Ask the manufacturer!

Probably some of you have noted the article in PCB007: It is all about visiting the fabricator to understand the manufacturing process and take that into account all lessons learnt during your design work. The main part of the article is about learning the manufacturing process constraints, but the same principle applies to the question of learning what the manufacturer actually does with the data you send out to them. There remains (confirmed by the survey: a massive understanding gap between what many designers think the manufacturers does with the data supplied, and what the manufacturer actually does. The classical one is the perception that the data supplied is actually used to drive the manufacturing machines; well it isn’t! It is read into a CAM system further analysis and processing. The last thing the manufacturer does is actually generate the machine driver-files. So, designers out there, I ask the question: when did you last ask your fabricator or assembly house what they actually do with the data you supply them? Did you succeed to move the conversation from “we can build from what you send us – no problem” to “well actually, if you just sent us a single ODB++file with the following attributes set, we will not need anything else…”? Without an open dialogue between manufacturer and designer, progress is unlikely. Did I hear somebody mention “over the wall syndrome”?