The Printed Circuit Designer's Guide to...™
Assessing Your PCB Documentation Process

by: Mark Gallant, Downstream Technologies

When the PCB layout is finished, the designer is still not quite done. The designer’s intent must still be communicated to the fabricator through accurate PCB documentation.

Documentation can be an error-prone task—one that may take up to 20% of the total PCB design cycle time. Many designers still utilize documentation strategies that date to the ‘80s and ‘90s.

This book, written by Mark Gallant of DownStream Technologies, explains how the automated documentation solutions of today can eliminate post-processing errors and speed up time to market.

This book is a must-read for any PCB designers or design engineers who would like to adopt 21st-century PCB documentation processes.


Mark has been involved in PCB design and fabrication for over thirty nine years, first as a PCB designer using vellum and tape and later using early EDA tools, including Racal-Redac Maxi and Visula. When PADS-PCB was introduced, Mark was one of its first one hundred users. Soon after, Mark joined the ranks of PADS Software as a Technical Support Engineer. During Mark’s twenty years with PADS and ultimately Mentor Graphics, he served in several key roles. His predominant role was Product Marketing and Product Definition for the PADS schematic, PCB design and autorouting products. In May of 2011, Mark joined DownStream Technologies as Senior Product Marketing Manager. Currently, Mark is responsible for Product Marketing and Product Definition for DownStream’s products.

DownStream Technologies, LLC is a software and services company focused on helping high-tech engineering organizations optimize and automate the PCB Release Process. We deliver a truly integrated manufacturing data preparation platform, with solutions that allow engineering and manufacturing teams to work together to transition Printed Circuit Boards (PCB) designs into successful, physical products by providing fully integrated manufacturing data preparation solutions.

DownStream’s solutions are the defacto standard for engineering professionals to post process PCB designs to create and distribute all the deliverables required for a complete PCB assembly release package. CAM350® and DFMStream® provide verification, optimization, and output generation data to efficiently drive PCB fabrication. BluePrint for Printed Circuit Boards® works with CAM350 and other PCB CAD systems to help quickly produce comprehensive electronic drawings to drive PCB fabrication, assembly, and inspection.

This book has been technically reviewed by the following experts:

Kelly Dack CID+, CIT, EPTAC Corporation

Jack Olson CID+, Caterpillar

Chapter Summaries

  • Chapter 1

    The History of Documentation

    Chapter 1 traces the history of documentation, from early drawings through pens and protractors and the digital processes of today.
  • Chapter 2

    Electronic Engineering Is Born

    Chapter 2 takes the reader through the beginnings of electronic engineering during WWII and the hand-taping PCB designs of the ‘60s and ‘70s.
  • Chapter 3

    PCB Documentation

    Chapter 3 describes the earliest days of PCB design documentation, including paper and Mylar, through the CAD files and manufacturing drawings of the Digital Age.
  • Chapter 4

    Common PCB Documentation Workflow

    Chapter 4 illustrates a typical PCB documentation process, including several elements that could be improved.
  • Chapter 5

    The Cost of Inefficient Production of PCB Documentation

    In Chapter 5, the author lays out some of the extra costs associated with using slow, inaccurate post-processing methods.
  • Chapter 6

    Motivation to Change

    Chapter 6 examines some of the benefits that OEMs can realize by adopting a modern PCB documentation process, including better repeatability and cycle time reductions of approximately 20%.

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What Our Readers Are Saying

-Kelly Dack, CIT, CID+ PCB Designer, Instructor & Manufacturing Liaison
Full Review

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Book Recommendation -- By Kelly Dack, CIT, CID+ PCB Designer, Instructor & Manufacturing Liaison

Assessing Your PCB Documentation Process is a work that answers some important questions PCB designers should be considering with regard to how much valuable time is spent documenting a PCB design package. I appreciate how Mark Gallant has taken the lead to describe some interesting history on product documentation challenges, and has provided highlights on how information embedded in a PCB design layout database can be leveraged to efficiently and dynamically output more accurate PCB design documentation.

Kelly Dack

Kelly Dack understands that PCB design involves more than how well a designer can get electrons to flow through a circuit on a PCB. He has dedicated his career to demonstrating that PCB design also includes how well a designer can get a PCB layout to flow efficiently through the manufacturing process floors of fabrication and assembly. Kelly’s holistic experience in the printed circuits industry is underlined by employment serving companies in aerospace, medical, telecommunications, gaming, PCB fabrication, and EMS assembly.

Currently, Kelly provides PCB design and manufacturing engineering services for a dynamic EMS provider in the Pacific Northwest. Additionally, he serves on the executive staff of IPC Designer Council and is employed by EPTAC Corporation as a CID instructor. Kelly is an author and contributes on-camera talent for the I-Connect007 Real Time with… video program. He can be reached at

Jack Olson Jack Olson has been designing circuit boards for over 30 years. He has CID and CID+ certification from IPC, has served in several IPC Standards Development Committees, and has been awarded three Distinguished Service Awards for his participation. He enjoys all aspects of circuit board development, feels grateful that he is able to solve puzzles for a living, and hopes to continue "surfin' the learnin' curve."