HQ Electronics' HQDFM Design for Assembly Update

9th April 2024
Sheryl Miles

The PCB design analysis software’s new update provides valuable Design for assembly insights on PCBA production data that further helps designers reduce problems both during and after assembly.

Not every hardware designer is lucky enough to have another set of eyes to help review their work. HQ Electronics is well aware of this with typically over 60% of their clients’ PCB assembly data having DFA errors ranging from minor hiccups to severe problems that resulted in a complete rerun and lost money and time.

With HQDFM’s new PCB assembly checks, the repetitive task of DFA review is greatly shortened and more accurate, being less prone to human errors. Best of all, HQDFM is still completely free and focuses on being readily available and accessible to all engineers, unlike other solutions behind a high paywall.

The new HQDFM DFA update includes a component footprint checker, BOM and Centroid file checker and additional checks focusing on the assembled board with components.

Footprint checker

One of the most powerful features of the new update, the footprint checker function automatically compares the lands patterns on the PCB design with those in the HQDFM database, which is continuously being expanded. Out of the box, the footprint checker can automatically check over half of the parts in the design’s Bill of Materials (BOM) file with a single click, providing immediate feedback on problematic land patterns. Users can also build on the footprint database or manage a local database for their own use.

BOM and centroid file checker

The BOM and Centroid file review finds inconsistencies that can be difficult to detect manually, and can cause confusion at the assembly house. For example, HQDFM can detect if the quantity requested for a specific part does not match the number of designators, which can be difficult for large numbers of parts like resistors and capacitors, and inconsistencies can have dire consequences during assembly such as purchasing too many or too little. HQDFM can also detect if duplicate entries of a designators exist and highlight if the required value (e.g., resistance value) does not match the chosen part, eliminating much mundane and repetitive review work by engineers.

HQDFM also checks whether all the parts in the BOM are present in the Centroid data and vice versa, which may be a result of poor version control or incorrect configurations.

DFA analysis

Expanding on the DFM checks for bare PCB designs, HQDFM’s DFA checks use the component and x-y coordinate data to accurately simulate component placement on the boards and feedback errors based on this, regardless of if footprint data exists for that part. HQDFM also includes other checks applying to the entire layout and positioning on the PCB board. Checks include pad size and positioning, hole diameter and placement for through-hole and pressfit leads, component clearances to other components and PCB features, pad contact areas, PCB shadowing,

The suggestions and detection limits are based on IPC guidelines and actual assembly floor data. But as with the original HQDFM, the software remains generic, that is, the feedback is based on the capabilities of the PCB assembly industry in general, not just HQ Electronics’ capabilities, which distinguishes it from built-in DRC checks available in EDA software and makes it useful to all PCB layout engineers, regardless of who their chosen assembly partner is.

In addition, customers of HQ NextPCB, HQ Electronics’ international PCB manufacture and assembly division, can be directed to the NextPCB PCBA order page for a full quotation, bringing along the PCB Gerber files along with it.

The new additions to HQDFM software suite are significant in the PCB design field where such verification checks are either out of reach or not fully utilised. HQDFM can help educate designers on problems commonly encountered during assembly that can be resolved early on with the appropriate tools and knowledge.

The updated HQDFM PCB Design Analysis software suite version is available for download for free on the official HQ Electronics (NextPCB) website. Click the download button on the right to try it. An online Gerber Viewer version is available for new users to try HQDFM for the first time or non-windows users who only need bare PCB DFM features.

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