Designer and fabricator communication—especially for high-speed PCBs—should be a bidirectional “thing.” It is so easy for a designer to say, “Just build this,” and hand over a challenging design to a fabricator who could have performed better with some preliminary conversation or dialog before placing the order.
Materials always matter when it comes to PCB fabrication; however, as designs progress and industry changes and morphs, the PCB materials or specific material characteristics that impact the day-to-day lives of designers, fabricators, procurement specialists, and PCB technologists change. Characteristics that could safely be ignored in the past may now creep up and trip you over—catching you unaware—and yet other characteristics that may have been critical on legacy products may only have a second order influence on your PCB specification and the chances of it performing as expected.
Depending on design requirements, a designer has a choice to entrust material specification to their fabricator or to lock down the materials far more rigidly before ordering or perhaps somewhere in between where only critical layers are deployed with mandated materials (Figures 1 and 2).
Important in guiding you through this are the specialists in the PCB base material supply industry, which has transformed from an industry with only a selected handful of material choices to a whole range of suppliers providing a complete gamut of materials with a range of purpose. This adds complexity and perhaps confusion as designers, fabricators, procurement specialists, and technologists work together to select appropriate base materials. Most material suppliers will have OEM teams whose aim is to guide you towards the correct base material or family of materials.
To read this entire column, which appeared in the May 2020 issue of Design007 Magazine, click here.