Outsourcing your PCB design project and why you aren’t doing it

Outsourcing PCB Design | As businesses become more and more conscious of intellectual property rights, design cycle speed and the desire for quicker and more efficient electronic circuits, many companies are looking for ways to speed up their design cycles without compromising quality.

So why are many companies choosing not to outsource their designs?  and are they missing out on opportunities as a result?

Insufficient resources, time sensitive projects and demanding layout requirements are often cited as the main reasons for outsourcing.  But despite this, more and more companies are outsourcing their PCB design. Concerns around the loss of project-control, intellectual property security and quality control are often highlighted as the key reasons for choosing not to outsource, but are these reasons valid?

What are the main concerns for employers when considering outsourcing? And how do you ensure you get the best partner for the work? We looked at some of the key reasons businesses choose not to and whether their concerns are well-founded.

Staffing & Resources

The resource flexibility of outsourcing is one of the key drivers for businesses. Employing permanent PCB design staff can be costly and doesn’t provide employers with the work-force flexibility. There is also a major gap in the number of adequately skilled practitioners, which can make the hunt for the right employee a challenging one. Ensuring the person employed also has the appropriate skills is crucial especially as a substantial amount of work completed by PCB design service  providers can be reverse engineering, which is not only a challenging undertaking but can hamper future product development.

The value of employing a person, solely for the purposes of developing a single product can be ineffective and not create value for money. Outsourcing gives you access to engineering support even when the development cycle is complete, without having to pay for full time engineering staff.

Time

But outsourcing PCB design isn’t just about keeping the person-count down for the business. Outsourcing allows a business to focus on their core activities. Time is critical and any time lost employing suitable designers can cost money. In a recent article about product design, if your product were to hit the market 3 months late you could have already lost over one-third of its lifetime revenue had it been on time.

However, as we are well-aware, changes in design can always occur and therefore as such the work to be undertaken is largely still ‘in-flux’. In this situation it is essential that your outsourcing partner operates as a virtual on-demand PCB department incorporating innovation, experience, training, teamwork and a strong work ethic.

Intellectual property loss

Intellectual property relating to PCB design is a hot topic. Areas such as part data, constraint information, material information are all areas that can be used by competitors. Without IP management or protection, your new product can be cloned by a competitor or an unknown third party. IP protection laws vary across the globe so the best approach is to protect your IP before it leaves your company. With this in mind it is important to ensure your outsourcing partner is willing and able to sign non-disclosure agreements to ensure your designs stay that way. Most PCB design companies will happily do so and often willing to gain any additional security clearances required.

Quality Control

But how do companies ensure they are getting the right quality from their PCB design partner?

Well firstly the great thing about outsourcing PCB design is you gain access to a wide range of experience and knowledge, that you may otherwise not have benefitted from. Contrary to common belief, outsourcing often means quality goes up, as does the speed of completion. Design bureaus are more often than not well-trained, experienced and incredibly knowledgeable, especially as they undertake designs on a daily basis with varying degrees of complexity. They are often also able to put their full concentration behind that one job and focus on the key criteria to ensure it is a success and have certifications such as IPC CID and CID+ to commend their design abilities. The key is to find the right company who will partner with your engineers and management, becoming part of the team.

Good PCB designers will listen to the requirements of your staff and incorporate your initial design input, or incorporate any changes made along the way. They should be reliable, technically competent and will complete your design on time and with a cost that would be appropriate for the amount of engineering changes incurred.

Your outsourcing partner should be dedicated to your project, provide excellent customer service, hit deadlines and keep you in the loop.

A robust testing and design process

Deciding to outsource a PCB design can be a daunting task. Between choosing a design firm to handle the design, knowing what to give them in terms of inputs, ensuring the design meets your specifications and your chosen fabricator’s rules, there are myriad opportunities for a problem to arise. And the PCB design process isn’t simple either from design feasibility study, through placement, routing & pre-release design review. Jobs such as reverse-engineering are complex and time-consuming and require great skill and knowledge to complete to a high standard.

A good understanding of the customer’s requirements allows for a smoother design flow and makes following the later steps in the design process considerably easier. Early definition of critical nets, mechanical constraints, Impedance requirements and intended contract manufacturer should be established asap and encapsulated into the EDA tool.  This enables continuity and process control if the design has to be passed onto another designer. The process of taking a PCB design from initial design, placement and through to manufacture can be a complex process involving many steps for successful completion but relies on a strong working partnership between both organisations.

Ultimately PCB design outsourcing isn’t without its challenges but, if you find the right partner, the design work can be completed faster, cheaper and more efficiently than if it had been done in house. Find a partner that works with your as your design partner and start speeding up your product design process.

 

For more information about outsourcing your PCB design and how Quadra can make this process as simple and as straight-forward as possible contact us   or call 01254 301 888.

Black Friday Deals on Autodesk Training from Quadra

25% off All Autodesk Essentials Courses booked before 1pm on Black Friday

AutoCAD and AutoCAD LT Essentials

Course Details  

Autodesk Inventor Introduction to Solid Modelling Training

Course Details  

 Autodesk Revit Architecture Essentials Training

Course Details 

Get 25% off any Autodesk Essentials Training course listed above before 1pm on Black Friday.

For more information contact 01254 301 888 or sales@quadrasol.co.uk

Terms and Conditions

This offer cannot be used in conjuction with any other offers and does not apply to any training already booked. Training must be booked by Friday 24th November and payment must be made by the end of December. The 25% off applies to our usual training list price.

Fusion 360 Team – Collaboration for product design and manufacturing

Fusion 360 Team – Collaboration for Product Design and Manufacturing

Work together in the cloud with your team, from anywhere

Fusion 360 | The interconnected nature of the modern workplace means that more and more of us are now working together in a live, online environment, or at least via email or shared network drives across building / sites / countries / continents.

Working alongside these different time-zones, work cultures, language barriers and technology restrictions, conflicting expectations of both engineering and design departments can create big road blocks that delay projects and products. Fusion 360 Team is helping to solve these issues, with a coordinated approach to a business working as one big extended team.

 Did you know – We have now launched a Fusion Essentials and a Fusion Taster course. Click here for more information

What is… Fusion Team?

Fusion Team is a PDM cloud based solution for Product Design and Manufacturing design teams. People who need work together and better communicate on design projects. The ability to review and make design changes means that the design process can be sped up and feedback provided quickly and seamlessly.  It also helps avoid communication challenges helping to avoid re-work and changes later in the design process. Fusion Team offers a way of reviewing designs without the need for CAD software, perfect for end-users, marketing, sales and management functions to view without access to a CAD package. When it comes to sharing files, lost files, rewriting/redoing issues and large data files can create challenges. Fusion enables this process to be tracked and managed effectively.  The ability to track activity lets you dive into what’s working and what needs to be improved.

What is… Fusion Lifecycle?

Fusion Lifecycle is a PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) solution that goes beyond Team and integrates with the whole business process, connecting departments and providing an in-depth look at managing product lines. It’s the new name for Autodesk’s fast-growing cloud-based PLM 360, helping to make the whole product development process more efficient, from conceptual beginnings right through to retirement.

For more information about how Fusion products can help improve your design workflows, contact us

3D PCB Design Included Free with CADSTAR 30th Anniversary Edition Bundles

3D PCB Design Included Free with CADSTAR 30th Anniversary Edition Bundles

CADSTAR 30th Anniversary

30 years of CADSTAR Price/Performance PCB Design Tool from Zuken

CADSTAR, Zuken’s popular and affordable desktop PCB design solution, has been helping designers for 30 years this month. Zuken is starting its celebrations by including 3D design capabilities for free with the purchase of a 30th Anniversary Edition CADSTAR 3D bundle, for a limited time only. Over the coming months, CADSTAR user showcases will celebrate business success – from recent users to those with almost 30 years under their belt.

 

To celebrate this, Zuken have launched 3 great CADSTAR offers that are now available exclusively for our valued existing customers.

To thank its loyal users and welcome new ones Zuken is offering 30th Anniversary Edition bundles of CADSTAR Professional and CADSTAR Basic, with 3D added for free upon purchase, thanks to the inclusion of Board Modeler Lite. This adds 3D PCB visualization, collision checking, 3D part creation and more. These bundles are available for a limited time only:

 

1. Free Schematic and Variants Software*

Could you and your business benefit from an additional CADSTAR Schematic and Variants license? Save over 500 pounds on schematic software and increase the productivity of your department.

2. Upgrade and Save on CADSTAR Bundles

Zuken are also offering customers the opportunity to upgrade legacy Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, Dynamic and Kinetic Bundles to the new Basic and Professional 3D Packages*. These new bundles remove any pin limitations and incorporate Board Modeler Lite.

3. Save money on your CADSTAR Maintenance Renewal

Zuken are offering existing customers significant reward discounts on 3 year maintenance packages. Take advantage of lower costs, whilst safeguarding yourself against potential future price increases.

 

For more information about how these upgrades and exclusive offers could improve your workflow and design processes contact michael.wray@quadrasol.co.uk

*The free schematic promotion is only available when purchased with a maintenance contract. All offers are available until the end of March 2018

When it’s time to renew, You’ve got options – Autodesk Collections

Switch to the collection
Take advantage of a special offer to switch to a Product Design & Manufacturing Collection subscription at the time of your renewal. Subscribe to Product Design & Manufacturing Collection and get 10% off the the price. This is available for both multi-user and single-user subscriptions.

How do you benefit from a move to collections?

With the Product Design & Manufacturing Collection you can access the software you use today along with a set of integrated tools to meet any project challenges — and now available at a special price. Take advantage of a special offer available only to those approaching maintenance renewal, and switch to a subscription offering at a discounted subscription price.

What do the collections include?

Click below for information on both Collections

Architectural, Engineering and Construction Collection

Product Design & Manufacturing Collection

For more information about pricing and options available to you contact sales@quadrasol.co.uk

A Guide to Autodesk Software Installation Best Practices

Rob Hargreaves from Quadra Solutions takes us through a guide to Autodesk Software Installation best practices

Firstly we are going to look at how to find your installation media. There are three ways to do this.

You can:

Lets have a look at these methods in more detail.

Installation – Autodesk account

To access your Autodesk account start a web browser and go to the address autodesk.accounts.com.

Your Autodesk software and license management is performed through here. If you don’t currently have an account, create one using the create account button. Complete the simple form, making sure you use the work email address you provided when you ordered the software. This ensures that your license(s) are tied into your Autodesk account. Log into your account using the sign in button. Provide user name and password (you can request a new password using the reset link).

Once you are in, you will be presented with a landing page and a management link, whereby you can access your software information. Click on the download link and you will be presented with a page where you can specify which version, which platform, which language and the download you require.

The default mode is the install now option, but my recommendation is to select the ‘view all’ link which will provide a different installation method. Install now is fine to use if you’ve only got the one machine to install on. If you need to install on several machines or if you want install later but get the media now, use the browser download option. You also have the option of downloading through the download manager. Some organisations don’t allow these small apps to be installed on the machine. So the browser download is recommended.

In this example 5.2 gigabytes is the unpacked size of the downloaded media, it isn’t the amount that is going to be downloaded by the internet. Once this has been done, the buttons will have changed to ‘browser download’. Click the browser download button and summary box appears, asking you to disable any popup blockers and that files will be downloaded.

Click the start download button.

Autodesk Virtual Agent

The easiest way to locate the Virtual Agent is to Google it. One of the links available on Google even tells you how to use it. Firstly click on download link and this will present us with all of the Autodesk software. Once we have selected the product, we can then see the multi-part downloads. Unlike the account download, you will need to click each individual link and download the individual part. The resulting files are very similar to the ones you would get by using the accounts page. It’s a multi-part self-extracting ZIP file.

Important things to note

“When performing the installation there are few important things to note. Firstly turn off anti-virus on access scanning. We see many cases where people haven’t switched off their anti-virus on access scanning before installing their software. The software will appear to install, shows no error messages and it even runs. However when you start to use the software the system may crash when panning or zooming or bits of the interface may appear to be missing. Resolving these problems can be a real issue, so please ensure you turn off anti-virus on access scanning.”

Lower the user account control (UAC) setting to ‘never notify’. This is especially important if you plan to install the software when the machine is unattended. Similarly running with elevated privileges can also be an issue. Even if you are logged into the machine with local admin privileges, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have full admin privileges. So to run with elevated privileges, right click on the set up and click run as administrator.

Common Autodesk Installation Issues

Go to a Windows Explorer and in the address bar type in %temp% and you will be taken to the users temporary directory location, where you will see a series of log files. When installing an Autodesk product the system will automatically capture an installation log and place it into this folder. This can help when make a call into our support team. You can ZIP up these files and send them to us.

One of the common things you will find in those support logs is a C++ and .NET conflict. If you go to add/remove programs on your machine and search C++ in the search tab you will get all the C++ components. The Autodesk software you are installing expects to see a certain visual C++ installation and an update may have occurred. So if it is a later version than the Autodesk software is familiar with, then it can cause conflict. In this situation, you may have to uninstall the Microsoft Visuals C++ components and then allow the Autodesk installer to put them back on. You can then run the Windows update to apply any C++ updates once the installation is complete.

Another common is issue with Autodesk Installation is downloading the wrong product. Many of the products can appear very similar. Make sure you have downloaded the license you purchased.

Finally make sure you have turned off anti-virus on-access scanning, as mentioned above.

Autodesk Installation | Licensing your software

You can do this through Autodesk Account. Once again click on the management link and click the chevron button next to the product. Click here and it gives you the license information for that product. We can see serial numbers, number of seats available, which versions we have access to and the option to access previous versions. At the bottom you can download updates and add-ons.

We can also, in this screen, access the serial number and the product key. From 2017 onwards, serial numbers and product keys are no longer needed to install the product. Once you have installed the software, you will be prompted for the serial number and product key.

Once you have your serial number and product key entered, you need to assign users. You can do this through the management link again. Click on the ‘users’ icon on the left hand side and add a user to the list. It doesn’t automatically know what users you have in your organisation so you will need to add the users in, providing the email, first name and last name. If they have an Autodesk account make sure you use this to associate them to the license. Once you have added the user, click on the edit access button and click the contract number at the top to filter down to a specific contract. Finally tick the assign box to assign a particular product to the user. This enables the user to access that software.

NB: Please note for Autodesk Collections there is no direct download. You will need to download the individual products separately. When authorising, use the collections serial number with the product key for the individual products.

For more information about Quadra Assurance Technical Support and how to get it, call 01254 301 888 or contact us.  We are also able to help via remote support and take you through the issues you are facing.

A Day in the Life of a CAD Manager

A Day in the Life of a CAD Manager

Today I’m a CAD consultant and content author. But back in the day, when I was young and foolish, I was a CAD manager.

article originally featured on Autodesk.co.uk

The Caffeine Injection.

On a normal day, I was up at about 5:30 a.m. and immediately headed to the coffee machine. While my caffeine hit was brewing, I grabbed a quick shower and ironed a shirt for the day, listening to the radio quietly so as not to wake the rest of the household. I left the house at about 6:30 a.m. to get the 7:05 a.m. train to London; no-one was awake. As a dad of young children, that was a tough one.

Upon Arrival.

My standard working day was 9:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. with an hour for lunch, but I was normally in the office by about 8:15 a.m. My bosses gave me a high degree of flexibility because of my early arrival. As a Dad, this gave me the chance to actually see my kids in school plays and go to their sports games. That balance was good for me and it kept me motivated.

 

So, once a double espresso was obtained from the company coffee machine, I sat at my desk and went through emails which were prioritized into three categories: “Now,” “Later,” and “When You Have Time.” I always recommend putting things in simple language; it’s easier, trust me.

 

After that, I would look through a few emailed CAD newsletters for good tips and tricks. Anything I found would go in my Moleskine notebook. This normally took me up to about 9:15 a.m. By that time, my CAD colleagues were arriving and it was down to the regular roller coaster of a day, managing the day-to-day workings of the CAD office.

Managing CAD . . . and Everything Else.

Every day, normally mid-morning, I would have an hour long meeting with the senior CAD technicians acting as the lead on each live project. This was when I put on the business hat. Process and workflow were discussed. Were projects on time? Were we making sure that we were getting work right first time, and not doing repetitive work, cutting profit from the bottom line? Could we automate the survey information we were receiving from site to make drawing creation faster?

 

The list was often endless, but it was a gradual process. “Chipping away at the mountain,” I often used to call it. A number of the more established CAD drafters had a list of my catchphrases: “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” “Try it and see,” and “Let’s get it right first time, eh?” Such was the camaraderie I had built with the team.

Every Day Is Different.

Being a CAD manager was—and continues to be—a juggling act. I had to delicately balance my time, making sure that 50 percent or more of my time was charged to active client projects. Roughly 25 percent is lost in what they call “dead” time, such as vacations, doctor appointments, and the like. All told, I would have about 25 percent left for full-on CAD management.

 

The project is the priority—always. It’s all about getting the drawings out on time, adhering to both project and recognized standards, and making sure the engineers have the correct drawing revisions.

However, I still had to keep the “bigger” picture in place and managed the CAD function as well. This can sometimes be a whole day during project downtime or part of a day when the roller coaster slows down a little. I always had a CAD strategy section at the back of my Moleskine notebook, listing management tasks that needed to be done, but had no definitive timeframe. This also included a plan for new CAD workstations on an annual basis, CAD software updates, CAD standards, and the rough minutes of each CAD committee meeting I attended in my company.

Getting My Hands Dirty.

Sure, I was the CAD manager in the CAD department, but there were always days when we needed more hands on deck to hit a Friday drawing deadline or to make sure that all the drawings were ready for a client visit. I was never afraid of getting my hands dirty and chipping in with the team. I did it all—drawing, modelling, plotting, and even making the coffee. My team appreciated this. They saw me as a team member, not just a CAD manager. It built a great rapport within the department, and made me much more approachable.

 

I always had an open-door policy in my CAD department. Since I was seen as a team member as well, it encouraged my team to come to me with new ideas and issues that needed resolution. It made for a great, efficient, cohesive team. Some of those team members are still in touch with me now, nearly twenty years later, and I consider them friends, not just colleagues.

 

I often look back with fond memories at my day-to-day life as a CAD manager. While there was a typical cadence to the day, it can always be guaranteed that no two days were ever alike. When you get to lead an amazing team and you’re all in it together, this makes for an amazing career.

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