Just Ask Tara Dunn: Why Don’t Fabricators Provide More Feedback to Designers?


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First, we asked you to send in your questions for Happy Holden, Joe Fjelstad, John Mitchell, and others in our “Just Ask” series. Now, it’s Tara Dunn’s turn! Tara is the vice president of marketing and business development for Averatek. A regular Flex007 columnist, Tara discusses flexible circuits, rigid-flex, and rigid PCBs, as well as RF/microwave technology, microelectronics, and additive processes. She is also co-founder of Geek-a-Palooza and a show manager for the SMTA Additive Electronics TechXchange event. She has over 20 years of experience in the PCB industry. We hope you enjoy “Just Ask Tara.”

Q: Why don’t flex and rigid fabricators provide more feedback to designers, especially if it’s not good design and engineering work?

A: This is an interesting question. My initial tongue-in-cheek reaction was that fabricators are not often asked to provide feedback. In my experience, fabricators are very willing to provide feedback on PCB design, flex or rigid, and that conversation is something that I would always encourage. These conversations are always more impactful when fabricators are involved early in the design process.

Discussions about stackup and design for manufacturability concerns—especially for designs pushing the limits on multiple different fabrication parameters that require trade-offs—or for designs with concerns about flexibility and robustness of a design are critical and can have a significant impact on cost and reliability.

Unfortunately, with the rapid pace of the industry, those conversations often happen only after a design is complete and sent to the fabricator for manufacturing. At that point in the process, time deadlines often loom, and it can be time-consuming and expensive to rethink that design to improve manufacturability.

I would challenge both designers and fabricators to take a step back and find ways to better communicate about DFM issues early in the process. There is a lot of great content available, but that cannot replace conversation, or even a facility tour, as a learning tool. Reach out to your fabricators early in the design and ask their opinion.

To submit your questions for Tara, click here.

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