PCB Visualizer – your feedback

PCB Visualizer, one week after the beta release

We have recieved plenty of feedback. Thank you for your support !

During the first week after the launch we got a lot of praise, comments, questions and suggestions.
The praise was sometimes overwhelming – you can still see the smile on our faces 🙂

“Quite amazing” or “Great!” , “Very nice tool!,” Great tool!…

and sometimes more down to earth

“good”, “worked fine” or “everything seems correct”.

Very motivating for us to work even harder to improve and extend the PCB Visualizer functionality. The current version is still in beta phase which means that we work on stabilizing the software, improve its performance and further develop the analysis algorithms to increase the reliability and accuracy. It is important for us to continue to recieve your feedback about how you experience the PCB Visualizer. Our priorities for further development are based on your reactions.

What we learned during the first week.

 

1. It”s not clear what to do when the PCB Visualizer shows errors – can you proceed with your order?

  • Whatever the result shown by PCB Visualizer, you can place the order. When the import of the files was successful and a red flag is showing in the order details, we advise to check your design and your order details to avoid that you will receive an exception further in the process.
  • PCB Visualizer shows errors but you think your data was not analysed correctly. Please let us know through the feedback form what information is incorrect. We will analyse the problem and look for a solution. You can place your order, the data will be analysed by an operator independent from the PCB Visualizer result.
  • Import failed – PCB Visualizer works only based on Extended Gerber files as well as CadSoft EAGLE V6 files. All other file formats will result in an import failure. – However, you can place your order – older formats of CadSoft EAGLE as well as standard Gerber-files are still accepted.

2. From all our customers feedback, we learned that we need to improve on:

  • PCB Contour recognition – improve the success rate on contour recognition. We will publish guidelines how you can define contours so PCB Visualizer can detect the correct contour more easily .
  • Build-up recognition in case of single sided boards
  • Make the results of PCB Visualizer also available after an order has been placed. You will therefore also find it in your running orders.
  • Further extend the DRC functionalities. We show measured values now but not the location of the errors.
    We will build this functionality into a DRC check module that you can run after the PCB Visualizer is shown.
    We will keep you informed about the progress.
  • Endless ” data loading – please wait” – message. PCB Visualizer is not always loading as expected. This behaviour seems to depend on operating systems
    as well as browsers. Make sure that you are using the latest versions of your browser, that your internet connection bandwidth is sufficient and
    that your firewall is not blocking .png images. We are exploring the reasons for this loading problem. When you are confronted with this,
    try if PCB Visualizer works from another PC or another location.

3. What to do with the information in the plating section?

  • When we raise the red flag in the plating section of PCB Visualizer it does not mean that we cannot produce your boards.
    It means that the copper distribution over the surface of your board will not be even.
  • The values give a degree of inbalance of copper distribution over the board.
  • We do have possibilities to influence the plating when we construct the production panels and also during the production process,
    but the variation of copper thickness on your tracks and in the holes will be higher when the plating indexes are lower.
  • Designing your board with the plating indexes in mind will result in a higher reliability of your boards.

 

PCB Visualizer-release 1-beta

Today sees the release 1 of our PCB Visualizer project. What we want to do is to enhance customer value and customer convenience by providing faster, clearer and more comprehensive feedback with on-screen interactive possibilities.

Release 1 gives you the functionality to view the data you have uploaded and to check that it conforms to the board you want to order. Is this the right data? Is all the data in the package? Has the CAD output worked correctly?

To use PCB Visualizer, follow the normal “Calculate and order” procedure: fill out the boxes, calculate the price, and attach the data. Then “Add to basket”. Immediately you will see your job in the Shopping basket. The new Visualizer columns will show a spinning wheel and “Processing”. Within a few seconds (depending on the size of the data), the text will change to “Visualizer”.

A red flag in the Status column means that there is an issue with the data. Click on “Visualizer” to review it and avoid an exception when the order is placed. A green icon means that the automatic checks we have run so far indicate that the data matches the order. An exclamation mark (!) indicates a non-critical difference between the data and the order. It also warns that the system could not complete an automatic analysis. If this happens place the order as usual and our engineers will run the checks interactively.

Click on “Visualizer” and you will immediately see an image of your finished PCB with your selected solder-mask colour, the build-up, a birds-eye view and an interactive viewing area. In the viewing area left click to zoom in and right click to zoom out or use the scroll wheel on your mouse. Click and drag to pan around the image. Click on the layers in the build-up to see each layer individually.

On the left you can see three functions: Import, Plating and Order details. If you see a red flag then there is an issue under that heading.

Click on Import and you can view each layer with pan and zoom facilities as above. You can also view combinations of layers using [CTRL] select. This is useful if you uploaded your data as an EAGLE V6.2 BRD file. You can combine the separate EAGLE V6.2 data layers (place, value and shape) to see how your component legend (or silkscreen) will look. In a later release it will be possible to build your own legend and save it for the order.

Click on Plating to view the copper density distribution of your outer (plated) layers. The measured figure for the plating index tells you whether the copper distribution is within the limits demanded by good plating. A red index means that there is a potential problem of over- or under-plating. For more on this topic go here.

Click on Order details to confirm that the data provided matches your order. Typical issues may be that the board size in the order is wrong, or the order calls for one component legend but there is data for two – or none, or the minimum hole size is too small for the chosen service. You can also review every part of your order. Is the board thickness correct? Have I chosen the right surface finish? Does the board need UL marking? …..

To return to the full colour board view and build-up screen, click on the text “Order details” or any of the sub-headings.

If you need to correct your order, close PCB Visualizer and click on the Modify button on the left of the screen. Make the necessary changes and put the order back in the basket. PCB Visualizer will then check it again.

How to get the best out of PCB Visualizer Release 1?

PCB Visualizer Release 1 is the first release of the Input Processor and Data Analysis stages. We will introduce modifications and refinements, based especially on your feedback (see below).

It is important to understand that the data input and analysis is entirely automatic. It is based on sophisticated algorithms that have been tested on thousands of data sets over the last 8 – 10 years, but a few simple rules will ensure that you get the best out of PCB Visualizer.

  1. Input only Extended Gerber (RS274X) and Excellon drill files with embedded tool sizes, or EAGLE V6.2 data. Of course, if your job uses standard Gerber with a separate aperture table or Excellon files with a separate tool list we can still accept it. Just input your order via the normal Order process, not via the basket.
  2. Use clear layer naming to ensure that you get the right build-up displayed. See our guidelines.
  3. Remember that PCB Visualizer is showing the raw Gerber and Excellon data layer by layer. The drill data is combined into the overall view, but no other mechanical features like slots and cut-outs. These will be added by our engineers later in the front-end engineering process. And the data will not be panelised unless you have uploaded panelised Gerber files.
  4. At this stage we have not yet run an in-depth Design Rule Check, so there may still be data issues later on (but PCB Visualizer will soon help with those as well, see “Next Releases” below). More on the checks we carry our on your data

Feedback

When you close PCB Visualizer you will see a feedback form. Please take a moment to share your feelings and remarks with us so that we can improve the Visualizer program. Did it work properly on your job (give us the job number so we can tweak the algorithms if necessary)? Did you find it useful? What additional functionality would you like? …..

Next releases

We will continue to add functionality including more interactive options.

At the Input Processor/Data Analysis stage new functionality will allow you to modify your order on the fly, correct the build-up, and build customer delivery panels on screen.

The next step will be to provide feedback and interactive functionality at the Single Image stage, that is after our engineers have processed the data (see more information on how we process your data here). You will be able to see the real in-depth DRC values for the job. Where our engineer has raised an exception and proposed a solution you will be able to view the exception and accept or reject our solution without the need to go back to your CAD system or re-upload the data (unless we have been unable to provide a solution and you need new data). More information on repairs.

These are our plans but we will also respond to your feedback and to your suggestions for new functionality. Our goal is that PCB visualizer will enhance customer value by providing a faster design feedback and DRC verification service, customer cost where Design For Manufacturability checks flag areas where the designer can change to a more cost-effective class, customer convenience by providing a fast visual check without the need to open his CAD or Gerber files, and customer communication by illustrating the engineer’s report and any subsequent discussions with interactive graphics.

 

See the Eurocircuits PCB Visualizer in action

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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.

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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.

Large boards and pooling

Large boards and pooling – new guidelines

Over the last 12 months we have received an increasing number of boards in our pooling services at the maximum size allowed 425 x 425 mm. These are not genuine single circuits but panels made up of many smaller circuits. To get around our specified maximum panel size 350 x 250 mm, the individual circuits on these oversize panels are not profiled out. In that way the users can describe the panel as a single circuit, though we know, of course, that they will subsequently cut out the individual circuits.

This practice raises two serious issues.


First it impacts on the overall efficiency of the pooling service.

To keep prices down for all our customers we need to use as much of each pooling panel as possible. The more customers’ orders we can produce for a given area of material, the lower can we make our prices. But a panel 425 x 425 mm means that the rest of the pooling panel is wasted. That’s one reason why we set the maximum customer panel size at 350 x 250 mm (the other is that this is also the largest standard size panel used on many or most automatic assembly machines). We allowed a maximum circuit dimension of 425 mm to give maximum flexibility to our customers, knowing that very few actually need individual circuits 425 x 425 mm.

Second, it is likely to produce less good PCBs.

Putting together panels with several different circuits on them requires skill and experience to optimise tooling and to achieve a good copper balance on each side and side to side. We use sophisticated software to calculate the plating index which measures how well the copper is balanced. When we apply this to these large combination panels, in most cases we see a very poor copper balance with significant areas of over- and under-plating, reducing the quality of the finished circuits.

To avoid these issues we have decided to set the maximum size of a single circuit on our pooling services at 8.75 dm2, the same area as our largest eC-registration-compatible panel 350 x 250 mm. You can order larger boards up to a maximum in one dimension of 425 mm, (e.g. 425 x 100 mm) so long as the total area is not more than 8.75 dm2. The largest panel size on the pooling services remains 350 x 250 mm whether panelised by Eurocircuits or by the customer. Further it is our policy that all customer panels prepared by us according to the Eurocircuits panel rules are eC-registration-compatible (maximum 350 x 250 mm to fit the eC-equipment).

If you need a single circuit larger than 8.75 dm2 or a panel larger than 350 x 250 mm, then upload it as an inquiry in On demand. We will check that it is falls within the parameters of good production practice. If it does, we will send you a quotation. If not, we will make suggestions to improve its manufacturability.

eC-solderstation, the next item in the eC-prototype-equipment range?

Why would we develop a solderstation?

During our recent seminars on reflow soldering we had many questions about hand soldering as well. Of course there are many good hand soldering systems in the market today. But we would like to offer a soldering station designed specifically to meet the requirements of our prototype PCB customers. This will complement our eC-reflow-mate and give you a complete solution for soldering most components onto your board. Having our own hand soldering tool will also make our training sessions and seminars on soldering technology and practice that much more comprehensive.

What do we expect from a good solderstation?


  • quick heat-up and recovery
  • easy to swap tips for different jobs
  • availability of a good range of tips and nozzles
  • good ergonomics
  • automatic shut-off.
  • possibility to solder leadfree at lower temperatures to increase the lifetime of your products

These are all part of the development plans for the eC-solderstation. Have we missed anything? If there are other features which you judge to be important please add them in the Comments section below.

How will your next eC-solderstation look like?

As many electronics engineers have their private lab or work from their office, we know it”s important what the new tool looks like. We contacted a design office to work out some concepts based on our ideas. We would like you as users to choose the concept you want us to develop further. Some concepts will be more challenging than others to realise, but that will not stop us trying.

Here are the concept drawings:

 

 

 

Plating Simulation – our New Tool for PCB Designers

A simulation of the galvanic copper deposition in PCB manufacturing

Before we manufacture a PCB, we carefully analyse the data we receive to catch any potential production issues which may affect the quality and the long-term reliability of the finished product. Any issues we find are reported back to the customer for discussion and resolution.

Until now galvanic plating is the one area where we have been unable to predict accurately how a particular design will perform. The thickness of the plated copper deposited on any part of the board depends on the layout density. If the density is low we risk over-plating; if the density is high we risk under-plating. Over-plating (too much plated copper) means that component holes may become too small. Under-plating (too little plated copper) may weaken the hole walls so that plated-through connections may crack during assembly and lose long-term reliability.

The goal is an even copper density and even plating across the PCB. When we place PCBs on our production pooling panels we take this into account as far as we can. We can also place extra copper patterns between or around the PCBs to even out the density (so-called robber bars). However we can only go so far to achieve a uniform plating as we cannot modify the actual design of the PCB. This can only be done by the designer.

Historically designers have had no tools to help them evaluate copper density. Today Eurocircuits can offer a solution, an image of the board colour-mapped to show potential areas of over- and under-plating.

We use special plating simulation software which divides the board into small cells. The copper density in each cell is compared with the average for the whole board and the cell is assigned a colour. Lower than average copper density is coloured on a scale from green (average), through yellow and orange to red. The more red, the lower the relative density and the higher the risk of over-plating in those areas. Cells with a higher copper density are coloured on a scale from green to dark blue. The more blue, the greater the risk of under-plating.

Armed with this visual data the designer can add copper areas where the density is low or reduce large plane areas .


We will also provide a plating index which measures the uniformity of copper density on the board. A completely uniform board has an index of 1 which means that no plating problems are expected. Lower values show less uniformity, highlighted on the visual image by the red and blue areas. If the index falls to 0.4 or less, then special attention is required. In the example shown above the plating index is 0.30. The blue under-plated area is clearly visible.

These new tools can provide guidance for a designer. We provide the plating image when a new order is placed. This plating image is part of the PCB image – a realistic representation of your PCB that we send out together with your order confirmation. In the near future this plating simulation will become part of the Place Inquiry function. We will run a full battery of manufacturability checks and produce a report. We will also produce the plating image, so that the designer can see if he can make any changes to improve the uniformity of the plating.

After modifications the plating index is now 0.65. The picture shows a uniform plating.

Of course, there may be design constraints which make a less uniform copper density unavoidable. Here we are rolling out a further solution to enhance the quality and reliability of the finished PCB. The Elsyca Intellitool Matrix plating project will further enhance the uniformity of the final plating.

BINDI pool – Eurocircuits’ Asian alternative – spot on for you!

“BINDI pool” – Eurocircuits” Asian alternative with European assured quality

Do you need medium-volume 2-layer PCBs – up to 12 sq.m (roughly 1600 circuits 100 x 80 mm)?

Do you need Asian prices with European assured quality and delivery, plus European shipping rates and no customs delays?

If so, you need Eurocircuits” new BINDI pool.

We are already well known for our online prototype and small batch PCBs. Our users trust us to deliver top quality boards on the right day, at the right price, reliably and consistently. To maintain this level of trust we only sell what we make ourselves in our own factories in Germany and Hungary.

BINDI pool is no different.

Many of our users need larger quantities of boards. They insist on the same reliable quality and delivery, the same ease of online ordering and at lower cost. But combining larger and smaller volumes in the same plant doesn”t work.

BINDI pool is the answer.

We”ve had our own front-end engineering operation in India since 2000. Now we have set up a manufacturing plant, Eurocircuits India, right next door.

BINDI pool offers.

  • Up to 12 sq. m of 2-layer boards (1600 half-Eurocards)
  • Made in India, using the same materials as in our factory in Hungary.
  • Final inspection of the boards in our factories in Europe
  • Shipped at EU rates to your door.

BINDI pool same service, same quality, lower cost.

In detail, BINDI pool offers:

  • 1 or 2-layer plated through hole PCBs
  • Delivery: 15 or 20 working days
  • Minimum track width and isolation distance: 0.150 mm
  • Minimum hole size: 0.25 mm
  • Surface finish: lead-free HAL
  • Material thickness: 1.00 mm, 1.55 mm, 2.4 mm
  • Copper thickness (foil before plating): 18 microns (half-ounce); 35 microns (1 ounce)
  • Delivery panel separation: break-routing or V-cut
  • Solder-mask (top, bottom, both, none): green, black
  • Legend (top, bottom, both, none): white
  • Max. board size: 550 x 425 mm
  • Min. board size: 5 x 5 mm
  • Slots and cut-outs: 2.00 mm, 1.2 mm
  • Bare board tested: yes
  • Advanced options: Peelable mask; top, bottom – Customer specific markings – Customer specific tolerances – Copper to board edge
  • Stencil: unframed 130 micron stainless steel: eC-compatible or custom

To access BINDI pool go to BINDI pool in the price calculator

 

Explore the BINDI pool service definition here

 

 

BINDI is the Hindi word for the bright red spot decoration applied in the centre of the forehead close to the eyebrows, symbolizing the third eye. We hope our BINDI pool service is spot on for you!