Pulsonix 10.5 Development Driven by Customer Demand

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Williams: It’s the same with the footprint rule. We can apply those rules to the assembly as well. When something is really important, and we export the file that produces the pick-and-place assembly data, that’s optimized as well. Thus, you can optimize it based on your criteria: component positions, types, and heights.

Matties: Manufacturability is profitability, and if you’re designing for profitability, then you’re going to take advantage of every one of these rules to make sure that it’s the right orientation and the right testability.

Williams: The right package is essential. We do a lot of work with the rule sets within that, and they’re all in one place as well. Then, that rule set can be saved and used on the next design, which can be done iteratively, so you can add to a particular rule and improve or refine it.

Matties: How do you address reliability in your rules?

Williams: We’ve worked with customers doing MTBF (mean time between failure) analysis on the boards. They extract data from the product, and with our scripting language, they write scripts that have the rules and calculations within them because there are different standards for MTBF. Then, they write it so that it’s in the company standard with the rules in the software. The results come out of the back end of it.

Matties: One of the other areas that we see is when a designer hands a bare board fabricator the package, it’s not always accurate or complete, and there are a lot of back-and-forth exchanges and wastefulness.

Williams: Many core rules that they test against should be built into the CAD product, which is what we’ve done. We’ve built things like acid trap checks, acute angle checking, and whether items can be drilled and manufactured. We’ve put basic manufacturing rules into Pulsonix so that they can be checked by the user. They don’t necessarily need an understanding as long as they know what the rule is checking, which the default will be a certain rule that they can check against. After that, they can interpret the rules.

Matties: In some cases, manufacturers spend hours and hours preparing, and that isn’t even to do the job. Just to prepare a quote, they have to do a lot of work, and they’re not necessarily awarded the job.

Williams: You’re right. But they run it through their own tool and give you back a set of results, which you must then interpret yourself, or they’ll make recommendations on it. They’ll say, “This rule doesn’t meet these criteria.” Then, you’ll have to work out what the rule is, which is why it’s important to work with the manufacturer and consistently work with the same person.

Matties: My suggestion to a fabricator recently was to create an incentive and say, “We’ll give you X% discount if your data package comes in 100% correct,” because that’s a lot of time saved.

Williams: Yes. Or they have a package online that you can drop your design into and it does the DFM for you. It says, “You’ve passed 100%,” or not, as is pretty normal.

Matties: We have to streamline this process. With this new discipline, there’s also a new generation of designers coming into the marketplace.

Williams: Who are not necessarily savvy to manufacturing processes. They’ll be savvy to what they know, which is usually the core electronics; after that, that they have to learn how the boards are made, how to design it, and then the manufacturing process afterward.

Matties: Now, we’re seeing the move to smart factories. How are you playing into that?

Williams: We can write any format that’s needed. At the moment, we can write specific drivers, so if there’s a pick-and-place machine, we can write that. We write generic formats like the older GenCAD format as well as IPC-356, JTAG, and IPC-2581, which is one of the new standards for which we’re one of the consortium members. For anything else, we can write through our report maker facility, which is fully customizable for the user; you can write whatever you want from it.

Matties: When someone comes up with the design, the bill of materials is created. Is Pulsonix checking parts inventory for availability so the user can design with current parts?

Williams: We can do that. We don’t have direct inventory checks at the moment, but the bill of materials can be written out in formats that can be checked online. We also have the database connection utility which connects Pulsonix to a company’s inventory system. From here, a user can select and use current stock or preferred items from preferred suppliers. These would have been preselected by the buyer who would source based on rates and availability.

Matties: And also to ensure that you’re utilizing components that are long in supply because there a lot of them that are in short supply right now.

Williams: Our users can also browse the web-based component search engine. Once they search for a part, it will deliver them an EDA part that’s in Pulsonix format. They can drop the part into Pulsonix from the website, and it will drag in the relevant supply information with it as well. Once in Pulsonix, it also drops it automatically into the user’s library for use in another design.

Matties: They’re getting all of the drawings of the parts and everything.

Williams: Yes, as well as the attributes with it. The cost, availability, lead time, and obsolescence are all dragged in with it in real time. When they produce that bill of materials, it will already be checked. Then, that also goes into our library or vault and could be re-used without having to go back to the search engine.

Matties: It sounds like the vault is a big deal in your process,

Williams: It can be. Again, it’s one of those items that not everybody uses or wants to use. It’s something where bigger companies would say, “We’ll use the vault because it gives us a level of control over who’s doing what to the libraries and designs.” Other companies will ignore it completely, focused only on the current PCB design iteration.

Matties: Talk about the advantage of the vault.

Williams: The vault is a managed repository for parts, technologies, designs, and all sorts of information that you can book in and out. It has an audit trail, and ours shows you the differences. If you change a footprint, for instance, and you’ve changed a pad size, it will show you before and after. It snapshots the two different versions and shows you which is the latest. It will also show you who’s changed it and the date it was changed. Only certain people can edit the vault or items within the vault; everybody else is a user. We have that as a top-level process for our users supplied free of charge.

Matties: It seems like a resource like that would be highly valued in many companies. Why would a company choose not to use it?

Williams: I think they see it as an overhead to slow them down—something that’s perhaps not manageable for them at the particular time—but they can do it at a later time anyway. A new user can use the libraries, and drop the libraries and designs into the vault afterward and start using from that point in time. It provides them a mechanism that can be called on once they have grasped the Pulsonix fundamentals.

Matties: It comes down to what kind of company and who you want to work with.

Williams: Sometimes, it’s who you’re allowed to work with because a lot of companies will say, “You can only use XYZ.” But we tend to find that users break those rules as well. They’ll say, “Corporate told to use this tool, but we find it hard to use, so we’ll take yours and use it for prototyping.”

Matties: So, the attributes or decision points that they have to make must be related to ease of use, which you highlighted. It has to be logical and capable and meet the requirements of HDI and high-speed design, etc.—whatever the latest trends are. It sounds like you’re meeting all of that.

Williams: We do.

Matties: And then the price point. Yours is a license, so how does that work?

Williams: Customers pay a one-time fee for the product, and then they can pay for an annual subscription if they want to take support following the first 12 months. They can take support and the new product, and we encourage people to do that because we’ve set our price point and maintenance very low. The cost of ownership is very good.

Matties: The new release is coming out. Is that built into version 10.5?

Williams: All of our new users will get 10.5 as well as anybody with maintenance.

Matties: If you’re not on the maintenance side, then you have to come in and add maintenance?

Williams: You have to add the maintenance package, but we have about 75% coverage of maintenance uptake because we’ve made it so that it’s a workable value for users. It’s not painful like a re-ownership of the product; it’s not even an add-on. It’s more like something they’ll do as routine. It’s comparable to Microsoft or other software companies.

Matties: And everything is secure. Is this a cloud-based service, or is this local?

Williams: It’s a local service with the licensing. That’s the way we do it at the moment.

Matties: Thank you, Bob.

Williams: Thanks, Barry. It has been a pleasure.




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