4. Engage with your contract manufacturer during the design phase
If you’re hoping to start manufacturing as soon as your final design has been issued and want the process to be reliable, efficient and cost-effective, you should start to engage with your manufacturer early in the design phase.
Your design team should be able to address most of the Design for Manufacture (DFM) and Design of Test (DFT) issues. However, your selected manufacturing partner will be able to provide additional feedback and actionable insights on your proposed design in relation to their specific manufacturing, test and procurement capabilities.
Discussions and questions with your manufacturing partner should include:
- is the PCB layout optimised for their soldering and assembly processes?
- will the manufacturer be able to source the specified components and materials in production quantities, or do you need to re-design using alternatives?
- how will the device be assembled and can this be simplified by changing the design?
- are there any manually intensive processes that should be avoided?
- what are the lead times on tooling?
You will also need to discuss how your device is to be tested.
There are a wide array of test technologies and strategies available, including: bare board, Automated Optical Inspection (AOI), boundary scan and functional and system tests. The most appropriate solution for you will depend on your specific design, safety criticality, production quantities, market value and the manufacturer’s capabilities.
Discussions on testing should include:
- what level of testing is required on components, sub-systems and the final assembly to ensure appropriate test coverage and detect defects?
- how will manufacturing test specifications be produced?
- is there a need for additional test pads or test connectors?
- does the manufacturer need to design and build custom test rigs?
- is a special version of the firmware required for the manufacturing tests?
Engaging your manufacturer early should allow time to prepare for production and avoid re-designs for test or manufacture. It could also lower your production costs and improve production yield and reliability.