PCB Design For Manufacturing (DFM) & Handoff Mistakes To Avoid | Laura Martin, Summit Interconnect

Guests Laura Martin | Uploaded : 01/09/2023

The EEcosystem Podcast

PCB Design For Manufacturing (DFM) & Handoff Mistakes To Avoid | Laura Martin, Summit Interconnect

In this episode, EE and former Lockheed Martin PCB expert join us to discuss why the hand-off between design engineers and their fabricators has become so challenging and problematic. She explains how, in her new role at Summit Interconnect, she is developing a team and a program dedicated to helping support, educate, and empower engineers. She also offers ways to improve your knowledge and skills in DfM best practices.

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								 Judy Warner (00:00.898)
Hi Laura, so good to see you. Thanks so much for joining on the podcast today. I look forward to sharing you with our guests. So why don't we start off by having you introduce yourself, tell us a little bit about your background, a brief introduction of Summit and what your role is there.

Laura (00:18.497)
Yeah, thank you for having me, Judy. It's always a pleasure. Yeah, so my background is I started in the PCB industry about 16, 17 years ago now. My first job was at Lockheed Martin and I was working in the lab, scrubbing inner layers, doing chemical analysis, drilling, routing, you name it. I pretty much did every...

you know, process in the lab. And then I even moved into front end engineering and I did the planning and the cam work. So I just, you know, I've spent about 10 years hands-on building circuit boards and I really loved it. You know, I just, I like the challenge. I like building things and, you know, we, you never run out of things to work on in circuit boards, so, yeah.

Judy Warner (01:12.398)
That's for sure.

Laura (01:14.617)
I ended up just really gravitating towards the cam side of things and the design for manufacturing. That's really what I enjoyed doing the most was scrubbing the designs and just making sure they were manufacturable, working with the designers on making some changes. While doing that, I also started learning all the IPC specifications. I just used all that knowledge of the hands-on.

building and IPC and was able to just review designs and make them manufacturable. So yeah, I did that for quite some time. And while I was a technician working in the lab, I was also going to college and I got my engineering degree. And then after about 15 years with Lockheed, I just felt like it was time to try something else. And so I went into the materials side,

of course, of circuit board materials, you know, can't leave the industry. I've heard that, you know, if you've been in it for what, five years, you, you're in it for life. Exactly.

Judy Warner (02:19.722)
It is true. You can't.

Judy Warner (02:25.074)
Yep, you can't get out. I tried. I left for 12 years and I got sucked back in. It's true.

Laura (02:30.473)
Well, I haven't left it yet, so, you know, and then I'll plan on it. But yeah, so I, I did material distribution and so I got to see what it's like supplying all the fabricators with materials and working with all the fabricators. That was great. But I realized I was too far removed from what I love, which was just the hands on DFM working with customers and designers. And.

So I joined Summit and they had a great opportunity for me to lead their field application engineering team. So I was able to just grow it and make it my own. And I'm really excited about the future.

Judy Warner (03:19.746)
Well, I can't wait to dig into that a bit because it's not a typical model by any stretch of the means to have a field application engineering team that I know about in the board industry. It's usually just a couple of guys in cam that are, you know, slinging back, you know, technical queries between design engineers. So it's one, I'm excited to have a fellow woman, by the way, early in my career. I did all that stuff that you did.

Laura (03:38.423)

Laura (03:44.789)

Judy Warner (03:47.754)
because I was doing inside sales, but I wanted to actually understand how boards were made. So I scrubbed inner layers, I silkscreen boards, I did spot drilling, I got all those nasty chemicals, breathed all that in. So you and I have that in common, which is really unusual to meet somebody that has that background. So I share that passion and interest with you. So

Laura (03:52.687)

That's amazing.

Laura (03:59.382)

Laura (04:03.165)
Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Laura (04:13.613)

Judy Warner (04:16.374)
What exactly attracted you to Summit? I know you said that you were, that you wanted to get back hands-on with customers, but what specifically, and as you build this, where are you with building this applications team and how do you see that unfolding as time goes on?

Laura (04:34.837)
Yeah, you know, what drew me to Summit is I did business with them as a, when I was at an OEM and I did business with them when I was a supplier to them. And you know, I love that they're the largest, you know, privately owned PCB manufacturer in the U.S. and they're investing in so much, you know, technology, you know, and people too. So I was really drawn to work with them and be part of that.

growth and I'm just really excited to see where we are in a few years. But yeah, so for my team, we're developing a different way of doing DFMs. Like you mentioned, most of the time it's just a cam operator, reviewing a board and putting a technical query out, which is fantastic. They're very knowledgeable, but I want to bring it to the next level.

where we're actually educating customers on why we're pointing out that issue. Instead of just being retroactive, I want to get ahead of it and do the education so that when we do get a design, it is easily, goes right into manufacturing. But it's quite a challenge because, as you know, boards are just getting more and more complex. So it needs that.

human touch, that person holding your hand, being a partner, and really working together up front, you know, before the design is even completely laid out.

Judy Warner (06:11.778)
Right. Which is, you know, I blogged for a while for particularly for RF engineers at leaning outboard and there were so many missing pieces for them. And just sharing the fundamentals I found was so helpful, which was shocking to me. But I love the fact that you're leaning into educating them and empowering them instead of just, you know, I think design engineers I've talked to just kind of like, oh my gosh, I sent it over. Now there's, you know,

15 TQs and I'm onto my next night or whatever. And I think both sides get frustrated. And as much as myself and others throughout the industry has said, you know, go to your board shop, partner closely. It's not always practical. So this idea of putting like a team on it is really novel. And the education side is awesome. So how exactly are you going to...

Laura (06:41.578)
I'm going to go to bed.

Laura (06:55.997)
Yeah, yeah.

Laura (07:01.686)

Judy Warner (07:08.434)
serve up that education and then I'm going to ask you a little bit about what what's changed you know over the 15 years that you've been in the business. So let's hear about ways you're going to serve up that education as well as face-to-face.

Laura (07:25.377)
Yeah, well Summit does monthly webinars where we talk about different topics, board fabrication. You know, just today we actually did one on cavities, which is a topic a lot of people always ask questions about. So we did a webinar on that. In November, my team is doing a webinar on annual ring, just, you know, maybe simple topics but things that not everybody understands or.

you know, maybe there's new designers coming into the industry. So like we need to continually just keep talking about these topics. And you never know, maybe a seasoned designer will pick up something that they didn't know. You know, and you can also follow us on LinkedIn. We post a lot and try to provide education to our customers.

Judy Warner (08:13.526)
love that because digital is always easier right away to education as well as face-to-face because it sounds like you're gonna do a lot of that so in your tenure of the industry say the last 15 years how is that you talked about complexity and I know when I had Sean on one of your executives he had talked about that incredible amount of sequential lamination

and how that sort of creates bottlenecks but the designs are so complex so over your 15 years how's that changed and how has that handoff changed and sort of the disconnect between the board fabricator and engineers.

Laura (09:00.977)
Yeah, yeah, as designs have become more complex, you know, they used to be single lamination. So it would go through the manufacturing process one time and get all the processes. But as you keep adding like more micro vias and buried vias, blind vias, stuff like that, you know, eight, 10 lamination cycles, that board has to go through the shop eight to 10 times to get the plating and the drilling. So

Judy Warner (09:14.115)

Laura (09:30.313)
You know, we, Sean talks about capacity erosion. Well, there's also that in the cam side, right? So it usually takes, you know, maybe a few hours to cam a job, but when you start having a board with eight to 10 lamination cycles, it just takes longer. And, you know, and then that's the same for DFM. It's just so much more to go through and look at. Um, you know, so.

Laura (09:58.593)
Cut. No. Oh. And I'm like, what was the other question? Oh, good.

Judy Warner (09:58.998)
You did good. You did, you're doing really good.

Judy Warner (10:05.302)
Um, no, and it was just, it was just the handoff. So I want to do that one over cause I hated how I answered the question, but you did it perfectly. Okay. So I'm going to ask the question more succinctly. So Laura and your tenure in the industry and as complexities have radically increased over the last 10 to 15 years of your career, what has changed and what

Laura (10:15.425)
Okay, I'll try again.

Judy Warner (10:34.078)
makes today's DFM more complex between design engineer and fabricator.

Laura (10:44.941)
Well, I don't know what you're thinking.

Judy Warner (10:49.767)
Oh, I wanna make a blooper reel.

Laura (10:53.901)

Judy Warner (10:54.586)
Maybe I just take that question and then I go put on your... Like, well, it's gonna be like a Frankenstein podcast. We're just gonna sew all the body parts together.

Laura (11:05.549)
Okay, alright, but we've only cut once, so like, if we do it right, we only have to stitch it one time. Okay, I'm sorry, I need to get- what is my insertion?

Judy Warner (11:08.806)
Yes, we're doing good. Yes. So, okay, I'm gonna...

You just killed it. It was you talked about.

Laura (11:20.433)
You said handoff and I'm like, what does that mean?

Judy Warner (11:24.294)
Oh, okay. I'm gonna say the handoff, not hands off, the handoff between engineers to the board shop.

Laura (11:30.98)

Judy Warner (11:37.454)
I need to ask this better because okay. Um, maybe I say, what are, what, what makes, okay. What should I ask Laura? Just tell me.

Laura (11:44.087)

Laura (11:50.393)
No, I just I feel like it's almost like maybe two different topics So it's like confused or if we answer the question on How has like the board complexity impacted manufacturing I Can tell I can talk about the capacity erosion and then the front end And then maybe ask this question. I don't know how everyone

Judy Warner (12:04.162)
There it is. Okay.

Judy Warner (12:10.75)
Okay, okay.

Okay, so tell me that question again. So how has the complexity changed?

Laura (12:19.625)
Or how has, how has it impacted manufacturing? The board complex, how is the board or increasing complexity or how does that impact manufacturing? Cause nobody asked that question, but you do.

Judy Warner (12:25.493)


Judy Warner (12:33.598)
Okay, all right, all right. I'm gonna ask it, cause you told me to.

Laura (12:38.014)
Okay, well, you don't have to tell me the answer to my other question.

Judy Warner (12:43.817)
Okay, we're going to keep going and we're going to try not to bust up laughing. Okay.

Laura (12:48.075)
Oh, yeah

Judy Warner (12:51.05)
So Laura, I've been out of the board manufacturing industry for a long time, but over your last say 15 years in the industry, how has the increasing complexity of the boards affected the manufacturer?

Laura (13:07.093)
Yeah, you know, if a long time ago, boards are just single lamination through a hole. And, you know, as boards have becoming more complex, there's more lamination cycles. So, you know, every time it gets laminated, okay, I'm going to start over again. Because I feel like, can you ask? Yeah.

Judy Warner (13:27.15)
I'm going to ask that question again. Okay.

Judy Warner (13:38.89)
Well, Laura, so I've been out of the board industry for a while now and I'm a little out of touch, but I know you've been deep in it for the last 15 years and I know boards have gotten very, very complex and how does that affect a manufacturer? As well as I know engineers are now EE's. So you know, tell me a little bit about what that's like in the real world.

Laura (14:06.269)
Yeah, you know, as boards have become more complex, you know, they went from a single lamination, you know, in one plating cycle to having multiple, you know, via structures like blind and berry vias and micro vias and so and then a number of lamination cycles has increased. So the boards used to go through the shop one time and get drilled and plated and be done, but now every time you add another lamination cycle...

You know, you see many 8, 10 lamination cycles is pretty standard now. And every time it gets a lamination cycle has to go through that drilling and plating process again. So it's just really eroded the capacity in the shop, but that's also, you know, transferred over to the front end engineering and DFM. It takes a lot longer to go through all those layers and all those process steps. And, you know, so that that's the impact that it's had.

on the manufacturer.

Judy Warner (15:06.222)
So, and what's your just observation since you do deal with design engineers? Has this felt a little overwhelming for them to understand what it is you guys do inside that board shop and making sure that they have some level of manufacturability when they hand them off?

Oh, I totally, totally screwed you up. Okay, I think that's a good question to ask. Like, because remember we're talking to engineers. So, what I wanna, the thread I wanna pick up here, and we can skip it if you don't want to, but I think the audience might appreciate it, is.

Laura (15:29.901)

Judy Warner (15:52.81)
This is where we can go towards the next question about high touch. Is that it's not a simple run a simple um it's not just a simple run it through your DFM tool and hand it off. They're too complex right? So that's kind of what I'm digging for. Okay so I'll ask again.

Laura (16:02.833)
Okay, I see what you're saying. It's that's the partnering

Laura (16:08.918)

Laura (16:15.489)
I like it.

Judy Warner (16:21.162)
So Laura, I know you deal with design engineers all the time and it's been a while since I've been out of that game with all this complexity. You know, what is the kind of feedback you're getting from engineers because it sounds like they can't easily just run it through a DFM check in their EDA software. Like, what does that look like in the real world?

Laura (16:41.913)
Right, it's just becoming increasingly more important to have a partnership with the designer before they even finish the design. Because what happens is if they don't get involved and they just hand off a board design and if they didn't understand the manufacturing limitations or capabilities of different board shops, a lot of times they might get a no bid or a high...

cost more because a fabricator might see that it's just more difficult to build than it really has to be. So that partnership upfront is very important as boards get even more and more complex.

Judy Warner (17:25.834)
I agree. And it can really impact cost and time and a lot of different things. And, um, it's really hard to get that message across. Like come talk to us before you're finished with the design. And that's, it's a hard message, but I trust you and your team are going to work on carrying out that message. So what you talked about design engineers really needing to have a close partnership.

Laura (17:38.132)
Yes, exactly.

Judy Warner (17:56.002)
which is something I've been talking about, but it sounds like you're actually coming up with tangible solutions. So what, boards are really unique. So what do today's complex design engineers really need from someone like you and your team, Laura, and from a partner?

Laura (18:20.89)
Yeah, just having that open communication, just being able to reach out and ask questions and we will help them, guide them on the right design for manufacturability roles. And we've also come up with multiple solutions to address all the variety needs in the industry as well. So I feel like we're getting creative, we're hearing the...

You know, we're rising to the occasion with the increased complexity and every customer has different needs. And so we're coming up with multiple solutions instead of just send it through the tooling department and get a DFM. You know, I keep asking people like, what does DFM mean to you? You know, it's like, I really break it down and I try to understand what does the customer actually need? Do they need a full tooling DFM? And, you know, which puts.

Judy Warner (19:11.739)

Laura (19:18.753)
pressure on our front-end engineering resources, or do they need an FAAE to review it for producibility and say, you know, this is going in the right direction, let's keep doing that, or, oh, I've identified something that maybe we need to back up and, you know, go look at, how can we make this more manufacturable? So, yes, it's very important, I think, to start talking, you know, with your fabricator before you finish the design.

Judy Warner (19:48.27)
I love that. I totally agree. That was even true back in my day. And I always celebrated when someone actually talked to me before they designed a board. It was such a nice luxury. So, um, what, what advice would you give? I, I know as you lean into this, there's going to be more resources available, certainly through summit. Um, and you mentioned webinars and some of the things you'll be producing. What?

Laura (19:53.15)
I'm sorry.

Judy Warner (20:17.622)
What other places do you recommend that engineers go to sort of self-educate, which is something they need to be doing as much as possible.

Laura (20:25.505)
Yeah, something that I found invaluable is just being involved in IPC. Being in the committees or just in contact with some of the committee members, you know, having a voice at the table and just hearing all the discussions. It really helped me learn, like, where the rules came from and why they came about. And, you know, and so I think that's a really great way to learn about board design and the rules.

You know, and I get a lot of education on LinkedIn. I love how there's such a variety of topics on electronics. And so I'm always reading the post. But what I really find interesting are all the comments, because then you get a all the different opinions. And it just helps you think of a different perspective, maybe. But I get a lot of education from LinkedIn, too.

Judy Warner (21:21.97)
I, you know, it sounds kind of funny, but I do too. Sometimes I call myself a cyber stalker because I'll find, I'll find people to come on the podcast that way because they're sharing something really interesting or novel or really bringing value. And so I figure since they're teaching me that, that our audience would know, know about it too. So I agree. I think LinkedIn is kind of the, the town square for the electronics industry. So I agree with you there. Um,

Laura (21:28.429)
Thank you.

Laura (21:45.984)

Judy Warner (21:50.614)
Before I let you go, Laura, what do you see? I'm just gonna ask you sort of a hard question, but what's next for Summit? I've had the pleasure of interviewing both you and Sean this year, and it sounds like you're doing really exciting stuff, so what's on the horizon, say, over the next year for you?

Laura (22:10.421)
Well, you talk to Sean, he's from Amazon, and he's really leaning into modernization. And I'm leaning into the customer obsession. My team and I are just working closely with customers to educate them and just enable that smooth handoff.

Judy Warner (22:28.062)
I love that. I love, I used to steal that customer obsession line myself because it's, you know, if you really do serve the customer and help the customer, you won't need to look for business. So I'm really excited to see what Summit comes up with this year and you as well. Where can our listeners go plug into some of the resources you have available at Summit right now?

Laura (22:32.118)
I'm gonna go.

Laura (22:40.416)

Laura (22:52.321)
Yeah, we have everything posted on our website, and we also post a lot of stuff on LinkedIn. So, you know, follow us there, follow me on LinkedIn, reach out to me, I'm happy to help any designer with their boards.

Judy Warner (23:05.99)
Okay. I love that. Well, if you let me, I'll share your LinkedIn profile, Laura. Okay. Well, thanks again, Laura. This has been so great and it's wonderful to learn about the things that summit is doing and it's exciting to watch and I wish you all the luck.

Laura (23:11.001)

Laura (23:23.085)
Thank you, Judy. Thanks for having me.

Judy Warner (23:25.478)
It's always my pleasure. For our audience, I will go get all those links from Laura and I'll put them in the show notes for you, but make sure you go over and check out some of his website. As Laura mentioned, there's monthly webinars, some good learning resources, connect with Laura, connect with their team, and there's lots of resources out there for you to keep learning in a really easy, digestible way. So thanks so much for joining us this week. I trust you've enjoyed this conversation. We'll see you next week. Until then, remember to always stay connected to the EEcosystem.