At the conclusion of our webinar, Quick Turns PCBs – Why an Experienced Supply Chain Matters - we had several questions submitted to our presenter, Ed McMahon, CEO at Epec. We have compiled these questions into a readable format on our blog.
Q&A From Our Live PCB Webinar
- What is the easiest way to find out if there are other more readily available laminates for my PCB design?
- Does the number of layers add significantly to the lead time?
- How willing are the large shops to take on small projects, 20-50 small boards for instance?
- Do you have an option for a free DFM file check?
- Is Epec a large enough supplier to have guaranteed space on air shipments from China? We have had our fair share of issues dealing with freight brokers.
- On the slide about laminate materials you mentioned stocking/pre-buy options. How would we go about requesting a laminate with long lead times?
Watch the Recording Below:
Question: What is the easiest way to find out if there are other more readily available laminates for my PCB design?
Answer: One of the things that we work with our customers on, if you've got a laminate that you built your design on and you're finding that you're struggling to get the laminate, what we ask you to do is you send us the data sheet, and you highlight the specific characteristics of that data sheet that are most important to you, whether it's the DK or whatever value it is. Once we get that data sheet from you, we will then go through and look through all the other options, and we can send you back the data sheets on similar materials that'll allow you to then fire their values into your calculations to help you figure out if they're going to be available or not. But that's the easiest way. On our website and on all the PCB laminate manufacturers’ websites, you can get those data sheets. They're right out there; they're available. And if you can't find them, you can contact your fabricator and we can certainly get you one.
Question: Does the number of layers add significantly to the lead time?
Answer: What's interesting is that it used to be yes. If you went from a 12-layer to a 16-layer board, that ended up being a bunch of time. You had to do silver films for each one. You had to go through and go through AOI. You had to go through AOI films, especially there's a tight job. You had to go through quality. You had to image them all. But with things like laser direct imaging now, If it's only a 4-panel job and you're adding four more layers, that's just four more images. And when it's coming right out of the LDI, it's really not adding a ton more time. It's really minuscule. You may add a little bit more time at the electrical test side because you're adding some more nets. But, technically, going from a 12- to 16-layer really isn't adding a whole lot more time from our perspective. If you need to add some more layers to get what you want, don't worry about adding the time. Once you're into the 8, 10, 12 layers, adding two more or four more, as long as there's not blind or buried associated with it, you're really not going to add any more time for us, or any more time than that.
Question: How willing are the large shops to take on small projects, 20-50 small boards for instance?
Answer: It's interesting. For the last, I don't know, 20 years, 18 by 24 was the panel size that everybody used, and that’s what we used as an industry, and that did well when you were talking about how it came out of the panels that we got it from. But, when you looked at post-edge punch and X-ray registration, that was really good to help us stay with 18 by 24 panels as the tolerances just got tighter. But, in all honesty, when you get down to where we are today with some of these features, an 18 by 24 panel's really just too big, in many instances. So, we go ahead and shrink it down, and in many instances even on some of the Rogers material, even a 12 by 18 is too much to be able to manage. A lot of fabricators basically get the material in a 48 by 48 inch sheet. And domestically, when we're doing it, because we're usually dealing with smaller panel sizes, it's even better if we have to manage a larger amount of smaller panels because you're still not talking about that many.
And the thing in Asia is that because there's so much automation, the fact of the matter is that the handling isn't a big issue to them anymore. So, even though they're using smaller panels and they're getting a better yield out of the 48 by 48 inch sheet, that's more important these days than what you can get on an 18 by 24 inch panel. It used to be 18 by 24 was the Holy Grail, but that really isn't so much anymore, especially when the technology gets up.
Question: Do you have an option for a free DFM file check?
Answer: Yes. You can find the link here to submit a free DFM file check for both rigid PCBs as well as flex circuits. We also perform this on every order to eliminate delays and quality problems discovered before fabrication.
Question: Is Epec a large enough supplier to have guaranteed space on air shipments from China? We have had our fair share of issues dealing with freight brokers.
Answer: Yes. Epec is a large customer of UPS, which guarantees us space on flights daily out of their Hong Kong shipping hub.
Question: On the slide about laminate materials you mentioned stocking/pre-buy options. How would we go about requesting a laminate with long lead times?
Answer: You can let your Sales or Customer Service representative know, or if you are not currently a customer you can send us a quick email to firstname.lastname@example.org stating the laminate you require and we will follow up with you on the rest of the details.