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

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Posted by   Dirk stans  on 06 Jan 2015  | Posted under   Eurocircuits Hits: 1188
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We have a number of projects scheduled to be rolled out during the course of 2015. These are being developed in response to requests from our customers for more tools to help them get their designs to market faster and more reliably.

In 2015 we will launch  new tools to resolve potential production issues before they delay delivery or increase costs.

We have already started to provide assembly and test solutions with our equipment range. New software tools for 2015 will help designers verify the solderability of their designs, and confirm at the design stage that the assembled boards will fit into their housings.

New services include PCB layout from schematic and BOM, semi-flex PCBs to fit electronics into complex spaces without the need for connectors, and tighter toleranced soldermasks using our new Ledia direct-imaging system.

These projects are all in the pipeline. We welcome your comments, as this might influence the order in which we will complete, test and launch them. Please leave your feedback using the voting buttons below.

Software tools:

  1. CAM tools:

    Up to now, PCB Visualizer has been an image-based tool. During 2014 we have been developing a new vector-based version. This means 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.

    • Pre-CAM data. 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.

        The Pre-CAM tool will display the results of these procedures. You can 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.

    • Pre-order solver. Our PCB Visualizer tools will continue to flag up DRC issues as they arise. The Pre-order solver software will propose possible solutions based on our service specifications 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
    • Post-order solver. This will incorporate the present exception flow into the PCB Visualizer tool-set. The Post-order Solver will present the solutions proposed by the CAM-operator during the data preparation workflow. The user can accept or reject them. If he rejects the proposed solution he can modify his data, as at present in the case of exceptions, or he can discuss alternative solutions with our engineers via the Online Chat.
  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.
    • 3D-DFM. “What will my assembled PCB look like?” “Will it fit into its housing?” Upload a digital BOM in EAGLE or Altium format with your PCB data-set and the 3D-DFM software will generate 3D views of your board and components with full 3D dimension data. You can then output a 3D vector file that can be input in a mechanical CAD-system, closing the gap between board data and mechanical data.
  3. Services:

    • Schematic to PCB. Supply us with the schematics + BOM (in EAGLE or Altium format). We will run BOM list analyses, place the components to your rules and lay out the board, and then produce the PCB. Each stage will include a customer approval step.
    • SEMI-FLEX pool. We will offer multilayer PCBs (4 or 6 layers to be decided) with a semi-flexible 100µm FR4 core that will allow a limited number of flexings (maximum +/-25) over a radius of 4-5mm. This technology can avoid the use of connectors when fitting PCBs into complex spaces.
    • High definition solder mask. We have recently installed a Ledia direct imaging machine. This exposes standard photoimageable 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.

We appreciate your opinion. Please take a moment to express your vote:

Posted by   Dirk stans  on 23 Jan 2015  | Posted under   Eurocircuits Hits: 142

It’s the beginning of a new year and we would like to thank our many customers for their valued business. As our thank-you, every user will receive a pack of eurocircuits playing cards with his first Eurocircuits order placed on or after Monday 12 January 2015. The cards will be shipped with the delivery.

Often, companies limit their thanks to the “first lucky 100” orders. Eurocircuits have over 9,000 active customers in a year and we want to thank as many of their eurocircuits users as possible. We have prepared plenty of packs of cards. So we can say that the offer is limited to the first 8.000 smart users.

As well as the playing cards we will be offering many other good things during 2015, good deliveries, good quality and good prices, as well as new tools to help you bring your projects to market on time and on budget. For a starter, visit our blog Looking forward in 2015. We will keep you updated via our Technical update emails – and every new release will be fully described in a blog.

Posted by   Dirk stans  on 05 Jan 2015  | Posted under   Eurocircuits Hits: 1260
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Let’s throw some figures at you:

PCB services

Year

Customers

Orders

Sales

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 are to customers excluding transport costs and taxes.

Eurocircuits has shown a consistent growth in customers and orders over the last 2 decades. 2014 has been another successful year with a consolidated turnover including PCB services, eC-equipment and consumables of 17.5 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.

2015 will see another leap forward in PCB services, in PCB software tools and in eC-equipment. These are described in our “Looking forward in 2015” . Here let’s summarize what was new in 2014.

First the services:

  1. RF pool updated and extended. We introduced Isola’s I-Tera material to provide a lower-cost solution for RF development.
    RF pool - insights and details
  2. New order time line. So you can track your orders more easily through manufacturing
    New timeline makes order tracking smarter
  3. Pre-production approval. For customers who want to check the final production data for their PCB just before it hits the shop-floor…
    Pre-production approval
  4. PCB PIXture. Give your PCBs a powerful visual impact and make them stand out from the crowd
    PCB PIXture launched
  5. More options added for STANDARD pool, BINDI pool and stencils
    New Eurocircuits products and services presented at this year's Electronica 2014

New software tools

 to help designers cut costs and tailor their design data for particular orders:

  1. Buildup wizard and Layer editor updated and extended. Choose the most cost-effective multilayer builds in the Buildup Wizard and specify blind/buried vias when needed. Use the Layer Editor to confirm or fine-tune the build found by PCB Visualizer tools.
    Buildup wizard and layer editor updated
  2. Marking editor. Add order-specific text (QR codes, production dates etc.) to your PCB, or place order numbers, UL codes etc. in your preferred locations on the board.
    Marking editor
  3. Panel editor. Build a custom panel on screen to suit your assembly requirements, or view an eC-panel before production.
    Panel editor

New equipment

 including fixtureless testing of assembled PCBs as well as hand-soldering aids:

  1. eC-test-mate. Run functional tests on assembled prototype and small batch PCBs without the time/cost needed to build test fixtures.
    eC-test-mate
  2. eC-pre-heater. Reduce heating times and the risk of thermal stress to make hand-soldering/de-soldering of critical components faster and more reliable.

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.

Investments in ICT, plant and equipment.

We re-invested more than €1.5 million during 2014 in R&D and in new plant and equipment including:

  1. New servers and 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-test-mate and eC-pre-heater development.
  4. Ledia direct-imaging. Direct imaging machines expose photo-imageable soldermasks and photo-sensitive etch and plating resists directly using a laser or as on the Ledia a tuneable LED light source. This cuts process times as no phototools are required and allows greater imaging precision and finer features. For the first applications, see our “Looking forward in 2015” BLOG.
  5. New plating and water treatment plant in our Aachen plant. We take environmental issues very seriously and work continuously to reduce energy and water consumption and maintain the highest quality of water output.
Posted by   Dirk stans  on 19 Jun 2014  | Posted under   PCB design Hits: 5370
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Copper and the board edge.

There are three options under our Advanced options heading which may be confusing:

  1. Copper up to board edge
  2. PTH on the board edge
  3. Round-edge plating.

Here’s how to sort them out.

Copper up to board edge.

To avoid damage to the copper during the profiling operation we normally ask for a minimum distance between the copper features and the edge of the PCB.  This distance is:

  • 0.25 mm on outer layers with breakrouting
  • 0.40 mm on inner layers with breakrouting
  • 0.45 mm on all layers with V-cut scoring.

These figures are needed to accommodate industry-standard manufacturing and machining tolerances.  For V-cut scoring it is also necessary to accommodate the V of the cutter.

Sometimes it is necessary to run a copper plane up to the board edge.  In this case select “Copper to board edge”.  There is no extra charge for this but it alerts our engineers to set up a different cutter speed.

“Copper to board edge” should normally only be used for planes and large copper areas where any slight damage to the copper will not impact on the performance of the PCB.

Tracks must not be placed within the minimum distance of the board edge where they could be damaged.  Our engineers will raise an exception whenever they find tracks within the exclusion zone.

If we find pads within the minimum distance of the board edge, we will clip them back to restore the minimum copper-free space unless:

  • the pads are part of an edge connector (usually with a bevelled edge)
  • the pads are marked as "up to the board edge" in a separate mechanical layer
  • the clipping is more than 25% of the pad surface in which case we will send an exception to the customer.

NOTE.

Copper to board edge cannot be combined with V-cut scoring.

TIP.

We will always cut inner layer planes back by 0.40 mm to avoid any risk of shorting.

PTH on board edge.

Also called “castellated holes”.

  
    

These are plated holes cut through on the board edge and used to join two PCBs either by direct soldering or via a connector.  As the process requires extra steps, plated holes on the board edge are a cost-option.

Your data should clearly show the holes and the profile.  Ideally include the information in a mechanical layer.

TIPS.

  1. There must be enough spare space on the edge of the PCB for us to hold the PCB in the production panel during manufacture.  If you need castellated holes on all 4 sides, email us your design or proposed profile as early in the design process as possible.  We can then confirm that it is manufacturable or suggest any necessary changes.
  2. You must have pads on top and bottom layer (and on inner layers where possible) to anchor the plating securely to the PCB.
  3. As a general rule the holes should be as large as possible to ensure good soldering to the mother PCB.  We recommends 0.80 mm and above.
  4. All surface finishes are possible but our preference is for selective gold over nickel for the smaller sizes.

Round edge plating.

This means that most or part of the edge of a PCB or a cut-out is plated from the top side to the bottom side.

  

This may be to ensure a good ground to a metal casing or for shielding purposes.

To manufacture a board with round-edge plating we rout the board profile where the edge plating is required before the through-hole plating process.  This involves extra process steps so round-edge plating is a cost option.

TIPS.

  1. There needs to be a band of copper on each side for the plating to connect to.
  2. As we need to hold the circuit within the production panel during processing we cannot plate round 100% of the edge.  There must be some gaps so that we can place rout tabs.  If you need a very high percentage of edge-plating, email us your design or proposed profile as early in the design process as possible.  We can then confirm that it is manufacturable or suggest any necessary changes.
  3. Indicate clearly in a mechanical layer where you need round-edge plating.
  4. Selective chemical nickel-gold is the only surface finish suitable for round-edge plating.

 

 

 
Posted by   Dirk stans  on 24 Jun 2014  | Posted under   PCB design Hits: 8634
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How to achieve an ideal PCB Design flow by using the Eurocircuits smart menus ?

Helping our electronics design customers to define the best PCB layout flow possible and thus save time, avoid communication problems and achieve the best price and reliability for their PCB, is our goal. To achieve this goal, we have created smart menus and PCB visualization tools.

Our BLOG contains an online presentation and a movie.

Smart menus.

The Eurocircuits price calculator is based upon the technology of our PCB Configurator software - part of the PCB Visualization tools on our website. You can use the calculator with or without data. Even without attaching data, you will have the complete Eurocircuits service at your finger tips including all technical validation rules that apply when choosing different technical options for your board.

We therefore call them "smart menus". They contain:

  • Build-up wizard: including more than 700 pre-defined build-ups including blind and buried via combinations.
  • Panel editor: contains full CAM editing functionality to define a professional customer delivery panel
  • Technical validation: around 300 rules are built into the smart menus to help you to choose only those combinations of options that are viable. All violations are explained and possible corrections proposed. If these are not clear or or do not meet your requirements, you can always get help from our engineers by using the  "launch inquiry" option.
  • Classification wizard: our classification guide shows you the pattern and drill classes available for your chosen base copper foils.
  • Price guidance: on every option you choose, the smart menu informs you if there will be a slight cost increase or if the board is no longer poolable.  If the board is not poolable then the price will be calculated on the basis of production panels containing only this board. Prices calculations always include a matrix showing alternatives based upon other more favourable quantities and delivery terms. You can also define your own price matrix to show your own preferred alternative quantities and deliveries.

Visualization tools

After you have finished your PCB Layout based upon the PCB design parameters you defined using our smart menus , you can load your PCB data into the shopping basket section of your account. Our PCB Visualizer software will then start analysing your data. A few minutes later you will be able to view your board on screen and see the results of the analysis. What can you discover?

  • PCB Configurator: you can view the board and the analysis based upon the order details entered into the price calculator.  If you use the alternative pricing option "Analyse my data", PCB Visualizer will fill out the board parameters in the calculator menu and present its analysis based on our default values.  In either case, go through the order details, viewing all the comments and any possible design rule check (DRC) violations. You can then correct the data to fit the order details, or change the order details to fit the data. Other CAM data preparation functions available include:
    • Panel editor: design standard or complex customer panels interactively on screen.
    • Marking editor: add QR-code, UL-logo, text, date codes, etc... if and where you want them
  • PCB Checker: shows the results of the DRC analysis of your data against the order details. You can view all potential errors one by one and decide what to do in each case. PCB Checker also contains DFM functions including plating index, solder paste surface area, possible fiducials in a design, ....

Presentation "Your optimum PCB design flow"

Our presentation takes a tour through all Eurocircuits' smart menus and PCB Visualization tools and shows how they can help you gain time, avoid misunderstandings and save costs by defining an ideal PCB design flow.

View the Presentation - click here

The presentation is best viewed when you open the speaker notes and view them on a second screen. This can be controlled from the option button in the bottom left corner.

 

MOVIE: How to use our smart menus and PCB Visualizer

This film gives an overview of how to use our smart menus efficiently to determine your PCB layout parameters and how to then use PCB Visualizer to check your layout against your pre-set design values.

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 .