Cracking the Code – The Essential Blueprint for Crafting an RFQ for PCBs

What information is on a need to have, nice to have or not wanted at all basis, when you create an RFQ. Specifying is important, however, specifying too much on certain points, can create limitations.

The take on the job in Operations in CONFIDEE. Stack ups and Gerber.

At Confidee we receive lots of RFQs daily. However, some might contain too little information for us to proceed, others might be opposite, and contain too much information. What is the correct amount and what information is crucial?
Below is a short guide of what is needed for an RFQ, to make the process  as smooth and less complicated as possible. 

Let’s start with the basics. The quantity – Is it circuits or arrays? Make sure you are clear about what is your selection: Circuits (pcs) or panels (biscuits or arrays). Clarifying this, will rule out the need for more information. 

Do you know if there is a volume order following, this is handy to know regarding which manufacturer we proceed with, it can also impact the price. 

The lead time – btw did you know that Lead Time refers to working days (WDS) and not calendars days? 
Lead time can affect the price and where the PCB is being produced. Can you have longer lead time, or is lead time a crucial point for your product development? 

If not already established, specify the Method of Delivery. Is it by Land/Air or Sea? 
In regard to price, you will experience that Method of Delivery offers large variations in price. Can you take the longer transportation by sea, or is air the preferred option?
Make sure you have an understanding when 1st day for the order starts (some factories start counting with 10AM or 12 AM local time but others might be different)  

The Data Pack – so crucial but can be so confusing
For the Data Pack, some information is vital for us to be able to move on.
The Gerber data pack should contain only relevant files for the RFQ or Order. These should be the Gerber data, the NC drill files, the drawings and specification if available.   

If you also have the working Gerber data from the previous manufacturer and this is relevant to your request, make sure you clearly mark them to be used for REFERENCE ONLY. However, avoid sending multiple copies of the same data.  

For example, if your data pack has Gerber files and ODB++ this will only create confusion and slow down the response time. 
Some PCB factories are not accepting duplicate sets of the same data and they will be asking to confirm for which data to work with, resulting in delays.   

Another thing to remember is how to name the data. Avoid naming the file with special fonts like specific alphabet (ȍ ø å), this will cause confusion and that some might not be able to open them. Some CAM/DFM software will not recognise the files and they might be missed completely – use normal font instead.   

If you only require BARE PCB manufacturing, sending the assembly files is no use and will only add confusion, this has generated many EQ’s that could be avoided.  

The Layout file form your CAD software (example: .cam; .brd) is of no use to the factory as they are not used for fabrication, and they can’t open to view them as they don’t have the required software.  

The Specification – what to specify and not overspecify? 

If the final data is not ready and the final specification not released yet, a quick readme file will do just fine. 
Anything is better than nothing. Assumptions without knowing anything about the product may not be accurate and will only cost more valuable time confirming them at the EQ stage.  

The Specification should at least contain the following:   

  • PCB size and Panel information if applicable (including X-Outs information – allowed or not allowed) 
  • Material type | Finish Cu thickness | Resist and silkscreen colour | IPC class |  
  • Surface finish (For edge connectors, make sure you specify the correct finish) 
  • Via treatment where applicable (Ex: filled vias IPC-4761 type VII) 
  • Specials (where applicable): Impedance control; Depth routing; Side plating; Press Fit; Peelable mask and any other remarks. 
  • Information about the panel setup is also helpful (routing/scoring; breakouts position and style; gap between boards and waste frame; fiducial and tooling holes size and position). 

However, when it comes to specifications, we also have the challenge with over-specifications. This is mostly related to specifications on customer drawings in terms of materials and stack up requirements. The selection of materials for PCBs is a critical aspect of the design process, directly impacting the performance, reliability, and longevity of the end-product. 

If you are too strict in terms of allowed material types you run the risk of narrowing your choice of manufacturers, and it can also lead to non-competitive pricing. This is something to consider in the RFQ phase.

It is crucial to determine how, where, and in what capacity your product will function, and then base design decisions on these considerations. Once this step is accomplished, factors such as cost, availability, and supply chain risks become significant, all packed into the RFQ.  

Finally, we need to talk about industries. If your PCB is for use in the Defense Industry, its crucial to inform about this at the RFQ stage. 

An simple RFQ is not always just a simple RFQ, there are many factors to consider. This is where a PCB partner with expertise in both design and market aspects can demonstrate its value. 

Another article from Operation Manager Constantin Tanase about Gerber files and data transformation.

Cracking the Code – The Essential Blueprint for Crafting an RFQ for PCBs

Written by: Constantin Tanase

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