DFM and Designing for Excellence

Creating reliable products with high levels of quality while also utilizing cost-effective manufacturing and test practices requires strategically intentional planning starting from the initial stages of development. Within the fields of PCB layout design and circuit board assembly, electronics manufacturers like Milwaukee Electronics utilize the technical strategies of DFM (Design for Manufacturability) to help guarantee optimal results from each stage of the manufacturing process. DFM takes into account the many considerations necessary to increase quality and reliability, ease of manufacturability, shortened time-to-market, and minimization of cost for larger volume production scales.

DFX or ‘Design for Excellence’ is a broad set of project design methodologies, of which DFM is a foremost component.

DFM - The design strategy used during the initial development phase of a project can have far-reaching effects down the line and greatly influence the level of effort needed during future production processes. DFM is therefore hugely important for the mitigation of obstacles within the manufacturing environment of the project over time. This is achieved with a few key DFM methods during the design phase:

  • Catch design mistakes before they cause production issues
  • Make volume product production process efficient starting from early design
  • Integrate the optimum testability strategy for a product directly into the design
  • Ensure product rework-ability is as hassle-free as possible should it become necessary
  • Allow for a maximization of flexibility across all manufacturing processes
  • Eliminate redundant, unnecessary, or inefficient production operations

Other key DFX strategies used by electronic manufacturing companies cover these additional areas:

DFT (Design for Testability) - PCB design and assembly process must keep pace with the modern trend of high component densities within compact PCB sizes while serving a global manufacturing base. For electronics manufacturers, the considerations for creating a robust functional test strategy remain highly important for catching defects and achieving consistent results. Typically, the largest determining factor for the amount of time, cost, and labor required for in-circuit testability is the physical design of the PCB UUT (Unit Under Test) itself. Therefore, DFT strategies guide the early design stages and component layout choices so they will align to the most reliable and economical forms of test operations. DFT practices are incorporated into these important aspects of the printed circuit board assembly layout/design/production process:

  • Add testability features to PCB hardware to catch defects, helping to ensure quality and reliability
  • Guide PCB layout process to ensure hardware complies with most economical test procedure
  • Examine component attributes to ensure proper visual/mechanical accessibility for test
  • Provide data in the appropriate format for test fixture fabrication

DFC (Design for Cost) - Long-term competitiveness in the modern marketplace requires careful attention to maintaining low overhead production costs across the entire lifespan of a product. How to choose particular PCB components and technologies over others based on longer-scale timeframes of availability and functionality is a primary contribution DFC makes to circuit board assembly and PCB layout decision-making. Otherwise, frequent and costly redesign efforts can become necessary because of component obsolescence and/or discontinuations over time. The main components of DFC as they relate to electronic assembly production operations include:

  • Simplification of manufacturing processes to reduce the amount of necessary labor and time
  • Check for materials longevity to avoid those that will go obsolete or become expensive or unavailable in the future
  • Examine potential PCB component obsolescence factors to avoid costly redesign efforts in the future from availability issues

DFQ (Design for Quality) - When high levels of robustness and longevity are required for a product, design engineers highlight the use of DFQ methodologies to help eliminate potential causes for malfunction of the device. DFQ is especially important in medical and other critical-use situations, where device failure would be especially detrimental or life threatening.

Regardless of project size, DFX provides a comprehensive set of techniques for electronic manufacturing companies to reliably, economically, and efficiently support the needs of their customers. This helps to provide a fundamental means to balance the ever-increasing pace of consumer demand and product complexity in today’s market.