Collaboration: The Key to Streamlining Your Design Process

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We recently spoke with Patrick Davis, product management director of Cadence Design Systems, about the benefits of collaboration between PCB designers and fabricators—and the drawbacks to throwing designs “over the wall.” Patrick explains why designers and fabricators often seem to be talking past each other, the role that EDA software companies can play in facilitating collaboration, and why IPC-2581 may be the right means for connecting all of design’s stakeholders.

Andy Shaughnessy: Patrick, please share your thoughts on collaboration between designers and fabricators, and where it all begins.

Patrick Davis: I think the collaboration is extremely important. It’s that last mile, as they call it, when you come out of the design process and you're trying to get it to the fab shop, the assembly shop, in an efficient manner. Right now, the communications are through email, PowerPoint, Excel spreadsheet, carrier pigeon, and a few other ways to get your data back and forth.

We want to streamline that and make a digital thread to pull everything together. I like the idea of digital rope because the ends spread out, you have a lot of places in the very beginning and a lot of places at the very end, but it's all one common rope going back and forth.

Cadence believes that this is pretty important, why we are so heavily invested in the IPC-2581 standard, and why we're trying to push that forward. We think it's the right tool to be able to help everybody communicate up and down the line, through the entire design process.

Shaughnessy: Designers say there needs to be more collaboration with fabricators, but a lot of times it just doesn’t happen. There’s often very little communication with the fab.

Davis: That’s true. We’re making it convenient to communicate within the tools themselves. Here’s a little of my background: I ran design teams for years at a contract manufacturer, and I did fab and assembly. My door opened onto the shop floor, and when the “Blue Smurfs” came into my office, it meant that my team screwed up—so I'm extremely familiar with that world.

Now, Cadence has a set of tools called DesignTrue and the DesignTrue DFM Portal. We ask fabricators to put in their design rules and say, “This is the rule set that we can build to.” Then a designer says, “I have a design with an aspect ratio of 15:1, and I have 3.5-mil space and trace. Who can build this?” The designer can simply look up who builds this type of board in the portal and has the option to contact them to build the design.

To read this entire interview, which appeared in the September 2021 issue of Design007 Magazine, click here.


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