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13th May 2022

Why is Design for Manufacturing important?

For this blog on Design for Manufacturing (DFM), we teamed up with Martin Barrett from Kasdon Electronics to share his insights on the topic as well as our own observations.

Why is Design for Manufacturing Important?

Manufacturing is a key part of your product development process. Getting it wrong at this stage can undo much of the hard work you’ve undertaken at the development stage.

On the flip side, implementing design for manufacturing efficiently can reap a whole range of benefits including cost savings, extended product life span, and a far higher quality end product.

Key Design for Manufacturing Considerations:

You need to plan (and most likely order) parts before you begin the design and development phase of your project.

The reason for this is that the ongoing semiconductor shortage carries very serious implications for companies involved in new product development. Some companies still believe chip shortages to be a minor issue or something that won’t affect them, but education is key here.

The reality is that the current global supply chain cannot keep up with commercial demand. This leads to companies being forced to source alternative parts at marked up prices (if they’re lucky enough to be able to source an alternative), or halt manufacturing entirely.

Read more on the global chip shortage

To get around this, you need to design for availability and be aware that CEMs rarely have any control when it comes to part supply.

Therefore, you need to do your research and aim to source parts before you design your product – not the other way around.

Designing for longevity of material is key

Similarly, you need to consider the possible obsolescence of parts and other materials.

You may be set on a particular part, but if it’s been on the market for a long time and had a logical successor, the chances are that it’ll be discontinued in favour of said successor at some point.

Failure to account for obsolescence can mean a costly redesign or a shortened lifespan for your product.

Select the right CEM partner

We’ve spoken in detail about the importance of selecting the right electronics design partner. However, teaming up with the right CEM (Contract Electronics Manufacturing) partner is equally important.

Make sure they have the right tools and machinery to make your product a success. Knowing the requirements upfront is important for both design and quality of manufacturing.

They need to support your BOM (Bill of Materials) from top to bottom, so investing more time in finding the right CEM partner is time well spent.

Quality is an integral part of your product

Your development stage should involve rigorous product testing to ensure your product is reliable. Make sure your CEM or manufacturing partner have good quality standards in place.

Simplify part design to make it easier to manufacture PCBs

Added complexity on your board translates to a more difficult manufacturing process. For example, on a 16-layer board with blind vias. However, it isn’t just your board’s capabilities that you need to consider, but also every complex element that requires sourcing of parts.

You need to select your supplier carefully as this will have a knock-on effect on your whole supply chain. Standards are important, so your chosen CEM will need robust parts to build you a great product.

Avoid tight tolerances

The reality is that in the UK, the machinery required to do very tight tolerances is not available. Most of this hardware is in East Asia, and so using these services often incurs additional costs.

Reduce the number of tight tolerances required to maximise your commercial gain and production repeatability.

Check part availability (be aware of the chip shortages)

Many companies still believe chip shortages to be a minor issue or something that won’t affect them. Education is key here. The reality is that the implications of the semiconductor shortages are very serious if you’re developing a tech product. Simply put, the global supply chain is not currently able to keep up with demand. We explore this further in our article on how to beat chip shortages.

You need to plan early, design around availability, and be aware that CEMs don’t often have that much control when it comes to part supply. Therefore, you need to do your research and try to source parts before you design your product. Not the other way around.

Think about cost reduction techniques

Your options for maximising profit without overcharging your customers often comes down to the design process.

With this in mind, make sure you keep everything surface mount machine placeable wherever possible. Remember this every time a part of your design is altered.

Anything placed manually is labour intensive and requires skill. Machine placing is also much faster. You often pay for time during manufacturing so the longer the process takes the more you will pay at the production phase.

Emerging Trends in Product Development
Observations from Kasdon Electronics

We asked Martin what trends he was seeing in buying patterns in electronics manufacturing.

Trend 1: More UK-Produced Products

We are seeing more customers bringing products back to the UK. In the 90s most products were sourced offshore, now the reverse is true.

There are a number of reasons for this:

Supply chain control

Companies want control of their products and in a world where travel has been disrupted for the past couple of years, this is even more relevant.

Quality Processes

The UK has a good record for quality processes, and many product developers are realising that cutting corners on products can greatly undermine their reputation and sales potential later.

Greater understanding of ‘complete product price’

Product developers are often tempted by cheaper overseas materials. However, the majority are now beginning to realise that once other costs are factored in, sourcing in the UK is much more comparable in price than at first glance.

Once you then add in related costs such as quality and travel disruptions the UK starts to look very appealing. Some of these hidden costs of sourcing abroad include increased taxation, such as tariffs, compliance implications, and dumping tax. Plus, the cost of shipping and freight having increased by seven-fold in some parts of the world.

Trend 2: Production Test Requests

We are seeing a lot of people using flying probes and bed of nails testing.

Many are realising that the added cost of this is worth it for the benefits of a more reliable product and reducing (or eliminating) the failure rate.

This is great for prototyping pre-production, production at the roll out stage and more. At Kasdon, we have found that supplying this kind of testing capability has led to an influx of new enquiries.

Takeaway Points

  • Keep design for availability top of mind
  • Weigh up the pros of taking on additional costs now to save frustrations and lost profits later
  • If outsourcing abroad, consider the associated travel time and costs.
  • Source parts ahead of time
  • Consider additional product testing
  • Simplify your board complexity

Article Authorship

About Martin Barrett

Martin Barrett is the sales manager of Kasdon Electronics and has a strong background in helping clients with Contract Electronics Manufacturing Services. This blog is written with Martin’s knowledge and that of the Ignys team.

About Kasdon

As a leading supplier of Contract Electronic Manufacturing Services, Kasdon has built a strong reputation over the past 25 years offering a reliable full turn-key PCB and Product Build solution to OEMs, both here in the UK and around the world.

From advising on product design, through prototyping and pre-production builds for new product introductions, and onwards through to volume production, Kasdon leverages their engineering and technical team’s long-established experience of delivering projects with various complexities and requirements.

Kasdon’s Manufacturing facility includes state of the art automated surface mount lines, capable of placing 1 million placements per shift, including single- and double-sided assembly of PCBs. and with a component range of 0201 up to 55mm Square and odd form components.

With the skills and experience in designing and manufacturing BOX Build Solutions, Kasdon are an industry leader in this market, delivering quality systems with specifications and standards that are second to none.

Kasdon’s reputation for quality, in line with the ISO-9001 and Advanced IPC-A-610 standards, combined with continued investment into people and test machinery, forms the foundation of building and supplying quality products to clients, first time, every time.