Stephen Chavez: Breaking the Design Data Bottleneck


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When we started planning this issue on design data, I knew we’d have to speak with PCB designer and EPTAC design instructor Steph Chavez. In this interview, he explains some of the biggest issues related to design data, and offers some ways forward.

Andy Shaughnessy: Steph, can you tell us about your background? Then, we'll talk about what you are seeing and hearing regarding PCB design as a design instructor for EPTAC Corporation.

Steph Chavez: Sure. I hold a seat on the global IPC Designers Council (DC) Executive Board. I am my local area’s IPC DC chapter president in Phoenix. I have about 28 years of experience in the industry. I've spent the last 15 years of my career as a lead designer successfully designing a wide spectrum of PCB designs—both simple and complex—including HDI, flex, and rigid-flex. I’ve also led global PCB design teams, which include managing diverse, multicultural teams in multiple time zones. The foundation of my education and leadership stems from my time in service in the U.S. Marine Corps as an avionics technician. Whenever I’m speaking, I always stress that you should have plenty of knowledge resources in your “bag of magic,” so to speak, This includes establishing your professional network, which I believe this is key for your overall success. I-Connect007 is a great resource of knowledge sharing and up-to-date industry content.

Shaughnessy: We appreciate that. We like to publish information that designers can use right away. Speaking of which, one thing everybody was talking about at IPC APEX EXPO 2018 was data. The Design Forum hardly covered anything about how to design a board; it was all about data. You hear from fabricators that 90% of new customers submit design data packages that are incomplete or inaccurate. They don't provide an updated netlist, etc. You said that you've been dealing with a lot of data issues lately. Can you tell us about that?

Chavez: As a designer, when you think about the data you’re presenting or handing off to your suppliers, you should have a basic understanding of IPC standards because that is how you're going to communicate your intent to your fabricator and assembler. At the same time, you need to fully comprehend what you are giving to your suppliers and what you are stating in your fabrication and assembly drawings. Are you correctly stating your fabrication or assembly notes? Do they make sense? Do you have all the required information listed to fabricate your PWB or assemble your PWA successfully? Do you have statements in your drawings that conflict with one another and could cause confusion? Worse yet—and I feel this is the root of the problem—do you understand your company’s documentation details, or are you just “rubber stamping” your documentation because “that’s how it’s always been done?”

These are some of the questions that come to mind when I think about bad data being handed off. Board design construction is key for success and getting the details correct is paramount. Many times, bad data is given because people are not paying attention to the details. Some designers simply don't know what they don't know and pass on bad data.

In my experience, when you get into production runs with a top-tier supplier, they will not change or modify your data without permission. If you send a job over to them with issues, concerns, or missing data, chances are it's going to be put on hold. By the time you receive any feedback that your job has been put on hold, it could be five or more days lost in a schedule before you can address these issues flagged by the supplier. For many companies, that’s a huge negative hit. The sad thing is that this usually stems from something that could have been easily mitigated up front in the beginning stages of your design with the supplier.

To read this entire article, which appeared in the October 2018 issue of Design007 Magazine, click here.

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