly on the area of panel each circuit uses.  There is no need to count holes or drill changes or measure the length of the profile.  Or to charge separately for tooling, or to impose a minimum charge.  All this makes online pricing and ordering much faster and more convenient for the customers, who no longer have to wait hours or days for a sales office to “get back” to them.  It also cuts the price of their boards: online pricing and ordering needs fewer administration staff.

If you follow internet discussions of online pricing and ordering, for example in LinkedIn PCB groups, two objections are raised:

  1. It only works for simple technologies
  2. If you use a sales office they will usually (or at least they should) check your data.

Eurocircuits have developed solutions for both of these issues.

  1. We handle a large number of orders each day so we can pool a wide range of different options.  This has allowed us to develop sophisticated “smart” menus which allow customers to price and order complex boards swiftly and securely online.
  2. We offer onscreen visual checking tools to ensure that your boards meet the technology requirements of each class.  Where possible, the online tools propose minor changes that will fit your design into a lower-priced class.

MOVIE: What is order pooling

This film explains briefly the principle of order pooling, how Eurocircuits applies it and what it can do for you.

The history of order-pooling.

The pooling concept no doubt dates back to the dawn of human history when the first cave-man popped into the next-door caves to say that he was trekking to the nearest outcrop and did anyone want any flint nodules to make their tools.  Pooling became the basis of wholesaling and all forms of grouped transport.  Today it is used every day by consumers, for example for buying plane tickets or hotel rooms through third-party websites, or in collective buying schemes.  The more people who make their purchases through the same online channel, the better price the channel will get and the less the purchasers will pay.

A number of companies in Europe tried order pooling in the 70s, but the process was difficult to implement in the days of hand-taped artworks, paper-tape driven drills and fixture-based testers.  Preparing tooling for a panel of different PCBs, even for a customer who insisted that he would always re-order the same boards in the same quantities, was expensive and inflexible.  If demand changed or boards were scrapped during fabrication or assembly and had to be replaced, either expensive new tooling had to be made or a lot of surplus PCBs produced.

The situation changed during the 1980s as CAD systems and laser-photoplotters cut the cost and ease of tooling.  Indeed, it was the laser photoplotting bureaus that first used the pooling concept.  Plotters were very expensive and by today’s standards quite slow.  At first, most PCB manufacturers could not afford to invest in the new technology and so used plotting bureaus. Olivier Cadic, former owner of Info-Elec in Paris, once one of the largest bureaus in Europe and founder of www.pcb007.com, explains how he used pooling to bring down the costs of the finished films.

In the mid ‘80s at Info-Elec we introduced pooling for laser photo plotting.  Customers could upload their Gerber files via modem onto a PC where they landed in a queue. Software developed by Info-Elec and the plotter manufacturer DISC then organized the queue in such a way that the film formats were efficiently filled with customer data.  This optimised the use of expensive film and machine time, resulting in lower plotting costs per dm² and better prices to our customers”.

PCB manufacturers were also quick to exploit the new opportunities.  Thus Ton Klaver of Bellmann in Holland actively promoted the idea of PCB pooling to his customers.

“In the late ‘70s (1979) we started to present a clearly defined technology for single- and double-sided boards to our customers.  We offered attractive prices based on the cost savings achieved by pooling orders on one production panel.  This convinced them to restrict their designs to the technological parameters we offered.  The customers could calculate the prices for themselves using a simple program that, in those pre-internet days, we distributed on floppy disks.”

These trends accelerated in the ‘90s.  PC-based CAD systems finally replaced hand-taped artworks; laser-photoplotters became faster and cheaper; CAM systems became more capable; production and test equipment could be driven digitally.  The cost of tooling was slashed, so it now became feasible to make a set of tooling for a pooled panel, and then throw it away.

At the same time during the ‘90s and the early years of the new millennium the dynamics of the European and American PCB industry were changing.  Volume manufacture began to move to low-cost areas in the Far East, especially China, putting pressure on prices.  Cyclical demand for PCBs aggravated price pressure.  As prices fell, profits fell too, exactly at the time that designs were getting more complex and investment was needed in new manufacturing and test technology.  The result was a dramatic decline in the number of board shops in the West.  Some became little more than brokers for Chinese suppliers.  For others survival meant specialization.  The Chinese plants were not interested in small batch PCBs and not fast enough for prototypes, while their quality was regarded as suspect for high-technology boards, especially for sensitive applications like avionics and defense.  Many board manufacturers moved into these high-technology niche markets.  Others specialised in prototypes and small batch PCBs supplied on a fast lead-time.  Order pooling was a natural technology to adopt to meet price pressure, and pooling companies appeared in USA and Europe.  Eurocircuits was set up as the online order-pooling arm of the Europrint PCB fabrication group in 2000.  By 2011 it generated over 90% of the group turnover, and we re-structured the whole organisation under the name by which most of our customers knew us, Eurocircuits.

The internet boom of the late 1990s (despite the “bust” in 2000) got more people used to the idea of buying online.  The second pillar of the modern order-pooling company was in place, and companies like Eurocircuits began to grow.  The growth of online buying led the development of a new delivery infrastructure to match.  The new pooling companies were able to expand their operations across wider geographical areas.  Thus today Eurocircuits delivers all across Europe as well as globally, including the Americas, the Middle East, Australia and New Zealand.

Conclusion

Today’s electronics designers, in whatever country they live, have a good choice of quality suppliers of standard and high-technology prototype and small batch PCBs.  They can source PCBs for their new designs quickly and efficiently from their desks, as well as getting committed service and technical support from their vendor, where possible from fluent speakers of their own languages (at Eurocircuits we offer online chat support in at least 6 languages).

Just as our ancient caveman used his knowledge of flint to find the best nodules for his neighbours, so we want to share our fabrication knowledge with the wider European design community and to learn from them what they need for their leading-edge designs.  We are committed to maintain and expand our low-cost order pooling services and to develop new support tools to help PCB designers bring their projects to market on time and on budget.  In this way we will make a positive contribution to the success of the electronics industry in the Western world.

References

Olivier Cadic, Info-Elec, founder of www.pcb007.com

Ton Klaver, Bellmann, www.bellmann.nl

 

Posted by   Dirk stans  on 01 Aug 2012  | Posted under   Eurocircuits Hits: 3218

Eurocircuits marketing strategy

Historical background

For our first 10 years we subscribed to the sales pitch “you name it, we make it”. This was an expensive strategy which required heavy investment in plant, processes and expertise. By 2000 – 2001 there was little or no added-value margin left to sustain the investment; the recession and the migration of PCB manufacturing to lower cost areas in the Far East had driven prices down to an unsustainable level. Many PCB manufacturers either went out of business or became brokers with most of their turnover deriving from imports from China. The survivors specialized, either by moving into high-technology marketplaces where high prices would compensate for their ongoing investments or by finding ways to lower their costs. We adopted the latter strategy, introducing a clear, pre-defined offer combined with order pooling and online ordering and administration.

Eurocircuits marketing philosophy

In 1960 Jerome McCarthy proposed the 4 ‘P’s marketing model This describes what a company has to offer in terms of Product, Price, Promotion and Place. At Eurocircuits we have always used Robert F. Lauterborn’s 1993 four ‘C’s model. This is based not on how the supplier sees the market but how the market, the customer, sees the supplier. The 4 ‘C’s are Customer value, Cost to the customer, Communication and Convenience.

Eurocircuits customer value

What is the value of our offer to the customer?

1. We specialize in PCB prototypes and small series on short deliveries. Here the customer has two paramount requirements:

- The service must be always available

- Deliveries must be always on time

To achieve this we measure our performance constantly and our factories are rewarded accordingly. Our customers trust us – the trust model.

2. We have a clear offering: standard technology rigid boards produced on pooling panels with the widest choice of technology options in the market. We give the customer certainty right across the range of his requirements – the safe harbour model.

3. We are one of the largest specialist suppliers of prototype and small batch PCBs in Europe. Our size, growth and ongoing investment policy are our customers’ guarantee of quality, of continuous service availability, and of ongoing development to meet their changing needs. Each customer can enter into a long-term relationship with us, confident in the future - the safe harbour model.

4. We are not brokers; all our boards are produced in our own factories under our own control. We produce to IPC A-600 class II classification. Our quality system is certified to ISO 9000. Our customers can rely on us to deliver a consistently high level of quality across all their orders – the trust model.

5. Although last year we handled over 53,000 orders for more than 6,500 customers, each individual order is 100% verified in our front end engineering department. Each design is checked for manufacturability and for obvious mistakes in the layout. We report any anomalies to the customer and make suggestions how to resolve them. Our manufacturability analyses can help customers cut their board costs by up to 25%. Nothing is changed without the customers consent. Our customers are confident that the board we deliver matches their intended design – the trust model.

6. We use visualisation to convey as much information as possible. Right at the outset we generate a visual image of every design showing how it will look after production. The customer can spot anything that doesn’t look right before production starts - the trust model.

7. We already have full batch traceability which the customer can access quickly online. We are now extending traceability to individual PCBs and individual machines and processes. This gives us closer control over our production facilities and gives the customer another guarantee of our quality – the safe harbour model.

8. Our eC-soldering-equipment, the solder paste printer, eC-stencil-mate, and the chamber reflow oven, eC-reflow-mate, are the first two of a series of machines developed to save our customers time and money assembling their prototypes.

Eurocircuits cost to the customer

How does the customer perceive the cost of our services?

1. Order pooling (combining several orders on the same production panel) reduces the production cost per order. Our customers trust us to give them the best and fairest prices – the trust model.

2. Pooling means that we don’t have heavy set-up costs per order, so we don’t charge for tooling. So design iterations carry no cost penalty – the trust model.

3. Our public calculator makes our prices accessible to the whole marketplace, customers and competitors alike. This means that our pricing must be consistent, stable and competitive – and our customers know this – the trust model.

4. Transport costs for multiple orders are recalculated at shipment to keep them as low as possible – the trust model.

5. In the unfortunate event of a delay due to us, we reschedule the order and recalculate the price according to the new delivery term – the trust model.

6. Online pricing and ordering using streamlined menus requiring minimum data saves the customer time and money, cutting out traditional communication costs – the trust model.

Eurocircuits convenience to the customer

How do we bring our service to the customer?

1. Our customer interface is available 24/7 It is not just a website for getting prices but an open window into our complete e-business offering. The customer has streamlined access into the whole business process, his user profiles, quotations, orders, invoices and payments, both current and historical. Production data is stored indefinitely – the safe harbour model.

2. All board data and documents can be quickly retrieved and easily visualized. The customer can readily download the production data, for example to order third-party stencils – the trust model.

3. The online interface offers the customer a window into our internal administration. This guarantees the customer transparency towards his orders with Eurocircuits – the trust model.

4. Interaction with Eurocircuits can be 100% online but personal support is also available. Eurocircuits has a professional sales force based in the head office in Mechelen Belgium and in sales offices throughout Europe. The trust model.

Eurocircuits communication

How can the customer find us and what we offer?

1. We have a clear and well-maintained website which is regularly updated to improve its clarity and ease of use. It contains a wealth of technical information on our services and how to get the best out of them. Other documents show how to design a PCB to keep costs down and ensure that the order goes rapidly and safely through our process. This is backed by a series of videos showing how we make a PCB – the safe harbour model.

2. We have our own YouTube, blogs and social media channels to keep our customers up to date on what we are doing. Transparency is the key to customer trust – the trust model.

- via our YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/eurocircuits

- via Twitter: https://twitter.com/eC_PCB

3. We have local support in all major countries and a large multilingual team in Belgium. Our customers know that they can get support whenever they need it – the safe harbour model

4. We inform all customers about important service upgrades and events we will attend by email. We put the same news on the web site. Of course every user is free to opt out of this service – the trust model.

5. For the last 10 years we have attended all major exhibitions in our field in Europe so that our customers can meet us face to face in their own countries.

Eurocircuits competitive edge

  1. Small orders on a quick turnaround:
      1. Always available
      2. Always on time
  2. We are very reliable in:
    1. Offering fair and stable prices
    2. Delivery performance
    3. Product quality
  3. We offer a high customer convenience:
    1. Always available online
    2. Transparent pricing and open to everyone
    3. Visual communication throughout the entire business process
    4. A complete online customer-supplier administration from quote to invoice