My name is Martin Tarr and I should like to welcome you to Design for Product Build, one of the latest modules from the AMI stable. Although the module itself is new, it has its roots in a module called Design for eXcellence, and a pair of modules with the title Materials and Processes for Electronic Design Realisation.
Our new title is shorter, but maybe we still haven’t got it right – what our module is about is how electronic products are made. We are not expecting you to actually make anything, but we do hope that, by the end of your studies, you will have a good idea of what is involved, and about how you can influence the process, whatever part you are playing in the supply chain.
My background is in electronics manufacture, and during my career I have been involved in making components, in assembling boards, and in putting together completed items of equipment. In fact, the three elements that make up this module. I have written the module because I am passionate about making things, and have experienced at first hand the difficulties that arise when all the members of the team aren’t up to speed on the practical issues of manufacture. So companies often fall down on delivery, performance or cost simply because the right information hasn’t been shared.
I am also passionate about a technology that was once described to me as “the thinking man’s model railway”. There are so many ways of doing things, and all interesting. Unfortunately, it is also very easy to choose the wrong solution, and I hope that studying this module will help you avoid some of the pitfalls.
Our aim is that designs should be fit for purpose, as regards their functionality and their ability to survive in the environment, and that they should be fit for manufacture, meeting targets for quality, cost and yield. And here design has a major part to play in the selection of materials and processes, taking into account the needs of all the people in the chain, from procurement and manufacturing through to customer support and servicing.
The module covers four specific aspects, the manufacture of components, the fabrication of the board, combining these into a populated assembly, and the final stage of box build, where one or more populated boards are turned into a completed product. But don’t get the idea that these are four independent stages – in practice they each influence the other, so those who are responsible for product design need to look at the whole wood and not just the trees.
Similarly there is an interaction between the materials, the processes and the design, and the art is to select the best options from what is actually a very big kit-bag of approaches. And that kit-bag is getting bigger year by year. There is always room for even the oldest processes, but new approaches are devised regularly, and these have an impact on product design and manufacture. So we are considering developments and trends throughout the module.
We are also considering constraints, such as the increasing pressures, both commercial and through legislation, to design to meet environmental concerns. But, if you want to look in more detail at that aspect, then you might like to consider our Lead-free implementation module as an option.
The module materials fall into four categories. The first of these, which is by far the biggest in terms of the materials available, covers the background, under the headings The materials of electronics and Enabling processes. This is material that underpins the rest of the course, and our intention is that you should treat this as a resource, rather than study every last element.
This leads on to some fairly short units on component, board fabrication, board assembly, test and system build. During our study of those five units, we expect that you will have to refer back to the underpinning material.
Two units look at supply chain issues, at how design influences manufacture and the requirements for manufacture. Here we have introduced customer perspectives from a board fabricator and a stencil manufacturer, to illustrate the issues and to suggest how working with your supplier makes life easier for everybody.
The final group of modules illustrate that there is more than one way to skin a cat! Whilst the manufacturing units early in the module focus on mainstream processes and materials, there are alternatives, especially when we come to look at developments and trends. In order to help you focus on real issues, we have introduced a number of short case studies, where we invite you to look at some specific applications and the issues that were important during product design. This is an area of the module that is still under development, and we would encourage you to think critically about the products that your own company makes.
The module is structured in the usual AMI fashion, with a number of unit texts, complete with activities and supplementary materials. Particularly in the case of the underpinning units, there are a great number of resources – we don’t expect you to look at every one of these, but you should at least be aware of what is available. You can access the module material through the drop-down menu or through the module map, and using the map is quite a good way of making sure that you have located all the resources.
As part of your studies, you will be asked to undertake some research, and we have spent a fair amount of time pulling together lists of suitable web resources. We hope that these will be useful to you not just for the assignments, but also for keeping in touch with the industry as part of your Continuing Professional Development. We have also suggested some books which you may find useful later. However, please don’t get bogged down in the morass of material that is out there. Be selective, and keep your notes in order and up-to-date.
Our module is very much based on information from industry and started life as a list of things that industry told us that students ought to know about. We have received enormous help from contributors throughout the preparation of the material, so we would urge you to take a look at our Acknowledgements page. In a number of cases we have been able to incorporate commercial material directly, as we did for the Lead-free implementation module, and we have also been able to include some short video lectures on key topics. This is an area that we are hoping to expand on, and would welcome your feedback.
Of course, this module is not just about resources and materials, it’s about assessing your studies, so there are assignments! We have tried to make these as realistic as possible, and have tried to make the tasks relevant and interesting. But please don’t start and finish with the assignments – you will lose a lot of the benefit of the module if you concentrate overmuch on the work you hand in and don’t built up your own dossier of information and your notes on key issues. Don’t forget that what you will take away with you after your studies is what is in your long-term memory, and the way to get it there is to think through the material as you study it, make notes and apply your knowledge as far as you can both in the assignments and in your everyday work.
Finally, good luck with your studies – don’t forget that this is allocated a nominal 200 hours of study, so is deliberately more intensive than the normal AMI module. Make an early start on your assignments, and enjoy learning about the elements of the thinking man’s model railway. And, if you have problems or comments, please don’t be afraid to give me a call or drop me an email.
[ back to top ]