CM, design for manufacturing, dfm, documentation

Five Principles of Electronics DFM (Design for Manufacturing)

DFM, otherwise known as Design for Manufacturing, is a pre-production process to reduce electronics manufacturing complexity through efficient design and thoughtful part selection. This design progression makes sure your end product is cost-effective, easy to produce, and maintains its reliability over time.

What is Electronics DFM (Design for Manufacturing)

Design for Manufacturing (DFM) builds upon five tenets that should apply to the decision chain starting from project initiation. This critical step within the manufacturing development cycle merges design requirements with production methods to create the best end results. A good design-for-manufacturing approach reduces costs and simplifies manufacturing while preserving product quality. DFM relies on five basic principles, listed below.


MacroFab’s team can help you determine the best way to create a reliable product meeting all necessary needs while maintaining your price point and delivery schedule.

reliable products

Choose the Best Manufacturer for Your Project

Manufacturing complexity is often part of new product development. A good contract manufacturer will work with you to execute a manufacturing plan to place your project with a factory meeting all design requirements.

The potential to choose a factory with incompatible capabilities exists. Every product design is unique. But end product quality depends on a good factory match. For continuity, your early prototype and pre-production builds should use the same (or at least similar) manufacturing capabilities. This can be difficult, as CMs often specialize in low- or high-volume production but may be unable to do both.

MacroFab’s cloud manufacturing algorithm ensures a perfect match between factory capabilities and your project needs. With an extensive and growing manufacturing partner network, we can often match your project with multiple factory options across every product stage from early prototype to full production, regardless of order size. This gives you the flexibility to size orders up or down as you need, and confidence that your production needs will be fulfilled no matter how they change.

Know and Use CM Development Documentation

know and use cm development documentation

A good DFM will include an analysis of your initial design to make certain it meets all development specifications. This extends well beyond document upload verification or ensuring necessary file transfer completion. Potential failure points get identified at this stage. Failure points are documented, with suggestions for risk mitigation. This review should extend to both electrical and mechanical assembly components.

Beyond this, a good CM will review component quality as well as material quality and check the assembly for possible design simplification options. For example, small via sizes, buried, or blind vias are valuable when needed but not all applications need them. If unique or custom components have common acceptable alternatives, suggestions occur now. These steps ensure PCB assembly optimization for both manufacturing cost and speed.

MacroFab has an extensive knowledge base filled with technical capabilities and layouts to help engineers get started with prototyping. We also have an experienced team available to make sure your design works.

Take Materials into Consideration

Sometimes it can be difficult to overcome preconceived expectations over design requirements and how they meet final use demands. A materials test will ensure your assembly has everything it needs to perform well within its expected environment without the added cost of extras it has no use for. It makes certain your design is created using materials for long-term reliability and checks thermal properties, tolerances, coatings, etc, against requirements. You’ve created a design to meet desired company goals, and this step underscores this.

take materials into consideration

To ease the DFM process, MacroFab provides several standard stackups within our database. This provides fast and easy design options for multi-layer boards up to ten layers. You can always create your own stackup.

During the design phase, consider both electrical and mechanical tolerances across manufacturing variance. The stack-up of single-direction mechanical errors may lead to interference. The same can happen with electrical tolerances across timing, supply, or temperature. A tolerance analysis coupled with testing and mitigation can minimize performance or manufacturing issues in the design phase.

Talk End-use with Your Manufacturer

Your product must perform reliably under the expected conditions. PCB assemblies can show up within everything from hand-held devices designed for indoor use to giant wind turbines positioned offshore, so conditions can vary greatly by the build. Make sure you share the end-use details as part of your initial design information. Temperature extremes, water infiltration, and dust can all affect performance.

MacroFab’s team can help you design to extend your PCBA assembly lifespan. Higher quality materials or processes may be required to withstand harsh environments or to increase oxidation resistance. Our team can help you determine when options like conformal coatings may be required.

Ensure Assembly Compliance

ensure assembly compliance

You’re in charge of handling regulations and ensuring the quality of every build. A good DFM plan ensures every PCB assembly will pass testing to maintain general quality and safety standards. This will include FCC certification or similar testing by the European directive, required for most PCBAs. Other international regions also have compliance testing.

Depending on end-use, your PCB assembly may also need to meet regulatory or industry requirements. Discuss this with your CM early in development so design and prototyping reflect final demands.

MacroFab’s team can help you determine the best way to create a reliable product meeting all necessary needs while maintaining your price point and delivery schedule. The earlier in the progress this information is discussed the better.

Why an Electronics DFM Plan is Important

Working through the DFM process has many advantages, not the least of which is circumventing problems before they happen. Other benefits often include

why DFM is important
  • Lowered assembly costs due to a simpler design and fewer overall parts used.
  • Higher quality with fewer resulting errors
  • Shorter assembly time resulting from a simplified design process.
  • Fewer final assembly compliance issues

If done well, DFM will positively affect the look, functionality, and precision of your product. The payoff in time spent now can pay dividends later by eliminating potential issues and costly adjustments down the road.

As a final note, automatic DFM tools exist within digital PCBA design-to-manufacture platforms like Altimade, a digital partnership between Altium and MacroFab. Altimade lets users take their design concept through the prototyping process with control over costs, changes, and availability, all directly from their workstations. An automatic DFM check occurs as quotes are generated, populating a detailed list of potential issues. This allows you a chance to address problems before the order is placed. A second manual DFM is performed by MacroFab after the order is received.

Talk to the MacroFab team today for more information regarding a DFM review. Our dedicated support team works with you to ensure your product is ready for assembly before your first full production run.

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