Figure 2. Panel with many small boards. Don't let the scale fool you -- each board is 5mm x 20mm. It is not clear, but the white surround indicates each board's cutout. The breakouts aren't very clear here. Observe the two test points on the right. (Click here to see a larger, more detailed image.)
Hmm running the tracks in from the edge for testing is a neat idea!
Those tiny PCB's look like the "fuse blown" indicators , do you use those little spongy EMI pads to get a good contact , e.g. Gore 25SMT-4442-01 ? or a little metal spring finger like the Harwin S1741-46R?
I also usually send my PCB's in as full panels , was 10.5 x 16.5 " , but changed supplier now 15.74 x 10.23" , I get it a cheaper rate, the so called "plot and go"
I also discovered that if you are making 10" x 8" panels , it is cheaper to ask for "5 full panels, each with two of the attached halfpanel.pcb files" than to ask for "10 panels of halfpanel.pcb"
It helps to put a dividing line somewhere near the middle to make shipping easier.
I can have upto 20 designs/panel.
The other thing is with say a production run of 3" x 4" PCB's , you get about a 2" margin left all around the panel, so you fill this up with prototypes. So with a run of 10 panels, you get 120 production boards and as a bonus get at least 10 of each proto board for free. (The stencils are just made to cover the area of the "production boards") , the proto boards are hand pasted or maybe mylar stencils.
Next production run, you make minor tweaks to the "production boards", but run a completely different set of proto boards around the edge.
Thank you for taking the time to write these ideas up and share them. I have never considered the efficiencies that might be possible with mulitple units on a panel and a common test connector. This type of setup may be well suited to some of the prototype work we do.
While I have not had the need to do this, it's my understanding that some of the proto houses (Advanced Ciruits was specifically mentioned in this regard) will send you the uncut/unbroken panel. This can be a real moneysaver if you are making a fair number of small boards and the PCB house charges by the individual board. Of course, some PCB houses won't cooperate here.
Yes, I agree with you. But for us, sometime we ask next day 9:00 am delivery or if they make mistake in delivery, we ask them to send it in person or by taxi. Yes, it is expensive, but you must follow management instructions. I wish I get that much money for my test and measurement equipments or like that. But that is difficult.
It looks good if you are so concerend about saving $300 and delaying work.
We appear to wok in completely different markets. It's not $300, it's $300 per board. We produce probably more than 50 boards a year, but let's take that as a round number. Making each individually would cost $15K. If we spread it over 7 panels that works out to $5K6. Although we make quite a number of boards, we are a small company so the $10K saved is important.
And yes, we have the luxury of not being pressed to get a product to market ASAP most of the time. Because each of the engineers have at least 2-3 projects going on simultaneously (and I am NOT advocating this as a great way to work) the board delays are not normally an issue.
It looks good if you are so concerend about saving $300 and delaying work. However, time to market for everyone is so great and no one wants to wait for even half a day. In general we pay premium for two three days delivery. I am not sure, this is practical in bigger organization.
The pricing of PCB manufacturing is sometimes a little obscure, but it was always my impression that one major part consists of the area the board takes on the panel ... including the unused area. It became a habit to use such areas as cooling "wings" for power chips that use copper areas as part of their cooling. I leave them with more or less full copper on both side and little solder areas. On the major board I leave adjacent lanes without screen. In the end the otherwise useless pieces of board get soldered vertically between these lanes and provide additional cooling at (almost) no additional cost.