PCB Design support

Getting it right at the design stage can make all the difference between a printed circuit board meeting expectations and failing to live up to the expectations of functionality or performance. This does not mean that the PCB is faulty – given that acceptance or rejection criteria cannot be established without standards on which to base those criteria. However, setting expectations is only one part of what we do. We see PCB design support not only as defining what we need, but also what we do with your design from receipt of data through to the finished product.

NCAB´s quality assurance through standards

All of NCAB’s companies are members of IPC, which, combined with our quality assurance activities, offers customers numerous advantages:

  • NCAB ensures that our PCBs are produced in line with latest standards.
  • NCAB backs-up its quality improvement work with full IPC membership.
  • Through NCAB’s IPC membership customers can indirectly influence the way standards are developed.
  • Communication is more effective in technical / acceptance areas due to a standardized language being used.
  • Fault analysis can be rapidly conducted through applying IPC standards.
  • Standards clarify customer requirements, assuring the right quality level. Even without end customer specifications, IPC standards are used as a minimum.

Beyond IPC

IPC is the most widely recognized set of acceptance standards within the PCB industry. However, NCAB has acknowledged that tighter control of the accepted requirements may be beneficial in some instances. That, as well as more stringent criteria when identifying and quantifying standards in the end customer´s procurement document, something that is not necessarily familiar to all customers. In such instances NCAB provides customers with additional quality assurance through defining the details which go beyond IPC.

Navigating through and identifying the applicable IPC specifications can be a minefield. That is why the NCAB Group General PCB requirements document is a comprehensive standard, which surpasses in many instances, the requirements of IPC, to ensure that we build in quality from the very start of PCB production.

  • Identifying and reinforcing the key IPC standards to ensure we / the factories do not miss anything
  • Applying NCAB class 3 as the norm for certain aspects
  • Setting specific requirements on test / optical inspection of our PCBs
  • Minimizing rework where we can to ensure reliability is not compromised
  • Applying NCAB engineering expectations and accepted approaches when controlling data
  • Not accepting track repairs
  • Ensuring we know exactly how builds are constructed
  • Quantifying soldermask and peelable mask thickness for our products
  • Applying NCAB cosmetic expectations and acceptable repair criteria
  • Promoting/Implementing cleanliness standards which are not pre-requisites
  • Implementing key manufacturing best practices
  • Applying design guidelines and other acceptance criteria on HDI products
  • Setting NCAB specific qualification and release expectations as target

Preventing perfectly wrong circuit boards

Even with tight control over the manufacturing process, it is equally important that the data is handled with strong disciplines & processes to ensure that what we build is correct – our aim is to get it right, from the very start. To achieve this, NCAB never makes assumptions with Gerber data, never allows changes to be made without written authorization and reviews data to ensure that errors have not been built in at design stage. These disciplines avoid issues as the parts proceed through volume production.

Interestingly, more than 30% of the Gerbers we review have problems, such as ambiguous information, missing info, design rule problems, etc. With our team of experienced Technicians we can solve problems which might not be discovered until the product is being assembled.

PCB design support: Example of Gerbers with missing info.
To illustrate the points referred to above, the two drawings show what NCAB actively looks for, may typically find and also what we do not change / amend prior to written authorization being provided.

Best possible fit – working to the PCB factory strengths and capabilities

NCAB does not fit the circuit board factory to the design, but rather, to reduce unnecessary complexity and risk, we fit the right design to the right factory. This makes a huge difference in that NCAB works to the strengths and capabilities of the factories.

This awareness is achieved through a detailed knowledge of our factory capabilities and a true understanding of their technology and performance on a monthly basis. This information is provided to our account management and customer service/support teams so that we can compare technical capability to design requirements right from the very start of the quoting process. This is an automated process, which provides alternatives with regard to price, as well as technical capability. Having the best possible options is a prerequisite for manufacturing the highest quality products. NCAB has 32 quality-assured, proven factories which ensures that there are always several factory options to choose from. Naturally, NCAB will then always be in a position to choose and work with the factory that is best suited to the job.

What technology factors influence the price of the PCB?

There are a number of factors that affect the price of the printed circuit board – including size, batch quantity, choice of materials, layer count and specifications & tolerances. NCAB’s technical support team is always on hand to offer helpful advice on designs and ideas that can avoid unnecessary expense whilst at the same time ensuring that the design and the printed circuit board itself is perfectly suited to the end application.

Is there a risk that advice provided can actually increase the price of the PCB? In some instances, yes, especially at the prototype stage where perhaps more attention needs to be focused on lowest total cost for when that product is to be produced in volume, and the real benefits of lowest cost is most important. In many cases, dedicated prototype manufacturers do not have the knowledge of cost variations created by understanding the impact (on cost) of laminate brands & type selection, soldermask availabilities, panel utilization, tolerancing and other factors that are so critical to get right at volume PCB factories. This is where the concept of NCAB Group´s seamless production really does add value.