Design for eXcellence

Module Overview

The aim

Welcome to our module Design for eXcellence. This has been developed by EDR Centre principally for layout designers working within the electronics industry, but we hope that everyone involved in the design realisation supply chain will find the course material illuminating. All you need to succeed (other than commitment, of course!) is to have a working knowledge of board fabrication and assembly processes. If you don’t yet have that, you may find it easier to start with module AMI4812 Materials and Processes for EDR – 2.

The list of contents was created by a team of industrialists, who also carried out a peer review of the texts underlying this distance learning material. There are five elements within this module, which carry approximately equal weight:

This last, a term which may be interpreted as ‘Design for eXcellence’ or ‘Design for anything’, is presented as a ‘wrap-around’ for the module. It consists of a preliminary Design for eXcellence unit that introduces you to the very wide range of topics in the module, and finishes with a unit on New Product Introduction

The course material

As with other courses, most of the main teaching material for this module is in HTML format, which you can study either on screen or off. However, some reference materials referred to within the texts are included in PDF format, being better suited to the booklet format. A number of these resources, and others that are not explicitly referenced within the texts, are accessible from the Resources icon on the home page, and we strongly recommend that you familiarise yourself with these.

Additional information is provided on Design for Fabrication, which we find is the one most difficult to access as a distance learning student. Our emphasis also reflects the fact that it is impossible to see many fabrication problems from the outside in the way that one can with DfA and DfT issues. What we did was to record a number of presentations by fabrication professionals which reviewed the manufacturing process and the sequence by which a kit is tooled, and dealt with DfF issues and requirements. The PowerPoint information is similar to that upon which the printed module material is based, but there are a number of additional points, answers to questions, and so on. The Microsoft Producer files for this, which can be accessed using your web browser, are quite large, and unfortunately are not suitable for web distribution. This material will therefore be made available to you on CD-ROM at an appropriate point in your study.

Some common resources are also accessible from the Resources icon on the home page:

We try to keep these up-to-date, but this is an up-hill task, and we always welcome leads, ideas and comments: email Martin Tarr at


Suggested Study Plan

The table below shows the suggested sequence of study. It is indicative only, rather than mandatory, but the assignments represent three fixed points!

Study Week Unit Unit / Assessment
Design for eXcellence
Design for Environment (overview)
Work on Assignment 1: A report with recommendations on DfF issues relating to the ‘bad practice exemplar’. 15 hours (worth 15%)
Design for Assembly
Work on DfA element of Assignment 2
Design for Test
Work on DfT element of Assignment 2
Completion of Assignment 2: A report with recommendations on DfA and DfT issues relating to the ‘bad practice exemplar’. 20 hours (worth 35%)
Design for Environment
New Product Introduction
Assignment 2: A report on the environmental aspects of a specific PCA of your choosing, and on issues of implementing DfX and NPI concepts. 30 hours (worth 50%)

Some notes for your guidance:

Not only do we want you to learn through the assessments, we want you to participate in the study process. All the material is designed to be thought and worked through, and not just read cursorily. There are SAQs and activities in each of the units, and we recommend that you complete these. If time pressures force you to skim-read any unit, then try and find time to return to it and go through the exercises.

Those of you whose study style is to learn information a nugget at a time, and then forget it, should beware of the holistic nature of DfX. Not only do you need to grasp specific information about certain topics, but you must also stand back and take a more global view of a product, from both manufacturing and environmental standpoints. Inevitably, there will be compromises to be negotiated between competing aspects of the problem, and not just of the “Do you want it quickly, or do you want it for sixpence?” type.

Finally, instead of putting this module aside after your study and thinking “I’ll never use that again”, we would like you to take the thoughts and material here and seek to build them into your design practice. For the future, we should also like you to keep your skills honed by reading, web browsing, meetings and exhibitions, because the ground rules keep changing. However, what never changes is the need to take an all-embracing view of the design process, where an increasingly broad perspective is needed in our global industry.

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Getting support

Before you start your studies, you might like to think about the issue of support – undoubtedly you will have questions to ask. While you may seek help from your peers and from the course team, you should also think about building up your support network from among both suppliers and colleagues involved in fabrication, assembly and test.

In fact, a key feature of this course is seeking to make you aware of the needs of the other people within the EDR supply chain. It is a great temptation to think that, because we all strive not to do a poor job, that we automatically do even an adequate job, as perceived by people outside our immediate company. Most of the time, the mistakes we make, and the problems we create for other people, are covered by Dr Johnson’s explanation for how he came to describe the pastern as the knee of the horse – “Ignorance, Madam, pure ignorance!”

If you haven’t already made contact with them, you may be surprised to find out how passionate these other people feel about their work, and how encouraged they will be if you ask questions that indicate that you are interested in learning more of their point of view. Why are they passionate? There are probably two reasons: the first that bad designs give them a lot of grief, and they would like to have an easier life; the second that the technology excites a lifelong interest – one commentator referred to interconnection technology as “the thinking man’s model railway”!

So we hope you will enjoy your 12 weeks with us. If you have any problems, please don’t hesitate to contact Martin Tarr by phone (01383 723989) or email at

We encourage you to be very open about your problems and concerns – if we know about them, we can do something: if you hide issues, then the problem becomes serious, and stays yours!


The course is assessed by three assignments, in which you apply the learning material to realistic situations. This means that the assessments are ‘formative’ (in ‘edu-speak’), which means that doing the work helps you learn as well as contributing towards your eventual pass.

The first two assignments are made up of three related elements, covering Design for Fabrication (Assignment 1), and Design for Assembly and Design for Test (Assignment 2). We commissioned a ‘bad practice exemplar’ by asking Plexus to modify a good design (provided by Valor) to demonstrate the most likely kinds of faults in each of the three areas.

You will be asked to apply the course material (and the many sets of guidelines found in it) to these deliberately incorrect designs, identify the problems, and suggest ways in which they might be put right. To simulate reality, there are some conflicts between the requirements of the different areas, and you will need to create an effective compromise.

The transfer medium for this assignment is deliberately Gerber data, as this is a common standard that is always available. Also, we want you to work through the detail of the DfX assessment processes – that way you learn more than how to press the button on a DfM tool! As a result of doing this exercise, we hope that you will build an understanding of what the tools do, and the benefits and limitations of using them, that will be a useful precursor to your study of the Manufacturability analysis module.

The third assignment, to be completed at the end of the module but worked on throughout most of your study, is based on a product of your choosing. You will be asked to look at the Design for Environment issues potentially associated with that product, and to answer specific questions relating to other aspects of Design for eXcellence. Then you will be asked to consider how a substantially modified version of the same product might be designed and brought to market in half the time that you took before. We are throwing a real life challenge at you!

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Author/Tutor Profile

Martin Tarr is a specialist consultant engaged to tutor this module. He is engaged by many companies in the electronics industry and also teaches with Napier Univeristy at the Scottish Advanced Manufacturing Centre. His area of interest covers all aspects of interconnect technology from semiconductor back-end processes through to equipment practice, but in recent years there has been an inevitable emphasis on surface mount technology.

In his 35 years in the electronics industry, Martin has learnt the hard way how components are made and assembled, and how they fail - there are some interesting parallels between components and companies in his CV! He has been intimately involved with custom applications of a wide range of technologies from valves to multi-chip modules, and in industries from avionics to heart pacemakers to industrial process control. In recent years, he has combined his technical/marketing consultancy with a commitment to teaching and has qualified as a member of the Institute of Learning and Teaching.

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The course material provided will contain much of the information needed, especially in terms of setting the context of DfX and providing check lists. The bulk of the other materials you will need will come from web browsing, and suggestions for browsing on specific topics are given: a compilation of some of the many web sites which give useful additional information can be accessed from the home page Resources icon.

As with your studies on materials and processes, you should be aware of the twin dangers of information overload and information conflict, especially in the area of DfE:

The books listed below contain useful background reading on DfX and related subjects, but you will probably want to borrow rather than buy these, unless you find one particularly relevant to any work you are doing as part of your employment. A wider range of books can be accessed from the home page Resources icon.

Recommended Texts

Some suggestions:

Title Author ISBN Publisher Date
Design for eXcellence James G Bralla 0070071381 McGraw-Hill Education
Green electronics/green bottom line Lee Goldberg 0750699930 Newnes, London
Electronics Manufacturing with lead-free, halogen-free and conductive-adhesive materials John H Lau, C P Wong, Ning Cheng Lee and S W Ricky Lee 0071386246 McGraw-Hill, New York
Concurrent Engineering: Concepts, Implementation and Practice Chanan S Syan, Unny Menon 0412581302 Chapman & Hall
Product Design and Development Karl T Ulrich, Steven D Eppinger 007229647X McGraw-Hill Higher Education, London
2nd edition, 2000
Design Methods in Engineering and Product Design Ian Wright 0077093763 McGraw-Hill Education

Also useful:

Title Author ISBN Publisher Date
Coombs’ Printed Circuits Handbook: ed. Clyde F Coombs Jr 0071350160 McGraw-Hill, New York
5th edition, 2001
Electronic Packaging: Design, Materials, Process and Reliability John H Lau, C P Wong, John L Prince and Wataru Nakayama 0070371350 McGraw-Hill, New York

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