Eurocircuits – Webinar following the D&E event in Holland.

What do PCB fabricators do with your data before they make your PCBs?

This year”s D&E event in Holland was followed by a webinar. For Eurocircuits this was the first webinar in our history. It took place on 20 June launched from the premises of XWebinar in Holland.

We announced the webinar to our customer base with the working title, “Front-end data preparation“. This raised a lot interest among our customers and around 140 were online when we started at 11H00. An hour and 20 minutes later over 120 were still with us. We would like to thank all those who took part.

The content of our webinar, “What do PCB fabricators do with your data before they make your PCBs”, can now be found online as a white paper.

The white paper covers all aspects of the presentation we made during the webinar. It has the added advantage that it contains links to the in-depth information on the web site for all the technical issues discussed. This means that it reads more smoothly than the presentation itself. However, if you wish to review the recording, you can do so here…


Since it was our first webinar, we were glad to learn from the valuable feedback we received. Our conclusions so far:

  • The webinar communication technique certainly fits for us and is highly appreciated by our customers
  • We need to improve drastically on the tools used to run the webinar to deliver a better experience
  • We should in future reduce the number of topics so that we can cover them more in-depth
  • We should repeat the same webinar several times on different dates so more people can join
  • We need to think about offering these webinars in more languages
  • You like our investment in visualization techniques
  • There can never be enough technical information available on the website
  • You like the BLOG that we have started this year bringing as much of our knowledge to you as possible
  • We should tell you more often what we do and what technical information is available

As we covered too many topics, not so many focused technical questions came out of the chat we were running. The conclusion here also is that we should continue to publish in-depth technical articles on our web site.

We have learned that visualization and modern communication tools in all their aspects are the right way forward for us. We are planning to go further on that journey and to take you with us should you choose to come.

Any comment is welcome below or at euro@eurocircuits.com

14th Annual D&E Event – Evoluon Eindhoven, The Netherlands – May 24, 2012

This year’s free Design Automation & Embedded Systems Event had a record number of exhibitors though the number of visitors overall was down on previous years. However the Eurocircuits stand was busy throughout the day as we gave our customers their first view of our new visualizer software tool and demonstrated our bench-top reflow soldering equipment, eC-stencil-mate and eC-reflow-mate.

This year’s theme was product development. The event focused on new hardware, software and testing technologies which can ensure a smoother and faster development process.

Visitors had a choice of 17 technical presentations given by the exhibitors who also provided a mini exhibition displaying their latest products and services aimed at embedded systems developers.

The event has its own permanent website at http://de.fhi.nl/event/programma. Log in to find all the exhibitors‘ technical presentations.

The website is mostly in Dutch but some presentations, like ours, are in English. Our presentation details the visual feedback which we provide on your PCB design from data entry to finished board.

Following this event Eurocircuits organized a webinar on 20 June 2012 at 11h00 CET. The webinar is posted online for those who missed the live session. The webinar answers the question “what do board fabricators do with your data before they make your PCBs?” As well as answering this question, it provides tips on designing for improved manufacturability and on clear data presentation.

Front-end data preparation – white paper (2012)

“What do PCB fabricators do with my data before they make my PCB?”

 

“Why can’t they use my data just as I sent it in?” “Why do I need to know? I’m an electronics engineer and they are the board fabricators?”. Our new white paper, “Front-end data preparation”, answers these questions.

An understanding of the front-end data preparation process is important for two reasons, speed and cost. PCBs for time-critical applications need to be delivered fast and on time. If information is missing from the data set supplied or if it is ambiguous or unclear we lose time while the issues are sorted out. The new white paper explains how we verify that the data is complete and clear, to make sure that we deliver the board that you want. Above all, it contains tips on how to present clear and unambiguous data and avoid some of the common traps which can delay deliveries.

Our pooling services have been developed to deliver prototype and small batch PCBs cost-effectively as well as fast and on time. The specifications of each service are based on a choice of base material and on a robust level of manufacturability to ensure the quality of the finished product. The white paper outlines how we check that each design fits the specification of the chosen service. If it doesn’t, we report back the data issues (raise an exception). Are there simple steps which you as a designer or we as fabricators can take to avoid having to use a more expensive option? If so we will propose them. Are there repairs we can make to bring the board back within specification and improve its manufacturability? In many cases we can make these repairs as part of the data preparation process and the white paper has links to more detailed information. Design for manufacturability tips highlight some critical areas. The white paper also links to the free design rule sets which can be uploaded form our website into EAGLE and Altium CAD systems to help ensure that your design meets the specifications of the most cost-effective pooling service.

Although the white paper follows our internal procedures and includes the names of our front-end data preparation stages, our data preparation process follows industry best-practice. So throughout we relate what we do and our design tips to the wider PCB fabrication world. Our goal is to provide a broad set of technical information which will benefit not just our users but also the wider electronics engineering community across Europe.

Download the Eurocircuits-frontend data preparation white paper in PDF format.

To preserve the environment and to make use of the many embedded links to articles on our web site, we recommended that you read this white paper in its digital form.

Eurocircuits production data – what’s in it?

To produce your board we use your design data in Gerber or EAGLE format and first perform the necessary front end actions as described in our white paper: “What do PCB fabricators do with your data before they make your PCBs?“.

When this is done and your board is ready for production, we save your board’s production data in your account. This data we call the job’s “single image” data. “Single image” means the data we load onto our order-pooling production multi-panels, so it may refer to a single circuit image or to a delivery panel if this is what you have ordered. This is the data that is visualized in the PCB image. You can download the full set from within your customer account.

 


The download of the single image production data from the Eurocircuits site has been possible since we launched our e-business platform more than 10 years ago. This open business policy has convinced customers over the years to come to us for their prototypes and small series even if they planned to have their large series produced in the Far East. We offer a fast and convenient way to calculate prices and place orders, a thorough data verification and manufacturability analysis and highly professional production processes. Combine this with the possibility to download the verified data and use it for production wherever else you want, and you have the best possible start for the life cycle of your products.

The single image files are name coded by Eurocircuits. But this is no secret either. Let us explain what the files are and what their names stand for.

file name convention.docx

 

The format of the files is mainly DPF. This is the internal format for UCAM, the front-end data preparation or CAM (Computer Aided Manufacturing) system we use designed and developed by Ucamco. The paste files can also be downloaded as Gerber data. To read DPF files as well as Gerber data and Excellon drill files we recommend GC-Prevue, available as a free download from www.graphicode.com.

We are sometimes asked if it possible to reload the single image data back into a CAD system. This is totally dependent on the CAD system. We have only input and processed manufacturing data. Other PCB manufacturers can use it for production through their own CAM systems. However the manufacturing data doesn’t contain any component information like foot-print coordinates or a functional net-list where nets are linked to component pin numbers and are described as power, ground, data line, etc… A successful reload of DPF or Gerber production data into a CAD system depends entirely on the functionality available in the CAD-system and should be investigated there.

Our team will gladly answer any queries you may have. Contact us on euro@eurocircuits.com.

Soldermask on via-holes in case of chemical Nickel-Gold surface finish

Visualize your PCB: fast and throughout the whole business process

Visual communication enhances PCB procurement: Eurocircuits goes visual

Go visual – why?

  • Make real-life PCB information available to everyone involved in board design, procurement, manufacture, assembly and testing.
  • Images are:
    • Convenient – ease of use
    • Clear – avoid misunderstandings
    • Open to all collaborators – not everyone can read PCB layout data

Go visual – what?

  • Visualize customer data online as soon as it is uploaded
  • Visualize the PCB in every step of the Eurocircuits e-business process
  • Keep the PCB as an image in the data base for future use:
    • Look up whenever needed
    • Repeat orders
  • Show an image of the PCB in documents

PCBs – layout to finished board – the workflow

  • Calculate a pooling price online or request an On demand price
  • Pre-analyse – online analysis and full visual display of:
    • EAGLE native format data
    • Extended Gerber data
  • Order and produce:
    • Design Rule Check
    • Data anomalies – visual report back to customer
    • Single Image ready – finished PCB image
    • Make panel and produce
  • Deliver – PCB passport including finished PCB image
  • Archive – make available for future use
    • Repeat orders
    • Look up as needed


Workflow step 1, option 1 – On demand price request

If you upload your data to get an On demand price (Place inquiry with data), we run a full data analysis before we complete our offer. You can find this online as the PCB verification report. This includes a true-colour picture of your PCB, the build as specified in your data and a detailed overview of all technical parameters.

Workflow step 1, option 2 – start from EAGLE

Customers who use EAGLE 6.x as their PCB layout system, can link directly from within their design to our web site and its calculator. Just push the PCB quote button.

EAGLE input

The link between EAGLE 6.x and the Eurocircuits web site activates a window that displays your EAGLE PCB design values and the corresponding design values of the Eurocircuits pooling services.

TIP: if you use the DRU design rule files for our pooling services you can be confident that your design will perfectly match your chosen service. Download the DRU files here.

EAGLE calculation

All the design values are automatically entered into your calculation page. You only have to enter the delivery term and quantity and push Calculate. If required you can still change the technical parameters that are not included in the desing data, for instance, surface finish, soldermask colour, etc…

EAGLE PCB analysis

Calculate your price and attach your PCB data. You can then add the offer to your shopping basket. This will trigger the automatic analysis of your data. This step is currently in beta test and will be live shortly.

As soon as the analysis is complete the word “Visualizer” appears. Click it to link to the PCB Visualizer module. See the movie.

{flowplayer}http://www.eurocircuits.com/images/stories/Movies/Input_from_EAGLE.flv{/flowplayer}

Workflow step 1, option 3 – input Gerber data

TIP: to make sure that your data is as clear as possible and to minimise the risk of any delay to your order due to data queries (exceptions), always use:

Most customers use Extended Gerber PCB layout data.

Enter the board parameters into the Calculate and order menu. Calculate the price and attach the data. Add the offer into your online and the system will run the analysis and open the link to the PCB Visualiser module as described above. See the whole procedure in our movie.

Workflow step 2 – data preparation after order – design rule check

  • Design rule check against the chosen service parameters and check for manufacturability problems
    • If anomalies are found make an anomaly report (raise an exception)

Workflow step 3 – data anomalies

If there are data anomalies we raise an exception. We prepare a clear visual report on the issues with suggestions how to resolve them. We send you an email to warn you. You can then find the report in your online account.

Workflow step 4 – prepare single image

Next we complete the preparation of the single image (for more information on this step visit our blog). The PCB is now ready for production so we create the final PCB image. This shows the finished PCB as it will be delivered, as a single circuit or in a customer panel, depending on what you have ordered.

Workflow step 5 – production panel

For our internal production team we provide a visualization of the production pooling panel.

Workflow step 6 – PCB passport

The board is also visualized on documents we provide for you. Our PCB passport is the PCB identity report containing production and material traceability data. This is accompanied by visual images of the PCB”s top, bottom and mechanical layers. That way, even non-technical people can quickly and easily identify the PCB.

Go visual – repeat orders

We use the same visual identification in the overview of running orders and in the order history. Click on the visualisation icon to see the PCB image and make sure that you are re-ordering the right PCB.

Go visual – advantages

  • eC-workflow is transparent for all stake holders
  • Clearer overview
  • Easier communication
  • Easy lookup
  • Less misunderstandings
  • Provides an extra service for board designers and assemblers to offer to their customers
  • => visual communication is the future

PCB Visualizer – the next steps

The first module of the PCB Visualizer, our new program for PCB visualization, will be rolled out shortly. As soon as your data is uploaded, PCB Visualizer will present a complete view of all the layers of the PCB in true colours. It will also show the build as it appears in the data set. The next step in the roll-outwill be to provide interactive functionality at each stage of the data preparation process, as shown in the diagram below. This will help to avoid mistakes due to misunderstood communications or errors in the data. These stages will include tools to edit the order details, for instance by changing the surface finish or soldermask colour, as well as tools to view any data anomalies and accept our suggestions for repairs. The final stage will show all the layers of the production-ready PCB.