MacroFab's Misha Govshteyn and Chris Church check in with Parker and Stephen to give his take on supply chains, nearshoring and reshoring.
Part shortages and obsolescence got you down? Parker and Stephen have some tips and tricks to help your design stay ahead of the End Of Life game!
Nichicon is obsoleting entire electrolytic capacitor lines. Is this a sign of how electronic component manufacturers will handle supply crunches?
Parker is an Electrical Engineer with backgrounds in Embedded System Design and Digital Signal Processing. He got his start in 2005 by hacking Nintendo consoles into portable gaming units. The following year he designed and produced an Atari 2600 video mod to allow the Atari to display a crisp, RF fuzz free picture on newer TVs. Over a thousand Atari video mods where produced by Parker from 2006 to 2011 and the mod is still made by other enthusiasts in the Atari community.
In 2006, Parker enrolled at The University of Texas at Austin as a Petroleum Engineer. After realizing electronics was his passion he switched majors in 2007 to Electrical and Computer Engineering. Following his previous background in making the Atari 2600 video mod, Parker decided to take more board layout classes and circuit design classes. Other areas of study include robotics, microcontroller theory and design, FPGA development with VHDL and Verilog, and image and signal processing with DSPs. In 2010, Parker won a Ti sponsored Launchpad programming and design contest that was held by the IEEE CS chapter at the University. Parker graduated with a BS in Electrical and Computer Engineering in the Spring of 2012.
In the Summer of 2012, Parker was hired on as an Electrical Engineer at Dynamic Perception to design and prototype new electronic products. Here, Parker learned about full product development cycles and honed his board layout skills. Seeing the difficulties in managing operations and FCC/CE compliance testing, Parker thought there had to be a better way for small electronic companies to get their product out in customer's hands.
Parker also runs the blog, longhornengineer.com, where he posts his personal projects, technical guides, and appnotes about board layout design and components.
Stephen Kraig began his electronics career by building musical oriented circuits in 2003. Stephen is an avid guitar player and, in his down time, manufactures audio electronics including guitar amplifiers, pedals, and pro audio gear. Stephen graduated with a BS in Electrical Engineering from Texas A&M University.
Special thanks to whixr over at Tymkrs for the intro and outro!
Oh hey Chris, do you remember how this goes?
Yeah, just tell me when you want to start. Yeah, good heat recording. Okay. Yep. Welcome to macro fab. Sorry, I'm starting over Welcome to the macro fab engineering podcast. I am Chris, son of a bitch. Okay, start now. Welcome to the macro fat engineering podcast. I'm your guest, Chris Carter.
We're in we're hosts part
of okay here we go. We're gonna macro fab. How am I shit?
This is a nice one. Fab where we sell PCBs and PCB accessories,
man, just put this whole thing on there and be like, comment and subscribe. Okay, here I go. Welcome to the macro fab engineering podcast. I am your guest, Chris Carter.
And we are your hosts Parker, Dolman and Steven Craig. This is episode 263. Chris Carter
is the owner of mercury Inc, a design consulting firm with expertise in electrical mechanical software and firmware development.
Yeah, as Chris who introduced the podcast, he was last seen on episode 244. We have no idea where he was before then, but or during that time period. But go check out Comic Con for engineers, Episode 244, where we talked about design for manufacturability for PCB assembly. So Chris, what are we talking about today?
So I think we'll take this DFM stuff off on a little bit further, I don't know that I would say that this is the next level. But definitely DFM has like a lot of angles, right. So I think we just dive a little bit deeper into it. And I think I kind of wanted to focus on DFM for safety. And kind of what I mean by that is not like mechanical safety, like break your arm or something like that. But the supply chain safety in this and making sure that you have access to everything that you need to build your products. I know that DFM in general is about that. Right. But there's this I think we mostly talked about throughput last time. And this is more about stability, right and making sure that you can manufacture your product.
Yeah, yeah. Last time we talked about kind of like, actually like assembling your your board, making sure you can actually build it physically build it. But this is more of sure you can actually build it. But can you actually get the components that to build it?
Yeah. Yeah. Well, and not just components? I mean, how about finding vendors that have the capability? Right? Like there's there's definitely deeper levels than just doing alternate parts sourcing? So I don't know, I guess. So. On that note, I have a an in depth question for you, too. And I'm curious about it. But it's about maybe we should ask it towards the end because the I wanted to talk about TI and their IP in their dies. So you can buy ti dyes and the IP for it. And then you can do all sorts your manufacturing in different chip plants. And maybe we just leave this on the table for discussion. But the question or the or the concern that I have is when you talk to a manufacturer about that. So we designed an ASIC for on semi, and they told us the exact same thing. So it's not like they were trying to protect their IP, they said, we will absolutely give you our dye and you can take it anywhere. But we recommend that you don't have two fab shops, manufacturing your dyes. It's not safer, you end up with more problems. What do you guys think about that?
Is that from like a? I guess what they're thinking of is you get different fall outs from different manufacturing processes. Is that where they're? So we're talking about dyes in terms of the integrated component dyes that go inside your semiconductors? Right?
Yeah, that's fair. I guess I probably skipped a little bit there, right. So so that I am talking about a more complicated like, cortex in three cortex in four apps sort of thing in die before it goes into silicone so that you can basically buy the dyes ship half of them to Malaysia, half of them to whatever Pocatello Idaho and have on semi make half of them in the states and half of them in China. And then you found everything that comes out of the states in the states and everything out of China in China. And the both both companies independently in years apart. We're both like, eyes get buggy and they're like, yeah, we'll do that but avoid it. It just seemed like an interesting thing. Because most of the time I recommend people find two vendors right at the same capabilities.
I'm gonna bet you because you have it's two different products. This is and you're talking about something. The word were processed really? I don't want to say it matters because it always matters process always matters. But I would say your Fallout probably for chip level manufacturing is just different depending on where it gets manufactured. And what technologies are used? Yeah. So I would say, yeah, you because like, if they got mixed up at all, like, let's say you got made half of them in, in US fab and then half of them in a Malaysian fab. And then they all got combined somewhere else. Well, you know, without any proper lock control, how you gonna know which chips are bad or good or etc.
Yeah, so I wouldn't when I asked. So the company that asked was a pharmaceutical so those Crazy bastards really wanted dual everything right? They wanted raw material dual sourcing, like you do desert? I'm never going to be able to provide that.
Yeah, they want they want, you know, to lithium mines. Yeah,
right. Yeah, exactly. Right. You want to make sure that if one place goes out of business, they can just keep going, which is crazy. And
they went far enough. They want to Earths Yeah.
So on didn't have a good answer for me. But TI? What did they tell me? Oh, they said what? So? So the question came up, then obviously, the the pharmaceuticals? Well, what about capacity when we need, you know, 200 million instead of 100 million in a year? How do you do that? And do you guys like scale? We scale up? That's that was their answer. Now, this is one dude in the wireless department. Right? Like he runs the chameleon project line. The CC 30 pants are working 50s Vintage shoes, all that sort of stuff. So maybe there's one aspect of this that I'm that I'm thinking that this is like narrow in scope. But yeah, I just wanted to chat that through and see if you guys were seeing the same sort of thing, or if it makes sense on the DI level?
Well, I've never really dealt with the DI level stuff. Okay. We did have a cup, we had a chip, chip and Ken from parallax, who do a lot of chip level stuff. They could probably answer that question.
Oh, yeah. Well, okay, so we won't go down into the dive in, right? I mean, well, actually, I mean, if you were going to do a cheap tool, a, you'd want to buy dyes, right? Glob tops, and just roll it out. So maybe we'll stay out of that out of that room for now. But well, one thing
I would just say on that that's been going through my mind is that if you were purchasing that IP that die from from one place, and then doing separate or doing the same process in two locations, like Parker was saying, your documentation, I think would have to be damn near next to flawless as to what your expectations are. And then how you would handle Fallout, how you would handle. I don't want to say like pointing fingers or fault or blame or anything like that. But like, at what point in time, does the original manufacturer that dye get to wash their hands? And say it's not my my problem anymore? Yeah, those kinds of expectations would need to be extremely clear.
Yeah, no, I think I think now that you say it that way, that that's probably why they were shying away from it not that it's impossible, but that it would be time consuming. And then how do you track back and like you said that not to point fingers. But if we don't point a finger and find the problem, we can't solve
it? Yeah, liability would be really difficult to track.
Well, and that's essentially what DFM is, right? Like, I you can make some plans and hope nothing breaks, but it's all gonna break. So you need to be able to trace it back down. And so yeah, I'm not satisfied with that makes. That makes a lot of sense. It probably is more about that. than just simple capabilities.
They probably only spec out their sales team only sold, you know, a couple sessions with a with a Applications Engineer, not two sessions worth of application engineers. Yeah.
Yeah, it could just be that simple. Yeah. Yeah, I guess you only
paid for enough support for one one fab?
Well, the first the first one, we were definitely paying it on, say Mike as we were building an ASIC, but at TI, it was more like engaging about like the use of the chameleon line and its future and our products future. And so it was way more collaborative, and I felt like the guy wasn't selling us, right. He brought people into the room to sell us. And we were just standing in the anechoic chamber like geeking out and he's telling us this sort of like weird stuff, right? So that's, that's why I kind of believe him that it's probably best to not try and get into that avenue if you don't know what you're doing. So I kind of hijacked the first part of the call, or the first part of the podcast on that I was going to start by talking about sizes, right project sizes because everything that we're about to say and everything we have said is really project dependent, project size, volume, velocity, all of those things play a role. So I, I going to try and keep it round it so that you can pick and choose which elements apply to your individual project.
Good and whether or not you care about like alternate parts or whatever is like it really depends on like what you're building. If you're if you're building a one off where you're like a one off ornament for your mom that put it on our tree, you probably don't need to get four different vendors for the LEDs. Yeah. Or make sure that you specking out like three different microcontrollers from the same line to just have slightly different memory constraints. Yeah, yeah, you probably don't need do that.
Yeah, so maybe, maybe that's a that's a good sidebar before we jump into project side. So So what are the basics of safety? Right? So definitely alternate parts is anywhere you can put alternate discretes microcontrollers. So when you said that triggers an interesting question, because there aren't always multiple package types are aren't always compatible footprints. So if your project size is small, my recommendation is much different than if your project size is large. If your project size is small by the 50, you need now, right before they go out of stock, and you can't get to your project size is large, the answer is still the same by as many as you can, but go to the vendor, negotiate with a vendor, right? Like you definitely want to get boots on the ground and get close to those dudes. So should we just spec out three basic project sizes. So as we go along, we can rip like if there's a caveat, we can reference the size. I think, I think obvious are prototypes. And there's not a whole lot of need for DFM and in one offs and my own personal mom's project and stuff like that. So I
like to separate the those out in the two there are one off projects, and then there are prototypes that are designed to go into bigger stuff to go on.
Oh, you're saying like if it's a production unit, but we're only making one?
Yeah, well, like if you're prototyping, because you're like, I want to build 10,000 widgets. I still need a prototype the first widget. Yeah. Yeah. So if you're, if you're, if you're I guess that's project based, as well. And what not where your project is going to scale to. So if you're expecting your prototype project to scale up to 10,000 units, or 100,000 units, you should be worried about the 100,000 unit supply chain stuff. Oh, yeah. On your single unit? Yeah, but yeah, but if you're making a widget for your, for your Christmas tree, I don't think you have to worry too much about supply chain,
you're gonna, you're gonna pull some out of your kids toys anyways, to get that last LED. So. Okay, so I guess project size is to me, I think we should keep velocity out of this. Because that can put that can create a weird set of number of projects we're going to track but basically, like, I would say, there's probably the one to 100. And then there's probably the 1000 to 10,000 range. And then there's anything above say like 50,000. And I know I left some gaps in there. But large projects size 100,000 in a year or more medium project size, let's say 10,000 a year, and smaller project sizes, anything under 1000. And they're their approaches. I think we do that annually, right. So if you think about that on an annual basis supply chain for 1000, maybe it is a good recommendation, if you've got the cash flow to do the, you know, just to buy everything now. So you don't have the problem. I think one thing that you should definitely think about and maybe this will change some of the things we talked about later is like the duration of the product lifespan, if it's a one year in life, and you're going to make 1000 of them, DFM changes for being that you're making 1000 of but you're going to do for the next 20 years. You definitely would need to have some path into into I don't know I've had some older projects come to me where people just wanted to replace like a really old relay or something like that. And it ends up just being a complete redesign but you know $400 worth of parts in 1970 would have saved them having to build a whole new schematic later. I don't know if you guys run into any of that like where they could have just bought a bunch of old parts before they went out of stock and now they have to do a full redesigns because they just didn't think ahead.
I kind of I think I've told this story before a microphone on the podcast but previous company I worked for which is dynamic reception. We had a product that was designed with a really weird Opto coupler and base just had non standard pin out standard package for it's like a dip for whatever. But non standard package pin out for it. And actually Dynamic Position just bought everything that we could. Yeah. And there was there was a, there was a broker out there that knew we were buying everything. And so they would hold back inventory from us. Oh, and then only piecemeal it out to us over time.
Yeah, that pisses me off. Yeah. So we eventually
redesigned the product to get around that. But like, I mean, it was like a whole year that we operated that way.
Yeah, I have a similar product in the 9018 range. I don't know why I like using duplexers to convert like single duplex devices into dual duplex devices, like full duplex devices. And I found this awesome sky works duplexer that sat right at 915 in the middle, and you lost whatever, like two or three megahertz on each side of it. But when, when the 4g stuff came out LTE Band Aid, I think sits in that general range. And so they built duplexers, that said at nine, I think 925 or something like that, to separate the low and the high bands. And so you lose a huge chunk of the is in band. And that's exactly what I did. I went out to every third party vendor, every outsourcer that was that had that available, everybody in China that I could find it at. And we bought all the reels that that we can find in the market. And I've still got, I don't know, maybe 300 left. It sucks. But sometimes if you've got an obsolete part, and you just can't get somebody to keep making it.
You know, the thing though, is, I think the way we're kind of talking about this is perhaps a little bit ideal, and maybe even a little bit from an engineers perspective. Because as soon as you go to the accountants of the company and say, Hey, we're gonna have to buy everything, and we're just gonna have to float it as just inventory sitting on the shelf. They're gonna laugh at you.
Yeah, so that's, that's fair. Can we net 365? This?
Yeah, no kidding. So I mean, like that pharmaceutical is the same company that I was talking about for the duplexer. Right. So the duplexer, you know, engineer said, I didn't even know how you do this on a large scale, because engineering was the one that found the issue and realize we wouldn't be able to buy more before we were in a purchasing cycle. So I say engineering, it was me I wouldn't talk to him was like, Hey, dude, it's like you can't buy this anymore. And so on a one off situation. It wasn't 400 bucks. I think I think those parts in total, when we liquidated, everybody ended up being like 30 grand, but in the grand scheme of things sitting on 30 grand for the next five years, and being certain we can make them was was a better deal for them. So yes, on a project by project basis on a decision by decision basis, you should, we should be focused on that. But it brings up a really interesting point. And that is the accounting and shouldn't be tied into engineering in some way, there's a lot of dollars left on the table that people just don't realize they could keep, you should you should sharpen your pencil on your supply chain all the time, right? Update your alt components, and give accounting a little bit of a break. Right, then they're not the only ones looking for pennies. Well,
the thing is, work in progress is taxed differently than finished products. And then you pay inventory tax also. So if something's just sitting there, and it's not built, you're paying taxes on it, if it's something partially built, you're paying taxes on it, if it's fully built, you pay different. So accounting is gonna get real nerdy with all those numbers. And that's sort of something that we don't necessarily have to pay attention to as design engineers. And, and I'm saying this, because I go through this kind of situation where I'm like, Man, this would be really, really great. If I could just buy, you know, 10,000 STM processors right now, that'll just be $100,000. And we'll leave them on the shelf. Right? And then we're good for five years. Yeah, but you blow out your margins as soon as you do that. No, I'm talking about from I'm in that category range of the, say 500 to 1500 units is the run size. So it gets a little bit more difficult if you don't have as much liquid cash just flow around.
Yeah, and I mean, it's, it's worth balancing the cost of of designing a secondary backup product. So once once the pharmaceutical heard that ti dis, like was not super into the idea of sending out the chips, and they had explained the safety issues to them, that they were fine with that right. They accepted the argument, but the next day, I got a phone call and they're like, Well, what if you just built another one using someone else's chip, same functionality, right. So that is another possibility is to actually rather than dual sourcing your microcontrollers. You just build your project twice, with two different microcontrollers. If that mitigates your concern to it is a possibility.
I like how that was their solution, though. That was an accounting solution. No, no,
the way you could tell it was accounting solution is it started with Well, why don't you just
Yeah, yeah. So here's what I've been telling everybody lately. Anytime somebody's like, hey, we just going to update this is just a real quick fix on the web, where we go in and update that firmware, just quickly put this in there so that it divides by five or whatever, the work, all of the work is in just right, you forget everything else. They said. The just is why the bill is coming to you. Because you don't get it.
For sure, yeah,
that's my least favorite word right now. It's my favorite word when when you're when you're scoping,
I dealt with a customer in the past that was very, very particular about making drawings. Do exactly what they wanted, and drawings should do exactly what you want. But they weren't they were very, I don't know, like insistent on changing wording over and over and over Ed. Yeah, my rev a drawing was plenty acceptable to get the job done. But by the time we were at like rev H, or something like that, I finally had to say, the next time you ask for something, it's $500, just to ask, and then it's $300 an hour for me to change your drug because like, I can't keep doing this man. I can't keep just like changing words, like over and over when rev a was fine.
Yeah. So I will say that especially so like nomenclature, right is super important. And once you start defining it, staying in it is critical, right, but only if your part count is high. So if you've got a if you've got a complicated mechanical device that has say, like 70, or 80, individual components, knowing that the detail and the name of the individual component matters. But if it's a smaller project, it doesn't really like the documentation on on those. If you only got two components in your in your system, or five components in your system, it's easier to reference them by tight. But I've got a project right now that I think has somewhere in the order of about 700 unique components that all get assembled together. And if you use the word nut, or ball, or pole, or mast, or truss, there's like seven of each of those in different places. So it became it's been on my mind lately that it's important that the documentation notes be somewhat accurate. Two weeks ago, I wouldn't have chewed you out about it. It was not on my mind.
Well, let's just reel this back in a little bit. So we were talking about difference in projects. Scope. Yeah. So would you were you put out some interesting quantity numbers that that was very interesting, because I think the first one was like one to 100 or one to 50. Yeah. And the next one was like 100 to 1000.
I hit 1000 to 10,000.
I know. That's yeah. And then And then beyond that, and then 100k on Yeah, yeah. Which is interesting, because those are sizes that typically come on either different ways from the from, like a vendor in terms of like electrical components. Because when you buy cut tape, usually you're in that, that one to 100 range. And then most time components come in 10,000 ish reels. Yeah, there's some bigger reels, and smaller reels, but 10,000. And then beyond that, you're like getting dropship boxes from the from the manufacturer. Yeah. Yeah. Box from Molex, that says like, 10,000 on them. It's like the size of like, like, you know, a moving box. Yeah.
Yeah, no, definitely like. So the numbers, the reason behind the numbers, is partially because of that is like parts are, are usually sourced in quantities divisible by 10,000, or 1000. Right, like 1000 donor, real 5000, unreal, 10,000. Unreal. But really what it boils down to, and I'm glad we had that little accounting discussion. It's actually an accounting thing. I don't know why. But all customers ask for their quotes and even increments. So they can project their profit and revenue streams, I would guess. And for whatever reason, like below 10,000 10,000, to 50,000, and 100,000 and beyond. I don't think anybody's ever asked me. Like, if they want me to know that there's a lot than they just say, there'll be millions, right? And then I can just assume 100,000 or more a year, if they say there's gonna be a lot, but they also told me their budget is $5,000. They're in the 10,000 unit range or less. Right? So that's, that's why I've kind of broken them into those ranges as I think of three numbers less than 110,100 1000. I don't really think about the deviations between them because they don't change Are activities.
This is this is kind of like an eye roll thing, when for customers for me is when they give you like, I want a quote for like 110. And like 20,000. It's like that super optimistic number and I'm like, Sure, buddy.
Yeah, yeah, I know, I've noticed that too. What is is really?
It comes from like an at Gmail account?
Yeah, because you got nothing better to do than answer cool questions all day long.
And they're gonna try to interpolate the curve in between there and guess your numbers?
Yeah. Yeah, the best thing about that is like, like, at least, at least with McWrap, it's, it just takes like, quoting something out, onesies, 50s, or whatever. It's pretty quick, like, but because you don't really have to worry about supply chain issues. You can go on Mouser DigiKey those vendors and see what their quantities are at and stuff like that. When you go up to like 20,000. Plus, you're getting custom quotes from all these part vendors directly. It's like, okay, now I'm gonna spend three or four days getting this quoted out correctly for you. Yeah, yeah. So you're gonna be like, and then you go, come back. Be like, that's a good number. We're gonna build 1000, though.
Yeah, yeah. Right. I know. That's exactly right. So does macro fab with your house parts? Do you guys have any parts that you guys just flat out? Use so much that you stock?
Yeah, that's what the House parts generally are.
So do you guys have any like, so? So if I go in there right now and order out? I don't know what more than then you have available? How do you guys mitigate that? How do you make sure that the parts fly off the shelf don't completely fly off the shelf. So
grainy, the part vendor that we use for those, they actually keep a whole bunch? Also for us? Okay, so it's basically what, like what you were talking about earlier? It's like, buy a lot of them. Yes, what it is. And then we just ended that vendor. Basically just cause a, probably a whole shelf for us at wherever warehouse in the middle nowhere. Yes. Just like, macro house parts are these things.
Gotcha. You know, actually, that's something interesting. I forgot about this. But that's, that's a service that a lot of places actually offer where you can pre purchase parts, and they will hold on to them and release them on whatever schedule you're asking for. So instead of us holding on to those parts, and like I was going on with taxes earlier, paying taxes on inventory, a lot of times you can pre purchase and get streams whenever you need them, and then you have them on demand.
I have one word to say about all that. Allocation. Yeah. You ever been on allocation? That sucks, man. So I guess maybe I should. So I hadn't heard the term allocation until we got on it. And that's a shitty time to figure out what being on allocation means. But basically, we pre purchased a bunch of I think it was discrete, so we just bypass it when this came up. But if it had been our microcontroller, it would have been a problem. But basically, we pre agreed to buy a certain amount at a certain velocity, and like you just described, and then I guess it would have been in 2018. There were some part availability issues, obviously, right? And then we placed our regular monthly order, and they came back to us and we're like, no, no, that those will ship. So this is like in June, I think they told us they were going to ship in like October. And when I got back in and dug around to it, they're like, Well, you placed your order on allocation. So basically, like, whatever order the orders came in at, were the were the orders in which they were fulfilled that there were other people on my allocation that had purchased before me. And so they were fulfilling those customers orders first, but they're recurring. Those orders never get out of my way. So I'll never get parts unless that other vendor stops using them or the the source company starts making more. But yeah, allocation can be can be really problematic in a world where you've staged all of your equipment and set your safety nets up. And you don't actually own the inventory. I think macro fab probably owns the house parts don't think you guys pay for them and then stocking or is it a shared inventory situation with this vendor? Can you talk about it?
So I know the ones that are actually at our HQ we own I don't know about the ones that are at the vendor though.
Yeah, yeah, that makes sense. I know we've used your inventory system before storing parts that are like we've had some customers come out of China special in type connectors and things like that. And we've stored in there it works. It works fantastic. And we pre bought all of those. In fact, I still have like I didn't have a few 1000 of those leftover that we brought back into our warehouse after the project closed out, I need to sell those.
On the project, one of the things you mentioned was like the lifespan of your project as well. Whereas like, one year, you typically, this is where we say, yeah, you just go to the manufacturer and see how long they're going to be making it for. But going back to, but those are just like, like, Pinky swear promises. datasheet. I mean, like, for example, like, let's just say t i t, I can just go bankrupt tomorrow. Yeah, right. They can be caught in a hedge fund whirlwind, right, like Gamestop did. And they go down the toilet, let's just say that happens. Well, their pinky promise in their data sheets doesn't mean jack shit, then. Yeah. So if you're if your lifespan is, let's say 20 years, which I don't know of any electric, electronic product that's 20 years old, that still gets built, but they probably exist.
Actually, you can think of one Parker
actually, I can think of a couple now.
I was gonna say pinball.
Yeah, well, no good. No one's making new boards though.
Oh, yeah, you're right. You're right. You're right. You're right. Okay. Those are different though. Those are I don't want to derail you keep going those direct replacements. It's not like William and Bally building a William belly 95 machine. board set. Yeah. Anyways, let's say you weren't doing that though. And you had to find them. Actually, you can still buy Motorola 68 ks Can you brand new i You still buy those anyways, that those were my example. But is, is if your project is gonna be a long lasting project is probably your pre buy if you can't afford it. Pre buy your actives, at least passives 10k resistor is gonna be 10k resistor. Yeah, unless we develop some kind of wormhole technology that tunnel electrons faster and a medium. But the actives? Yeah, for sure. Because then you get around like obsolete relays kind of, I would say electro mechanical stuff that generally don't have a lot of high volume anyways, at distributors. That's something you could probably get on order. ASAP.
Yeah, that's interesting. So I was actually going to, I hadn't thought about it that way. I was gonna say that, like smaller projects, say like, if your project life is one year expectancy, I would think it'd be more compatible and easier to just buy all the parts up front, then it would be on a 20 year project. On the 20 year projects, I was gonna say the same thing you did. That's the like, save all of the things you can the actives, especially because, or that's a good catch was electromechanical. They can be problematic to resource and stain on the pinball world, man, like some of the old 70s hardware, right, the poppers and things like that are completely different than we make right now. And there are now specialty companies that have to have to make them and they cost a lot more than if you just stocked up. You know, the 300 you needed.
So this is turning into like the macro engineering podcasts hoarders edition. Yeah.
Oh, yeah. Did you should see our warehouse. It's all the stuff we don't need. But so
when was this order? This must have been like five years ago? No, this was back before macro fab. So this is like, eight, nine years ago. I wouldn't go help out a friend clear out his father's warehouse after his father passed away. And so his father was into. He was a lawyer doing prod like, like, if a product failed and like burned down someone's house, this guy would represent the company to mitigate. Mitigate. liability. Yeah, liability lawyer, I guess is a good way to put it. Anyway, so you go into his warehouse, and there's like, hundreds of everything. But you can't use it because you don't know. Like, if that was like a lawsuit he won or lost. So you didn't know that those products are good or not? Yeah, but so that's the story. But the story is he also was in the cars. And so when he would buy a car, he would buy all the parts of the car would need and its lifespan. So you'd walk in there and there'd be enough oil for all of its lifetime oil changes. All the oil filters, it would need all the lug nuts on it. He didn't have tires, but like everything else, belts, fluid changes, lightbulbs, all that stuff, and there was like 1015 different cars. All those had their own like inventory lists of like the lifespan of the Cars. Guess what? There's like those cars probably never got driven.
Yeah, well, I mean, I'm paranoid like that, too. So if I buy a new pinball, I buy all of the components that can break because they're available right now. Like anything that's, that's available as an accessory and add on an option, or anything that's custom and crazy, you know that it will be hard to find when that game isn't hot anymore. But I don't go to the effort of buying stuff that that I likely won't need. I don't buy absolutely everything. But I will tell you this at my own detriment. I pre bought all of my shoes for the rest of my life. Like I have one set of shoes that I wear on a daily basis, just little tennis shoes around. And I bought enough that I will never have to go back to the store. Buy the shoes ever again.
I had that problem with my glasses, because I get attached to like, how they look when you wear the mountain like two three years. Yeah. And so I'm actually thinking like, maybe my next pair I buy like 10 pairs of them.
Yeah, dude, I totally so I ripped it straight off of off the fly. From what was that movie made, like in the 80s. Right? And he was he was describing to the girl while all his clothes are the same, right? Is Einstein just like same passing same shirt. And so I don't have the same shirts, but I bought like 50 of the same pair of pants. And then I've got t shirts hanging over my closet and I don't care what order they go in. I just pull the first one on the right. Every morning. I take the first pair of pants out of the door every morning. And it's great. I never have to think about any of that stuff. But it makes me look pretty stupid. If somebody comes over and is like, like sees the organization it doesn't realize that. I guess I maybe I am a hoarder. I was about to justify my behavior, but I think I might be a hoarder.
You see, okay, I came up with a phrase the other day, a few years back with a buddy of mine who if you porker went over to my my warehouse that I shared with three other people. You could you could call it hoarding. We like to call it maximizing. That's yeah, and that that made it that made it not sound so bad, right?
Like you. My fear was the palette of subtle scopes. But like there's like a palette of oscilloscope with like three worked?
Oh, no, no, none of them work. Because I went through all of them. I picked up at eight oscilloscope one one day and put them in the back of my truck and my truck was on its bumpstops. And I went through all 88 and found the few that worked. And then I went I went to my buddy who who is an excellent Maximizer and asked him he and he he is not he is not an electrical guy whatsoever. And I was like would you like these oscilloscope? So he's like, absolutely. And do
I need that term man maximizer is definitely the thing. I mean, like so when I first started this company, I was just working out in my basement and moonlighting just to help people out. And then we decided to get out of the work world and just do consulting full time. And by I don't know, probably six months of me doing like electrical stuff in my basement, the whole thing, like the entire bait, not that room I was in the whole basement was holding my shift. And so now my wife is thinking like, I'm just gonna keep making like a sprawling house rolling to the house everywhere. And ultimately, what I ended up doing is not getting rid of any of the stuff. I rented a warehouse instead of shelves and I still have it all. But seriously, like I can pretty much like you can can name something reasonable, but random and I can probably reach it from where I'm sitting right now. Like I keep like see all the buckets behind me and all the bins and all that sort of stuff. That's because it comes up right like tearing gotta tear something apart and pull it out and honestly like somebody calls up and they're like, Hey, I got this idea for this product or the other and I'm sitting there thinking about a pinball I just tore apart or my kids like McDonald toy that I took it, you know, and opened up and saw the spring mechanism or something. And I keep all that crap in my desk and piled up because it gives me visual reference for mechanical resolution.
I don't know maybe it's not a pride thing to be a maximizer so you guys
made me justify myself dammit. That's what I just said it wasn't good. But yeah, I'm maximizing it. I'm not going to be a hoarder anymore.
One more person save Yeah.
Oh, crud, dude. So I we made a side note as of talking a little bit about so we talked a lot about component sourcing and DFM for components. But something that pharmaceuticals definitely think about but not everybody thinks about is your vendor. Being source right like the provider of this combination of products is also a thing that you need to be considering. I don't know that it's such a big deal about Wherever they are, although I do think that your resources that manage that vendor need to be accessible to that site. Like, if you're if you're not legally capable of traveling to China, or you don't have somebody in your company that can probably shouldn't set up your CME in China,
and not have a CME in North Korea. Yeah,
right. Like exactly is the thing get through a little bit, some of them are obvious like that, right. But some of them are not so obvious, like, simply communicating across the pond with a 12 hour differences is, is a task, right? Like it takes it, there's a toll involved there, and it's lost opportunity. So if you send somebody over to China, or whatever, North Korea, you, you can definitely resolve the problem immediately. But then you lost your resource for that period of time. And they had to travel to China, which, you know, sounds fantastic until you do it. And then, you know, I really like being there. But I don't like that brands, it's, you wake up eight hours into the flight and realize you got eight hours left, and you just want to die, because then the next thought you have is 16 hours back, right? Like you're not you're really haven't made it anywhere. But that is something to consider. You can wear out your engineers, and they simply won't go anymore. If you can't get your head wrapped around your vendor. flipside of that is your guide down the road, the guy who can weld some stuff, probably is not the dude, you should be using his oven for like PCB manufacturing, right? So like you kind of gotta blend in and make sure that you can actually get to your vendors. I don't know, is there is there? Is there anything to that statement? If you guys have other problems like that, where like, they selected the right vendor, but that customer couldn't manage it. But it was the customers issue and their inability to get to the vendor and give them the detail they needed? Or is this just like my experience only
while MACRA we typically manage the vendors for our customers, so it's typically not on the customer, unless they're bringing us stuff that they've already had pre manufactured, like plastics and that
kind of stuff. Yeah, so maybe more like on the box build side of things. Yeah,
it's definitely a more on the box build stuff. But yeah, I've seen that with with injection molding plastics. Yeah. And machining, where we'll get actually, I think Steven was at the fab for one of these projects where the enclosures were not machined to tolerance, right. And, and, of course, whatever vendor they use is long gone on Aliexpress by then, yeah, and so Craig busts out of a stone, tablet thing that's like micron level, as far as like measuring all these like enclosures. Oh, yeah,
that was fun. You know, actually, here's, here's another thing, this applies a little bit more to the CM side. But I've certainly run into this. If, if your customer is asking for particular processes to be done that are third party to the CM, then it is 99.9% of the time best to define that in in documentation or drawings or whatever, and then let your CM manage that. I have certainly had experience where the customer was managing the third parties, and we were being the chauffeur in between there. And maybe the customer doesn't have the best experience with it. But there are maybe their their focuses, were more on the aesthetics, but not the manufacturer ability. And then you run into all these issues of being the chauffeur and figuring things out. Like if you're asking for XYZ processes to be done and you're asking your contract manufacturer to be the final step in that it's almost best that it's almost always best to let the contract manufacturer do the work from top to bottom.
Yeah, I you know, I like that approach because maybe I guess we'll stick with this pharmaceutical right like they were they were on the rampage to have multiple sources and to control their vendors and to minimize pricing and get right to the root like you would in a pharmaceutical. And so we basically managed a battery company in China in this way through our saw our CM wanting it and we told them no, we've got a great deal with these dudes. Right. So you're right, it became an issue because when we started seeing quality concerns, we bring him to RCN and we're like what the heck we're having failures. And they're like no, we're not seeing it. Keep going like give us some more samples and we'll just keep going and what it turned out to be is the battery manufacturer decided to save us all some money and stop waiting for weld joints on the tab. He was only spot welding it twice so the batteries were just falling out of their their tabs and the See money in quotes? Yeah, high five all around, right. Thanks for that dude. But yeah, when they decided to do that it impacted our project and the CM will ultimately I handed that battery manufacturer over to the CM because of this issue. And I told him, I'm like you either manage that guy, or you go find another one, but I'm done dealing with batteries, here's the price we need.
Yeah, right. And half the time, they enjoy that, because then they don't have to, they don't have to be the weird third party loop in quality issues.
Yeah, well, I've never seen this happen in the States, not to say it doesn't. But I do know that in China, one major reason that your see and this is not a bad thing, or a good thing. It can be good for you and bad for you. But the CPMs housing all of the other seems right, so you only have one throat to choke. Right, like that's, that's what you want. That's where we're headed is one, one response. So you go out and you find your CM and then handle your vendors over to them. And what they'll do is go secondarily provide find vendors that are cheaper, which they should be doing right, they should be improving the process and cutting their margins. But they're, it's rare that a Chinese cm understands the spec enough to make certain decisions, like we have laser additive in a plastic so we could mark it. And the Chinese manufacturer decided that we didn't need one and a half percent that we can get away with 1.2%. And we can but it wasn't dark enough. It wasn't what the customer wanted. So you do you can't just hand over all of your your vendors without keeping an eye on it and keeping an eye on quality, especially if you're overseas, especially if you're overseas.
And that sort of goes back to what I was saying with your documentation if your documentation clearly stated 1.5% minimum, and I'm not saying you didn't, but But in a situation like that, if I had documentation says 1.5. And then I found out that it isn't. That's when you go back and say, Hey, you didn't follow what it was agreed to here.
Yeah, yeah. In this particular case, I'll give you the true answer. Behind the root of the problem is we did spec 1.5%. But we spent 1.5%. We didn't know how dark we needed it. We just knew how dark we wanted it. And so the final agreement that they signed with them was a contrast number. And so they just they basically had to do a certain contrast. And what we found was that that contrast Mark wasn't as dark as we wanted it to be. Got it. And so again, they were like, Oh, well, we can save you money, we can get to that contrast level and save everybody, whatever 3% of the additive. I think that those are more like, like, I don't know that it's advice as much as it is just like everybody should hear everybody else's horror stories, and let everybody else failed a bad way so that we can the rest of us can avoid them in the future. I feel like that's really what the like, at least the DFM podcast so my independent that is like just rattling off bad crap that happened. And then what I did to get out of
a hole. Honestly, that's that's been every DFM podcast we have. Yeah,
arm that was interesting is you were talking about like understanding the scope of when you start changing things. Yeah, the it's knowing as a cm is knowing what is the right questions to ask other designers. Especially we're like, okay, like my example, there was a resistor I needed to get an alternate for. And it's like, whatever value is like, let's say it's 100k. Well, I can go find 2010 size 100 ks all day, right? Well, that's not the whole story. Because it's like, what 30 different specifications minimal for a resistor. And so it's actually asking the designers, hey, we need to find a part alternate for this because you want, you know, 10,000 of these, and there's only like, 100 of these resistors. What values do y'all actually care about? And these resistors that makes it so that you had to have this one?
So as a cm, would you? I can, this would be a nightmare. So rather than getting individual values, would it be better to just give a range of each of those 30 values on the resistor and then let the see and pick you guys can be the problem? You guys could solve the part sourcing problem altogether.
That's a lot of work for the engineer.
That designer that's why or equivalent is is a very powerful word, or we use a meter beats. So yeah, meter beats the these values, fine, whatever. It's great.
Yeah, but what about but that's not always the case, because there could be one value like let's say, voltage was very important for the resistor, but wattage isn't long as you meet a minimum wattage rating. It can be like a quarter watt, but most of these resistors are half Half a watt or one watt resistors. But you don't, but they picked a one watt one, but they actually only needed to be a quarter watt, but they need a high voltage rating. So they go okay, your wattage? Yeah, so they need to explain a little bit more than meat or beats in that
that's where I was gonna ask is like so if you're gonna say needs or beats and I say I need 12 Puff cap with the Q of 200 is the Q is a higher Q better or is a higher Q lower, you won't know whether it meets or beats it until you know what my Q requirements are? Do you know what I mean? I might intentionally want a narrow cue and I might explicitly need a wideband cue.
Well, that Okay, so if you're starting to get into those particular characteristics of passives, your your aura equivalent starts to get very, very thin, you know, you start to you start to bare basically narrowed down to like, we have evaluated this exact part number, and this is the only one that can be used.
Well, I was able to find, as I was basically how to interview the designers of like, what is this resistor use for and what values are important? All that good stuff, and then I found like 10 alternates, so
yeah, well, yeah,
something else also Parker about the whole, like, you know, maybe you have wattage like one watt and there's a quarter watt could do it, the circuit would be fine. One of the reasons why I was saying meets or beats is coming from one of my first jobs where we were doing like class one div one class one div two stuff. If your bill of materials has a one watt resistor, you cannot go under one watt, even if the circuit would allow for it. It has to be that value or above for every characteristic of the resistor. So that's what where we came up with the meets or beats kind of situation. I gotta say
that that case, but that's the thing is like, then the customer would be like, yeah, it has to be one watt because of class one div one.
So with your meets or beats, again, the question, the thing I'm hung up on is, what do you do in declining value? Right? So like ESR, we need a low ESR. So meets or beats obviously, in the English, it would mean that a lower ESR would be better. But from a computational perspective, you were trying to automate this and attributes and Eagle or something like that. How do you meets or beats ASR on the low side, while meeting the wattage on the high side?
Well, okay, so I can tell you from the from the agency approval side of things, they only hold you, not only they hold you accountable to basically what you supply them. So the goal, half the time with agency approvals is to meet the approval, well, giving them the least amount of information so that you can do that. So you know, they're gonna, they're gonna care about the things that can cause a spark or cause too much energy in a system or a cause of fire. So they'll care about the wattage, they'll care about the value, they'll care about, things of that sort. But if it's kind of your fault, if you put ESR on the bill of materials, because then they'll hold you to it because it's on your documentation. But if you hold it, put it there, then it doesn't fit the meets or beats kind of.
Okay, so I see that then because you're right, like I'm picking and choosing things that are obvious, right, like ESR is in the negative direction, depending on what you're doing and waters will be in a positive direction depending on what you're doing. And you're right, most components have obvious ones, but I pick those ones out because some components are not obvious Q unless you're unless you're an RF most people don't even think about Q they're just bypassing shit. Decoupling shit.
I wish there was a a capacitor type that just called bypass shit.
Yeah, like seriously, right. There should be
one that's called it's called the MF cap. Oh, 402 0.1 microphone.
Yeah, no, no, I'm seeing a whole category like Mauser. I just want to bypass shit. Oh, there it is. Yeah.
Seriously, there should be bad basic cat. I think that those should be common parts, right? Like, like in the, in the Tools eagle or whatever. There shouldn't be like, I need bypassing I want to push this button and switch into Vibhu like circuit bypass mode. And I just want to select bypass capital caps and drop those dudes wherever I need them. You know, things that are repetitive tasks like that. And
Maggie hooks it up to your voltage rails? Yeah, yep.
Yeah. Kind of like the way the buses work right when you're riding a bus is tell it what mode you are what you intend to do for like the next four hours and then stop having to click the tool a billion times because it switches over to the Select thing because it knows that's what you need. Exactly. Correct. So I have I have an eagle eye. There's been a lot of chatter in the podcast and in the In the Channel dislike channel about eagle in general. I have an interesting thing I did in Eagle if you guys want to hear about it now that's a that's a good segue. Yeah, go for it. Yeah. Okay, so we had a project. I'm trying to think how much I can let me just think about this project for a second. Make sure I don't give anything out or whatever. Yeah, okay. Okay. So basically, like this project is an IoT type device. But it has a lot of different like blocks in it power blocks, radio blocks, battery blocks, things like that. And originally, I was contracted to do it. And I thought, yeah, I got, I got all kinds of time, I'll just knock this out one block at a time, and go on about my business. And I don't know what maybe December timeframe, they called and asked if we could like accelerate and fast track. So I, I kind of put together a group of a couple of engineers, and I was trying to figure out how can I multitask and build multiple schematics in one schematic all at the same time. So what I ended up doing is I've got this crazy folder structure. And we can go into detail if you if you have questions. But basically, there's a folder for the project underneath my project. And I call that view zero, the very first version. And then in that same folder, I've got another folder called scratchpad. And what I did is I just started creating projects and or boards and schematics and then for my GPS modem, and then I created another project for my five volt regulator, and another one for my battery, you know, whatever else I was going to do with the battery, and then what I did is I created design blocks, exported the design block and imported it into the V zero version. And then I've set up white outlines, where each of those are gonna essentially be set up to run. And then what we were able to do is basically bounce back and forth like, Okay, today, I'm working on wireless, and you work on power, divide and conquer, come back together. And at the end of the day, we push the design blocks together and do a schematic review and be like shit, that's not going to be able to sit there. Let's move this around. And we were able to knock out significantly complicated project and surprisingly short amount of time by having multiple engineers, I'm quoting here, right, like work in the same Eagle file at the same time, like you would on a Google Doc. That's, that's my Yeah, that's my story. I mean, you definitely, there's some dangers and some risks. And if one of you opens the V zero file, and the other one saves it in, like, I'm using a, like a Dropbox share, to share the files back and forth. So when when you sync it up, you've always got your backups, but it might be difficult to find and all that saves that they did you know out in OneDrive, or, or whatever. But it seems to work really well for remote distributed teams. And I mean, at the end, somebody's got to, you know, stitch it all together. But yeah, that's that's my that's my Eagle findings. I don't know if people are bitching or just generally passive about Eagle are curious about it. I haven't, I haven't really got the threads take on on how they feel about ego.
I actually haven't even seen anyone besides a couple of the there's a couple online EDA tools that have dad in that, like multiple users working on the board at the same time. I haven't really seen that as anyone making a selling point for their EDA tools yet.
So how are how are bigger teams doing it? Right, like so if I had 10 engineers on a project that had a bunch of different let's just say I got five voltage drills? Would you would you typically assign the power supply guy to all the voltage rails? And then how would you merge the project in with say, like, the processing?
So I've never used the I've used cadence before, but not for board layout. And it was just alone. So I don't really no, because I'm going to assume those big packages like cadence, have something in there like some kind of hierarchy tile schematic that you can bring stuff in. But I don't know, ultimate has to have something like that. I was
gonna say I don't design in Altium unless the customer brings Altium to me, but that's just because I know I don't know where the buttons are as much as I do an eagle. But I think you're right I think there is a collaborative collaborative deal in here somewhere. So I guess maybe that's a call out to the group if you guys hit if you guys no good ways of collaborating like pm me or put them into general channel or whatever because there's there's got to be a better way to design complicated especially when you start reading mechanical and using Fusion. There's got to be a better way to multi design the infusions workflow is perfect. Like fusion is great at being able to have multiple people in there and tag areas in the in the drawings and things like that. But eagle is not ready for multiple people to be in the same file. Guess
what we had? The eagle otter desks Eagle, product?
Yeah. What was his name? Brian, I don't remember off the top of my head. I'm checking real quick.
I think if you are doing complex design that needs or warrants multiple engineers looking at multiple sections at once, you know, I would, I would, I would think one of the cleaner ways of doing it is, you know, you get everyone together, you kind of brainstorm your block diagram, and then you just go and distribute, however necessary. And you know, if it's, if it's something where like, everyone is super hyper connected in terms of what every portion of their circuit needs, every portion of their circuit is very connected, then just have regular check ins, you know, once a day where everyone just discusses, hey, I need this, or I or this is how this is going. And I've completed this section. And, you know, assuming you have as many seats in your EDA tool, as you do engineers, then just break it apart and have each person do it individually if that's possible.
So my my first question to that is, actually I got I got a two parter. Sorry, Parker. So one is, is like, how would so there's only one person do layout? So that's great communication, right? But who's going to be able to do the layout? And then my second statement says, question is, the reason might not be complexity, it might be throughput, if they just want to get their board done quicker. They might want more engineers on it. So I don't know, if you got that a little bit. But
it was Benjamin Jordan, we had on podcasts. So he was talking about kinda like doing board design in fusion. So fusion already works really well with with collaboration. And that might be this is just me, spitballing. Thinking about it, as you brought it up is maybe that is also the future of fusion, doing boards is being able to collaborate on boards. Design in fusion. Yeah, that maybe so he's gonna call me up and be like,
Thanks for committing that to a site that's in the next release everyone. Yeah, I know that. I didn't mean to be like complaining about Eagle right leg. And what I'm describing is a workaround for collaboration in a platform that doesn't support it. But if I but so to make it sound less like a complaint and more like a suggestion, absolutely, I think moving away from Eagle and and combining fusion at like in the modes, right, where you've got the different design modes, render animate simulate PCB. Right, and I wouldn't treat that I truly wouldn't need the switch EDA to go to mechanical versus electrical, which is I was a little I was a little caught off guard. How do I say that nicely. I was little caught off guard when I found out that the integration between eagle and fusion isn't really integration, it's file transfer that's automated for you. But they sell it as as full integration, which is what I got got it for, after using Altium. Right, like so Altium is truly direct integrated when you go to 3d mode, like there's no push to fusion or anything like that. So by comparison, I like that concept of being able to use the the modeler tool for the PCBA. One, but in practice, I don't know how that would work out. And maybe it's as simple as using a design mode. Any infusion, I will be honest, I am really good an eagle somewhat good at Altium in terms of speed, and fusion, I've just dip my toe in the pond. So maybe maybe I'm afraid of using Fusion for PCBs simply because I'm not familiar with it.
I would just like if it was if it worked a lot like how a Google doc worked. Steve and I can be on the same board and maybe using different tools or whatever just have, I don't see why they wouldn't be possible.
It shouldn't. It shouldn't be an issue. I mean, it has to do with the way that the tools were designed in the past. And if you guys haven't checked or yeah, if you haven't checked out lucid charts, like lucid charts is basically PowerPoint on steroids. And it lets you have multiple people like in the same document at the same time. You can build a UML diagrams, you can build presentations, multiple sheets, stuff like that. And that's what kind of got me on this this path. If I hadn't seen that tool, I probably wouldn't even complained about Eagle. I didn't realize you can collaborate in real time so effectively with engineers. So anyway, yeah, that was a bit of a sidetrack but
it's okay. We should be wrapping up this podcast. So yes, we have any anything
else Oh times but
but no, you gotta say that for next hour or the podcast.
Yeah. So so I just have to come up with one more hour announces to make up. I can do that
you're gonna sign us out Chris.
Ah yeah so that was the macro fab engineering podcast. I was your guest Chris Carter.
And we are your hosts Parker Dolman.
And Steven Gregg let everyone take it easy
Thank you. Yes, you our listener for downloading our podcast. If you have a cool idea, project or topic let Stephen and I know Tweet us at McWrap at Longhorn engineer or at analog E and G or email us at podcast at Mac fab.com Also check out our Slack channel. You can find it at Mac fab.com/slack I think Chris Carter is there all the time as well? Oh yeah.
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