Dana on Data: Factory 4.0 NPI Data Transfer Improvements

The recently released IPC Connected Factory Initiative scope is similar to other Factory 4.0 models with the same glaring omission: They all seem to assume that the incoming design data can’t be used as-is and must be reviewed and potentially manually modified prior to manufacturing release. The existing error-prone manufacturing process capability design rule knowledge transfer is assumed. And thus, all the existing semi-automatic data transfer process steps are maintained and not improved.

A typical PCB NPI process is pictured in Figure 1. The PCB design is completed and DFM reviewed by the OEM, then the layout data—typically in a non-intelligent Gerber format—is combined with electronic paper (ePaper) documents such as PDF or Excel formats. These are bundled and electronically transferred to the fabricator.

The design rules provided by the fabricator to the designer, which are utilized during the design and DFM review, are typically a short Excel- or PowerPoint-formatted capability matrix. These rules are a subset of those used by the manufacturer during their internal data quality analysis step, often called pre-engineering. These are combined with technical queries (TQs) that have been provided by the manufacturer for prior designs to create the detailed fabricator capability knowledge. Unfortunately, these are incomplete and make it difficult to create a design that matches the supplier capability.

After the data package is received, the fabricator first validates that the received data is complete and does not contain conflicting information. About 20-30% of all data packages fail at this step. Product engineers then review the data against the detailed plant capability and material availability. Issues and questions, or TQs, are listed in an Excel file and transmitted back to the designer via an email.

Design rules, both general and part number-specific, can be updated using the Factory 4.0 architectures. Capturing the data and process knowledge using digital twin concepts allow a significant amount of knowledge to be provided to the OEM to automatically or semi-automatically update their internal design rules.

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Figure 1: Typical Factory 4.0 data transfer process.

This current process using existing software requires that humans be involved in the data transfer between the OEM and factory. The existing process utilizes many Lean non-value-added processes because they assume that the incoming data package cannot be fabricated as-is.

Paradigm Shift
Let us do a paradigm shift to have the incoming data ready to produce the manufacturing tooling without any analysis by the fabricator. For argument’s sake, call this “Factory 4.1” data. This process eliminates the creation of ePaper documentation, human based data validation, data analysis and TQ feedback processes by using intelligent-complete design rules and replacing unintelligent data with intelligent IPC-2581 data. IPC-2581 data is compatible with the IPC CFX data, making that transfer seamless.

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Figure 2: Proposed “Factory 4.1” data transfer process.

This “Factory 4.1” design rule manufacturing-to-designer knowledge transfer process was common many years ago, back when Happy Holden and Clyde Coombs were young engineers, for captive PCB factories. It is easier to create rules for a captive shop because the designs are generally similar using common design rules and the OEM had to pay for all scrap and rework that was produced (financial motivation). The industry did not have the advanced DFM checking and editing software or intelligent data formats we currently have today.

So, how can we collectively remove the human element from the data transfer and what will be the advantages?

Fabricators:

  1. Provide a complete set of design rules to key customers. These rules do not need to include traveler creation rules, cost, or process information.
  2. Encourage your customers to provide IPC-2581 intelligent data instead of Gerber based data packages. This will enable automated data integrity, DFM checking, traveler creation and potentially lead to automated CAM.
  3. This will reduce the front-end engineering cycle time and cost by 25-50%.
  4. Create KPIs which measure jobs received that track TQs/job and Pareto TQs so you can jointly work with your customers to identify the root causes and eliminate them.

OEMs:

  1. Encourage your manufacturers to use intelligent IPC-2581 data instead of existing Gerber based packages to reduce your cycle time and data quality issues.
  2. Require your suppliers to provide detailed design guidelines to enable your teams to create perfect data packages as a standard practice.
  3. OEM DFM teams spend most of their time chasing answers for TQ questions from fabricators. Refocus them from being reactive to proactive. Focus on obtaining complete design rules from your suppliers to eliminate the TQs items. Change their KPIs.

ECAD & CAM/Engineering software suppliers:

  1. Update the layout and DFM software to incorporate all the design rules versus just the most common rules.
  2. Create a KPI which measures how many designs are created and built without any TQs being created.

There is activity in each of these areas in the industry. But there does not seem to be the focus utilizing the powerful information that the Factory 4.0 initiatives will generate that will enable an automated design transfer process to be established.

As Peter Drucker said, “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.”

Dana Korf is the principal consultant at Korf Consultancy LLC.

 

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2021

Dana on Data: Factory 4.0 NPI Data Transfer Improvements

01-14-2021

The recently released IPC Connected Factory Initiative scope is similar to other Factory 4.0 models with the same glaring omission: They all seems to assume that the incoming design data can’t be used as-is and must be reviewed and potentially manually modified prior to manufacturing release.

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2020

Dana on Data: Reducing PCB Specification Interpretation Issues

11-12-2020

The PCB industry has accepted a low-quality level of provided documentation from its customers for the past several decades. In this column, Dana Korf reviews one common fabrication print note and asks, “How do you interpret this note?”

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Dana on Data: A Team Method to Reduce Fabricator Engineering Questions

09-03-2020

Hundreds of PCB designs are released to be quoted or fabricated every day around the world, and most will have engineering questions or technical queries generated once the data package has been received and analyzed. Dana Korf outlines seven fundamental steps based on Lean/Six Sigma concepts to reduce data transfer issues.

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Dana on Data: How Can the PCB Industry Improve From COVID-19 Responses?

07-16-2020

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the world transformed a very slow medical approval process into the equivalent of a concurrent NPI process by challenging some of the golden rules. Dana Korf shares his thoughts on four areas the PCB industry can re-evaluate and improve.

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Dana on Data: The Importance of PCB Technology Roadmaps

05-14-2020

Peter Drucker once said, “Trying to predict the future is like trying to drive down a country road at night with no lights while looking out the back window.” Dana Korf explains how it is critical that PCB fabricator technology roadmaps and capacity planning align with their customers’ product development and volume requirements to ensure that optimum cost, reliability, and performance goals are achieved.

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Dana on Data: Automating DFX Transfer and Analysis Using IPC-2581C

03-19-2020

We are inching closer to a world where a complete intelligent PCB data transfer is realized. The IPC 2-16 Digital Product Model Exchange (DPMX) Subcommittee has just sent revision C out for IPC-2581 Consortium review with final industry approval targeted for this June. Dana Korf discusses the significant additions and their impact.

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Dana on Data: Creating IP-protected PCB Design Rules

01-09-2020

One of the primary reasons that data packages aren’t compatible is the fabricator/assembler does not provide a complete set of design rules out of concern of giving away their intellectual property (IP). Dana Korf explores the design rule development hierarchy as well as what should be included in an IP-protected design rule document.

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2019

Dana on Data: The DFM/Data Transfer Process Is Broken

11-14-2019

In a world that is showing great strides toward implementing a Factory 4.0 world, why can’t a design be passed from a designer to the fabricator without errors every time? Dana Korf emphasizes moving the responsibility up in the food chain, examines key design package error categories, and proposes creating a cultural change.

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New Column—Dana on Data: IPC-2581 Intelligent Bi-directional Data Flow

09-12-2019

The IPC Consortium is nearing completion of transferring notes on drawings and working with IPC on converting key IPC specifications into attributes that can be automatically loaded into CAD and CAM systems. This format is extendable to created automated company-specific acceptance files that can be automatically loaded into the CEM’s or fabricator’s engineering systems. IPC-2581 data format is being widely used globally and now needs to become the standard to reduce NPI cycle times by associating critical design information automatically to the physical features.

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