Prototron Soldermask

Know your Customers Desires

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By Mark Thompson | Published on: June 11, 2018

Now, more than ever we need to pay special attention to our customers’ desires and idiosyncrasies.

Over the years of building parts for the same customer, a certain amount of additional knowledge about the customer generally gets amassed by the Fabricator. Things like special features on the artwork that would cause delays at other fabricators that are known as intentional features by a fabricator who has already asked the questions... It is therefore crucial that these small details are Documented and archived in a Customer specific requirements type database. Having said that, there are certainly times deviations from “what has been” and “what is” warrant that the question or questions be asked again. Here, it is good to have that background knowledge of previous dispositions so that the questions can be answered easily and with less delay.

Another example of this would be things not necessarily noted on a drawing or “read me” type file but again are known as customer special “Hot Buttons” or undocumented requirements. Even things like packaging and shipping requirements not noted by the drawing or P.O. with as many customers that are out there comparing fabricators these days and scrutinizing the way we deal with artwork or fabrication snags, The “Leg up” is to already have that undocumented knowledge DOCUMENTED so that the questions or concerns be quickly resolved.

This frequently means the difference between and “win” and a “loss” when quoting. More information on the quote response is needed UP FRONT at the time of the quote which means a more thorough analysis must be done prior to quote. Many times new customers provide only a drawing to quote by. This can end up with additional questions prior to fab that cause delays. As a Fabricator, We would always like to see the entire Output package and drawings prior to quote so that any questions that could potentially cause delays can be approached at the quote stage. Thus showing the customer the fab shop has “done their homework”.

Let me give you a few examples of this. Let us say the customer drawing has specific information Regarding controlled impedance structures and has not provided the Gerber data for the purpose of the quote. Without the benefit of reviewing the Gerber data the impedances cannot REALLY be verified. Often we see specific line sizes noted on drawings that do not exist on the artwork. Likewise we have seen specific call-outs on drawings for reference planes that either do not exist or were Changed prior to final release. In addition, Even if the Reference planes and line sizes are EXACTLY as depicted on a drawing, they can be co-planar coupled by having the copper pour on the Impedance layer too close to the Controlled trace.

Another example of special customer knowledge is a Customer of ours that denotes specific dielectrics. If this was a new customer to another fabricator the question would beg to be asked, “you have very specific dielectrics noted, is this for the purpose of controlled impedance? If so, where do the controlled signals exist? (On what layers) what line size(s) are they and what threshold and tolerance is associated with them?” In some cases these dielectric notes are vestiges or “left over’s” from many previous iterations of the job and no longer have any relevance to the current revision AT ALL.

Yet another example is a customer of ours whose designs are full of what a CAM analysis would call “Stubs” or un-terminated traces. In well over 90% of the time with this particular customer these “Stubs” are actually shields. Again, having this prior knowledge helps us when the question arises. We still VERIFY with the customer that that is the case. It just goes a lot faster having some prior knowledge of their structures.

In yet another Example, One of our customers allows “carte blanche” line resizing to meet impedances as their designs run very low voltage and we are not running the risk of drastically reducing their “Current carrying capacity” . This is HIGHLY un-usual and would NEVER be done with any other customer as we would be running the risk of changing the functionality of the part.

Additionally, Not documenting these customer special requirements or needs ultimately does not service the customer. If the questions never get asked and the customer goes elsewhere, when questions DO arise, the answer is frequently, “ Our other Fabricator never asked that question”. DON’T BE THAT FABRICATOR! Ask the questions, but ask them in a timely manner.

As always, I appreciate your time. If you have any comments or questions, feel free to contact me at: or 425.823.7000 ext 239.


Redmond Facility
15225 NE 95th Street
Redmond, WA 98052

Toll: 888.847.7686
Phone: 425.823.7000
Fax: 425.869.2515

Tucson Facility
3760 E. 43rd Place
Tucson, AZ 85713

Toll: 800.279.5572
Phone: 520.745.8515
Fax: 520.747.8334

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