Target Condition

Column from: Kelly Dack

Kelly Dack, CIT, CID+, is a PCB designer, writer and educator with a demonstrated history of success in the electronics design & manufacturing industries. Kelly understands that PCB design involves a lot more than getting electrons to flow through a circuit on a PCB. He has dedicated his career to demonstrating that PCB design must include knowledge about how to lay out a PCB to flow efficiently through the manufacturing process lines for fabrication and assembly. Kelly’s holistic experience in the printed circuit design and manufacturing industries is underlined by proven PCB design capability serving a wide array of aerospace, medical, telecommunications, and gaming industries. Currently, Kelly provides DFx-centered PCB design layout and manufacturing engineering services for a dynamic EMS provider in the Pacific Northwest. Additionally, he is employed by EPTAC Corporation as a Certified PCB Design (CID) instructor. Kelly has a passion for on-cam interviewing and product promotion and appears as a frequent guest editor on I-Connect’s Realtime With, video content.

December 19, 2023

Target Condition: Designing Unconventional Geometries

Geometric interference: In terms of a PCB design, this is a condition in which a mechanical feature on a finished PCB could come into unwanted contact with a significant counterpart, thereby affecting further assembly or electromechanical performance.
November 02, 2023

Target Condition: What the Heck? A PCB Tech Spec Check

In 1972, learned the adage “Measure twice, cut once” from my seventh-grade woodshop teacher, Mr. Fenoglio. To this day, I hear his voice every time I use a pencil to mark a piece of wood that I’m ready to cut. I mark it and then re-measure the edge to which it will join before sawing or drilling. Over time, I’ve saved a lot of money avoiding costly personal woodworking and building project errors. I wish I could say that my PCB design record over the years was similarly as error free in regard to form, fit, and function.
July 07, 2023

Target Condition: Keeping Your Design on the Road

Is CAD data output alone enough to move your design through the processing leading to global manufacturing success? Form, fit, and function are often referred to in the context of part interchangeability: How well parts will fit together with other parts after rolling off a manufacturing production line? Without key specification limits for these physical performance requirements, a PCB design is destined for quotation delays, no-bids, or outright manufacturing rejection, which can kill time-to-market product development goals.
March 15, 2023

Target Condition: The Tale of Five CAD Monkeys

Many electronics engineering groups have a hierarchical structure, with senior-, mid-, and junior-level engineering personnel possessing various depths of subject matter expertise. The head of an engineering group is usually one who has risen through the ranks of the organization and has fought and won many project battles; they’ve survived and can pass on knowledge, wisdom, and guidance.
October 27, 2022

Target Condition: Scaling PCB Design to the Power of 10

I often reflect on the formative years of my PCB design career when a senior design engineer gave me some sound advice: “Kelly, never design anything that can’t be built.” I think of his words every time I begin laying out a board and while I’m reviewing and performing DFM audits on customer PCB designs which are being transitioned to volume production. The process of design shapes an idea into a readily producible, physical prototype which can be evaluated for functionality and performance. With regard to “build-ability,” these days, once a prototype materializes, we are challenged differently than when I began back designing boards in the 1980s.
September 01, 2022

Target Condition: Practical Packaging Density in PCB Design

Just as I tend to exhibit discomfort in oversized conference halls and meeting rooms, I self-diagnose as agoraphobic when it comes to entering PCB layouts full of wasted space. Mechanical constraints which utilize the printed circuit board substrate material as a mechanical or structural “filler” within an electronic product, under-utilizing the material for its intended purpose to support conductive circuitry, grate on me like nails on a chalkboard. I’ve seen an eight-inch, triangular shaped support bracket designed out of 0.093" thick FR-4 laminate material. It was contrived and specified by an uninformed mechanical engineering overachiever who proposed transforming the original sheet metal bracket into a “dual purpose” PCB solution in order to support the electronic engineer’s connector and associated circuitry. The circuit added to this clumsy “printed circuit bracket” monstrosity occupied just over a single square inch and seemed a ghastly waste of resources.
June 09, 2022

Target Condition: Designing With the 5Ws and Other Acronyms

Who, what, when, where, and why with? I’ve slowly become disillusioned over the past decade with the whole “design-for” schtick. Design for manufacturing or “DFM” has become extremely subjective. I must say I am even becoming hesitant to splatter the acronym “DFM” when referencing job descriptions or when considering a layout tool’s manufacturing analysis audit anymore because the term is so cliché. I know it shouldn’t be construed in such a way, but from my perspective, running a DFM check on a PCB design layout is inadequate unless the audit routine checks against the manufacturing constraint values of the volume supplier which in most cases it is not until it is too late.
May 17, 2022

Target Condition: Happier in a Vacuum: The Design Narcissist

Without a doubt, arrogant workplace attitudes have existed in this industry over the decades. Hopefully, as a profession, PCB designers are moving forward and accepting the fresh, positive signals from the many training leaders and trade organizations emphasizing the importance of stakeholder awareness. These visionary champions are conveying the message that we are better off when we look out for all our important industry stakeholders’ functions collectively, as we perform within our personal areas of expertise.
May 05, 2022

Target Condition: Mandatory Masking Guidelines

Solder mask is a fair topic to cover here as there are a few designer opinions which could use a little a little masking themselves, as they appear to be uninformed and can come across as downright dictatorial. After spending a few years now as a captive PCB designer working within the walls of PCB fabrication and assembly, I am qualified to say that it takes exhaustive communication efforts to work with our manufacturing stakeholders when a design does not allow for a manufacturer’s unique manufacturing process capability.
February 23, 2022

Target Condition: Livin’ in a PCB Stakeholder’s Paradise

A few months ago, I was offered a unique opportunity to serve as the AltiumLive Connect 2022 show host for the virtual event during the last full week of January. It started with an idea I had during a meeting with Altium last October to create a musical promo for the annual summit. I love to write songs and I’ve written a few which have been used commercially. But for a technical electronics trade show, I knew that would have to reach far outside my normal styles of composition.
December 07, 2021

Target Condition: ‘Dealing’ With PCB Design

Welcome to Kelly Dack's new column, Target Condition, where he will be pursuing the need for stakeholder advocacy in the printed circuit board industry. He will be deliberating topics essential to helping all of us understand what each PCB project stakeholder needs in order to achieve 100% acceptability for their stake in a PCB design project. These requirements will be expressed using the same helpful, graphic target condition example methodology which is utilized in the IPC-A-600 & A-610 specifications. He said, "I’m looking forward to exploring along with you the PCB stakeholder target condition requirements for PCB sales & business development, engineering, design, procurement, manufacturing, test, inspection and customer satisfaction."
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