Designing for Profitability: Don’t Over-Materialize


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John Bushie, applications engineering manager at ASC, explained to me recently about how designers can avoid over-materializing. He also outlined the benefits of designing for profitability.

Barry Matties: John, what does it mean to be an applications engineering manager for American Standard?

John Bushie: I work with customers to select the correct materials and structures for realizing their circuit board designs.

Matties: For context, tell me about American Standard and what the company does.

Bushie: We specialize in a wide variety of circuit board applications. We deal in the DC to 100 gigahertz range, and that means we work with conventional materials like FR4, but we also get into the more exotic and extraordinary materials, like the very low-loss PTFEs, polyimide materials, Megtron 6, as well as materials that are designed specifically for more commercial LED products , like IMS or MCPCB applications.

Matties: In your position as the application engineering manager, you must see a lot of interesting challenges.

Bushie: We do, and a lot of our expertise is brought to bear on bringing solutions to our customers. Examples are mixed dielectric metal core boards for Locomotive fuel injection to satellite based telecommunications using hybrid aluminum backed materials.

Matties: What's the most interesting challenge that you've come across, that you can recall?

Bushie: We deal with so many on a regular basis that it's difficult to answer that question.  The hybrid aluminum-backed PCB was extremely challenging.

Matties: Is there one that is a repeating challenge?

Bushie: I can answer that question quite simply. While this sample board I’m holding is commonplace for us nowadays, it was quite challenging developing the process and control procedures that allow this unusual board to be readily manufactured.  This is a vehicular collision-avoidance board, which is a 24 gigahertz application. Now it doesn't seem like much, and despite the fact that we produce 20,000 of these a week, it's a very unique board design. It ends up with four different materials combined into a structure that has a transmit and receive portion of a radar system. This is basically a compact portable radar system, which is used in automotive applications for either intelligent cruise control or, in this case, where it's simply used to detect near objects. This is unique in that it uses an RF material on the top, it uses a standard FR-4 circuit board material as basically an air spacer, and another slightly lower loss RF grade FR-4 simply as the antenna portion. Not to get into too much detail about this, but this seemingly simple board has many years of development into making it a relatively simple and manufacturable design.

To read this entire article, which appeared in the July 2016 issue of The PCB Design Magazine, click here.

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