PCB Contract Manufacturing Assistance

For many 3rd party design houses, the service provided to the customer ends with the completion of the PCB layout. From there, the source and manufacturing files are returned to the customer for fabrication of the board and the assembly of the components onto the board.

We at Nine Dot connects see this next step as being both critical and at times, problematic.

There has been a tradition of throwing the manufacturing files over the proverbial wall in the hopes that the fabricator can do something with them. In the past, this was a common practice, for most boards used a “universal” PCB material known as FR4. However, the need for materials with qualities that are better suited for high speed design in addition to controlling the impedance requires a relationship with the fabricator at the beginning of the layout effort.

Some companies use contract manufacturers (CM) to assist in the fabrication and assembly. The CM is to be the single point of contact to handle the fabrication and assembly of the PCBs. This saves the company seeking to have a board manufactured the hassle of finding a fabricator and assembler and owning the process. Though there are a few companies still out there doing both fabrication and assembly, the fact of the matter is that most companies in the business of PCBs are either one or the other. As a side note, if one is thinking of sending their PCB offshore to have it fabricated and assembled, for the purposes of protecting Intellectual Property (IP), it is best to have fabrication and assembly performed at non-related independent locations.

However, when technical questions arise, the CM becomes a relay point rather than a source for answers. Furthermore, if the customer isn’t sure of what they want (or need), the conversation gets difficult for all involved.

Whether you are making direct contact with the fabricators or assemblers, or using a CM for these needs, Nine Dot Connects can still assist. In this capacity, we can:

  • Verify fabrication notes, standards call-out, etc.
  • Correct fabrication and assembly data files generated (OutJob)
  • Interface with PCB fabricator and/or CM to ensure design will be manufacturable
  • Review, recommend, and establish the PCB stack up at the start of the PCB layout to create design rules for impedance and signal integrity issues.
  • Provide all appropriate files necessary to minimize delay in getting the fabrication started.
  • Provided rapid response to issues that may have arisen during the fabrication. In some cases, modifications to the original source files are required along with the generation of new manufacturing files.
  • Provide first article inspection to ensure that what was requested is what was produced.

If you are looking for assistance with the manufacturing side of the PCB process, Nine Dot Connects is here to “CM assist.”

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