Eurocircuits Printed circuits blog

What keeps us busy at Eurocircuits, projects we are working at, new idea's, background information and a platform where you can participate, give your opinion and guide us to what is important for you as an electronics developer

Let’s throw some figures at you:
 

PCB services

Year

Customers

Orders

Sales

2015

+/- 10.000

+/- 93.000

+/- 19.250.000

2014

+/- 9.000

+/- 77.500

+/- 16.600.000

2013

+/- 8.000

+/- 69.500

+/- 15.500.000

2012

+/- 6.900

+/- 63.000

+/- 15.000.000

All sales figures are in € and exclude transport costs and taxes.

Eurocircuits has shown a consistent growth in customers and orders over the last 2 decades. 2015 has been another successful year with a consolidated turnover including PCB services, eC-equipment and consumables exceeding 20 million Euro. This growth allows us to continue to develop new products and services for our customers. We will continue to invest in new equipment and new processes to keep you at the cutting edge of PCB technology, and to provide more of the tools that will help you deliver your products to market on time and on budget.

2016 will see another leap forward in PCB services, in PCB software tools and in eC-equipment. These are described in our “Looking forward in 2016” BLOG. Here let’s summarize what was new in 2015.

First the services:

  1. NAKED proto. We introduced this "true" prototype service to lower costs and to respond to the demand for prototypes without soldermask.
    NAKED proto - insight and details
  2. SEMI-FLEX pool. To answer the demand for FLEX-TO-INSTALL prototypes and small series.
    SEMI-FLEX pool - insight and details
  3. New options for Chemical Nickel-Gold Surface finish.
    Che Ni/Au finish extended
  4. More options added for BINDI pool
    BINDI pool extended announced in our news letter

New software tools

 to help designers cut costs, save time in safely ordering their PCBs and tailor their design data for particular orders:

  1. Focus on PCB Visualizer core engine. We foucussed on speed and respons times of the system as well rebuilding the core to handle vector data.
    1. 2015 we processed 335.000,- PCB data sets with an average system repons time of 139 seconds thus bringing a full analyses and visualisation of your board on screen within 3 minutes average (We do see peek moments in the morning and around 16H00 and the processing time for a 2-layer board is not the same as for a 12-layer board, actual experiences may vary from the average based upon these circumstances.).
    2. By autumn 2015 we succeeded in turning the system into a real vector based system which builds the fundament for many new applications. Points 2 and 3 are examples of that.
  2. New Auto-Repair function in PCB Visualizer. Intelligent DRC rules repair Annular Rings that are too small to manufacture. 
    New Auto-repair function in PCB Visualizer
  3. Outline/Milling Editor. Use the Outline/Milling Editor to correct the board outline where the outline (profile) data is missing, incomplete, incorrect or duplicated (two outlines found).
    Outline/Milling Editor – PCB Solver tool updated
  4. We updated our Pre-Production Approval functionality to handle DATA issues. This new way of handling data issues reduced the number of real exceptions that stopped the processing of data, no matter how briefly, by a factor 6 to 4% of all data sets.
    Watch our movie.
  5. New website. We renewed our website to better serve the need of the electronics design engineers offering clearer information and tools.
    eurocircuits.com

New equipment

 expanding our PCB assembling and soldering aids:

  1. eC-placer. To manually assist and aid with accurate and fast population of components to your PCB prototype.
    eC-placer
  2. eC-fume-cube. An efficient and silent fume extraction system to complement our eC-reflow-mate-hood.
    eC-fume-cube

Workshops:

We organized a series of workshops on prototype soldering and on working with the EAGLE CAD system. Many of our customers upgraded their EAGLE systems in the summer when CadSoft released a major new version. If you would like to join a workshop, contact your local sales team or email euro@eurocircuits.com.

Based on this experience we have introduced a series of BLOGs about layout and EAGLE which you can find here.

Investments in ICT, plant and equipment:

We re-invested more than €2.5 million during 2015 in R&D and new equipment including:

  1. Extra software licenses to boost the capacity and speed of our website, so that we can provide a better access experience to more customers at the same time.
  2. PCB Visualizer development. Each year we spend over 300k Euro in further development of our online tools because we believe in tools that make ordering faster and more efficient.
  3. eC-placer development.
  4. Digital legend inkjet printers.
    We acquired 2 new Orbotech sprint 120 inkjet printers and upgraded our old one's to this latest technology.
  5. New solder mask spray coaters in our Eger plant.
  6. New drilling, routing and V-cut machines. 7 new Schmoll machines were added to our machine park bringing especially routing and V-cut up to the latest high standards.
  7. An extra plasma etching machine, AOI, laboratory equipment etc... complete the list of 2015 installed machines.
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Posted under:
Eurocircuits
Posted on:
27 Jan 2016
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In 2016 our focus will be on our core business processes, making them faster and more efficient.

In our BLOG looking back at 2015 we presented an overview of last years’ achievements. This year we are preparing ourselves to handle more than 100.000,- orders in our manufacturing and over 400.000,- data sets through our PCB Visualizer.

=> Improving speed, performance and efficiency will be our number one priority during the first 6 months of 2016.

 

Once the above goals have been achieved, we still have many exciting projects in the pipeline to help improve the products and services that we offer, with more yet to be revealed during the year:

  1. PCB Solver tools:

    2015 we made our PCB Visualizer vector based allowing more PRE-CAM tasks to be performed and allowing a better interaction with the user. Our goal is still to automatically process PCB data as far as possible through the CAM operations before our customers launch their orders. Simultaneously allowing customer interaction to solve potential production issues before they delay delivery or increase costs.

    What this means is that the data will be composed, like Gerber, of “real” entities (tracks, pads, planes, holes etc.). This allows for faster processing, but also opens the way for a whole range of new applications and repair solutions, for example, like auto repair of annular rings and outline editor as explained in our BLOG looking back at 2015.

    • When we prepare a job for production we run a number of routine automated procedures on our front-end engineering CAM systems (more). These adjust the design data to our manufacturing tolerances. The procedures include:

      • Preparing the soldermask to provide a minimum clearance from the copper pad, adequate cover over adjacent tracks, minimum webs between pads etc.(see our PCB Design Guidelines page 15)



      • Clipping the silkscreen to make sure that there is no ink on solderpads ( PCB Design Guidelines page 17)

         

      • Other adjustments as described in our BLOGS: Eurocircuits Data Preparation – Single Image 1 and Eurocircuits Data Preparation – Single Image 2.

        PCB Solver will automatically display the results of these procedures immediatly via the PCB Visualizer. You can exactly see what your finished board will look like before you place your order. If you find any potential issues, you have time to modify your design- or talk to our engineers via Online Chat.

    • PCB solver tools will continue to flag up DRC issues as they arise. The software will propose possible solutions based on the service specifications chosen and the options available in our CAM system. This may mean simply changing the classification of the job, but other options can include reducing a via-hole size, enlarging a pad size etc. Users will have the option to confirm the individual changes proposed by setting up approval rules (accept all changes, accept certain types of change, or confirm each case). The proposed solutions will be as described in our data preparation BLOGS Eurocircuits Data Preparation – Single Image 1 and Eurocircuits Data Preparation – Single Image 2
  2. Assembly tools:

    • Solder paste editor. Edit solder paste pads on customer’s own paste layer or one generated by Eurocircuits. Functions include adding and deleting pads, as well as enlarging or shrinking them in X, Y or both. Add tooling holes or targets plus dimensions and positioning for the stencil.

    • Design for Assembly. Two predictive tools to help to detect locations where there is a risk of poor soldering.

      • Solder escape. Detect and flag places where solder could escape from the solder-pad, leaving a weak joint.

         

      • Solder bridge. Detect and flag potential solder shorts based on minimum isolation distances, soldermask configuration and solder process type.

         
  3. Services:

    • High definition solder mask. 2015, we have installed a Ledia direct imaging machine. This exposes standard photo-imageable soldermasks directly, without the need for phototools. Direct exposure allows narrower clearances between soldermask and copper pads as well as thinner webs between soldermask windows for easier and more reliable assembly of difficult components (QFN, BGA, small pitch, etc…). See our PCB Design Guidelines p. 15.

And we are looking forward to the finishing of our new building in Eger and our 25th anniversary on the 1st of May 2016!

 

 

Posted under:
Eurocircuits
Posted on:
28 Jan 2016
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Eurocircuits ULP for EAGLE users - start calculating prices directly from your board parameters.

Users of EAGLE version 6 or higher can install a ULP from Eurocircuits to allow fast price calculations for their PCB based upon their board parameters.

Board.jpg


The ULP transfers the basic PCB parameters to the Eurocircuits price calculation page and opens it with these parameters filled out in the appropriate fields. The user then only needs to fill in the non-Gerber details to complete the calculation. This can be performed at all times even if the final details of your design are not fully ready yet.

PCB_quote_service.jpg          Order_screen.jpg


To install the ULP download the zip file containing installer via this link. Extract the zip file and Double-click the eurocircuits-button.exe file and the installer will open this screen.

Setup.jpg

        Information.jpg


The ULP installs a button in you EAGLE navigation bar.

ULP_navigation_bar.jpg

 

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Posted under:
EAGLE
Posted on:
07 Dec 2015
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POLYGONS are needed for a number of different tasks in a PCB design:

  • As a ground plane under RF lines like microstripe or coplanar lines.
  • As a power plane (for example Vcc) and/or groundplane, to create a low resistance connections.
  • Generally to make a low resistance connection for tracks that carry a high current.

To define a valid POLYGON in EAGLE you must follow some rules:

  • The POLYGON outline must be a closed contour. The contour must be drawn in the correct sequence and with one line. It cannot be built up in sections. When you have drawn the complete closed contour, the outline changes from a solid to a dotted line.
  • A valid POLYGON should not overlap itself.

Use the RATSNEST command to calculate and display the surface of the Polygon. Type in the command Line "Ratsnest" or use the Command button.

Ratsnest.jpg


A Polygon which overlaps itself cannot be calculated. An Error Message will appear: "Signal <Name> contains an invalid Polygon".

Signal_1.jpg

Signal_2.jpg


When you have solved the error use the RATSNEST command again, to calculate and display the surface of the POLYGON. Use RIPUP @ ; to switch back to outline mode.

RIPUP.jpg


Polygon options can be changed via the parameter toolbar

toolbar.jpg


Or, under Properties, right click on the POLYGON outline.

properties.jpg


Width
- specifies the thickness of the line used to fill the POLYGON.

TIP: Select the largest possible line width. Too fine lines create unnecessarily large files when you output the data for manufacture. In any case the line used to fill the polygon should never be less than the minimum line width in the layout.

Polygon pour - specifies the fill type. The preferred fill is a whole area (Solid) fill, but you can also select a grid (Hatch) fill. If you choose Hatch fill, make sure that you set a suitable value under Spacing. The combination of line width and spacing must leave openings large enough for production. You can find more information in our PCB Design Guidelines

The special type CUTOUT is used to define POLYGONS that are cut out (subtracted) from all other signal POLYGONS within the same layer. Cutouts are typically used to define restricted areas in polygons on inner signal layers. It is the only case where a POLYGON can be drawn with a line of width "0". The CUTOUT option is only used to define the open space and therefore it does not generate additional data. Draw a Polygon and set the option in Properties to Cutout. Run again the command Ratsnest and the Polygon with open space is displayed.

cutout.jpg


Isolate
- defines the isolation distance between the POLYGON and all other copper objects that do not carry the same electrical signal or objects in the Dimension, tRestrict or bRestrict layer. Set the value to 0 if you want to use the isolation value defined in the DRC Rules. If there is enough space in the layout, we recommend a minimum isolation between plane and copper of 0.25mm. The soldermask window around a pad is typically 0.1 mm on all sides. An isolation distance of 0.25 mm compensates for any manufacturing tolerance when the soldermask is applied and ensures that there are no exposed areas on the copper plane which could short to an adjacent pad. For tight complex designs, we can accept smaller values. Check our PCB Design Guidelines for Soldermask to choose a tolerance.

Picture below shows the standard soldermask window around a pad – 0.1 mm on all sides.

soldermask.jpg


Rank
- set values in this box to prevent overlapping POLYGONS from creating shorts. The Rank value determines which POLYGONS are to be subtracted from others. A POLYGON with rank = 1 has the highest priority in the Layout, so no other POLYGON drawn in the layout is ever subtracted from it. A POLYGON with rank = 6 has the lowest priority. If it is overlapped by a higher rank polygon the overlap area is cut out from the lower ranked POLYGON. POLYGONS with the same rank are checked by the DRC to ensure that there are no shorts. The rank property works only for POLYGONS with different signals. Overlapping POLYGONS with the same signal names are simply drawn one over the other.

Thermal - determines whether pads and drill holes in the POLYGON are connected using Thermal relief pads, or if they are connected directly to the copper plane. This applies to vias as well if the via option has been activated in the design rules.

Thermal.jpg


The width of the thermal connectors should normally be set as half of the pad's drill diameter, with a minimum value of the wire width of the POLYGON and a maximum of twice the wire width. The length of the thermal connectors is defined by the Thermal isolation value in the Design Rules' Supply tab.

Error.jpg


TIPS:
1. Don't set too fine a wire width for the POLYGON, or the thermal connectors won't be able to handle the current load. The DRC will warn if this is the case (see illustration).
2. This also applies to necked POLYGONS. The minimum width of the copper area (neck) is determined by POLYGON’S wire width.

Orphans - Determines if a POLYGON may contain areas (islands) which are not electrically connected to the POLYGON'S signal. If Orphans is set to Off, such un-connected areas won't be drawn.

Posted under:
EAGLE
Posted on:
10 Dec 2015
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eC-placer is a camera-assisted manual pick and place machine designed and priced for assembling prototype and small batch PCBs. It forms the final link in Eurocircuits' prototype assembly solution, from the eC-stencil-mate solder-paste printer, through the eC-reflow-mate reflow soldering oven to the eC-test-mate fixtureless test system. Users already report that reflow soldering using the eC-stencil-mate printer and eC-reflow-mate oven is three times faster than hand soldering and 60% - 70% cheaper and faster than sub-contracting. The camera-assisted eC-placer gives a further boost to these savings, helping designers bring time/cost sensitive projects to market on schedule and on budget.

Set-up and operation are straightforward.

The eC-placer is built around a precision-engineered XY table. Its robust construction ensures long term accuracy and repeatability delivering an optimum return on investment.

Components are picked up from the feeders and placed on the solder-pasted PCB using a vacuum head controlled by a simple foot-switch. eC-placer comes with four quick-change nozzles for different sized components as well as 23 adjustable feeders for component tapes and sticks. As the machine is ESD-safe, larger components can be placed in boxes on the bed of the machine. The vacuum pump is built-into the machine.

eC-placet_XY-table.jpg
eC-placer
Placement head with vacuum pick-up and camera
Placement head with vacuum pick-up and camera
Feeders
Feeders
Camera view: red cross marks component location
Camera view: red cross marks component location

The operator has a clear view of the component, the feeder and the location on the PCB via the high-definition camera linked to a USB-port on his PC. As there may be differences in height between the component in the feeder and the top surface of the PCB, the camera system includes parallax compensation to ensure fast and accurate placement.

The eC-placer work table has a matrix of registration holes on a 10 mm pitch. This is the same pitch as the eC-registration system so that PCBs can be securely located on the bed with the registration pins provided. The X- and Y-axis sliders move between programmable stops which can be set using a second foot-switch.

eC-placer has four functional modes to give the best combination of speed and accuracy across the range of components. The modes are selected using an LED switch.

eC-placer in copy-paste mode
eC-placer in copy-paste mode
  • Free mode. The vacuum head, camera and LED light can move freely to any location on the PCB.
  • Lock mode. Locks the head at the desired location to avoid accidental movement when lowering or rotating the component.
  • Array mode. Used for fast, accurate placing of a row of components. The user sets the X-axis stop on the row of components. He then needs to concentrate only on the Y-axis to populate the array.
  • Copy-paste mode. Used for BGAs and other larger components which are difficult to place by eye. The copy-paste mode uses the printer stencil as a template. BGAs, FPGAs and similar components centre automatically in the stencil openings. The axes are then locked so that the user needs only a single movement to place the component accurately over the correct location on the PCB.

eC-placer's combination of a clear display, robust ergonomic construction with a solid hand rest on the placement head, and guided location for component arrays and complex components makes for increased productivity and less operator fatigue, getting prototypes assembled faster and safer.

Click here for a full specification.

 

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Posted under:
eC-solutions
Posted on:
28 Nov 2015
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Eurocircuits are long-term partners of the University of Kassel’s Herkules Racing Team and 2015 was no exception. We provided the PCBs for the team’s Formula Student challenge.

The Formula Student competition for construction and design was founded in 1981 and has transformed many a student into a good engineer. We are glad to be a part of that process.

Image1.jpg

The team’s current engine is based on a Suzuki GSXR 600 delivering 84PS and 59Nm torque. The car has a team designed gear box and a Titan based exhaust filtering system.

An FPGA based custom designed data logging system connects via a CAN-bus with the motor control unit and transmits live data by radio to a laptop for monitoring during the race.

The Herkules Racing Team 2015 took part in the Hockenheim race last summer and came in 14th the best result ever for Kassel University.

We congratulate them and wish next year’s team the same success as their predecessors.

Image2.jpg

Image3.jpg

Image4.jpg

Posted under:
eC-sponsoring
Posted on:
21 Nov 2015
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