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How to Create Strong Product Designs for Manufacturing and Assembly

Key Takeaways

  • Learn the role modern CAD software plays in manufacturing and assembly

  • Learn how MCAD and 3D capabilities have transformed product design

  • Why DFM and DFA rules and constraints are so critical for strong product design 

Robot manufacturing and assembly graphic

Utilizing an advanced CAD software can help you create product designs for easy manufacturing and assembly

For a long time in the electronics industry, once an engineer had completed their specific assignment on an electronic device, they’d pass it to the next person in line and move onto the next task. Utilizing this design approach led to segmented communication in the design process, creating problems in manufacturing down the line. However, nowadays, CAD technology has developed and teams have better design strategies. Engineers are able to work on multiple elements of the design process, allowing for stronger collaboration efforts in product design for manufacturing and assembly. 

For an electronic device to be manufactured, the manufacturer must receive the completed design with all required elements and specifications. Furthermore, once the board is manufactured, for a successful assembly, engineers must ensure that the product is designed to meet the manufacturing and assembly house’s constraints. 

We’ll be taking a look at the importance of these rules and constraints for product design in manufacturing and assembly in addition to how electronics design has evolved to streamline this process. 

Strong Product Design Through Intelligent CAD Software

In the past, PCBs were designed and manufactured for a specific electronic prototype. This prototype was used for testing, allowing the circuitry to be refined before production. However, in developing these prototypes at a fast rate, the design worked but was not necessarily suitable or created with mass production in mind. This led to an additional re-design step requiring additional verification and increased costs.

With modern-day CAD tools, devices are able to be designed at similarly rapid paces with mass production capabilities. Utilizing some of the following tools enables product designs with easier manufacturing and assembly characteristics.

  • Online part searching enables designers to use the actual final component that will be assembled onto their board during the design process. Rather than utilizing a preliminary symbol and footprint, designers can be sure of the final component size and function.
  • Through DFM rules and constraints, designers are able to layout the board and have instant feedback if they have created a violation or must move specific components to accommodate spacing requirements.
  • Directly importing manufacturer specifications utilizing IPC-2581 allows designers to easily know what constraint values they should be using from the get-go.
  • 3D layout viewing enables designers to see how the device will look while in the development stage. This is especially useful for checking connector clearance or flex capabilities.

3D and MCAD’s Role in Product Design 

In general, CAD systems have made significant strides to incorporate 3D component information to export for mechanical systems. Footprints now carry STEP model information, opening up a whole new design canvas in 3D. Seeing how small parts can be grouped tighter around larger parts in addition to importing 3D mechanical models to see how they interact with component placement can be quite useful. Furthermore, the ability to work with multiple system boards and add enclosures allows for pre-verification before sending out your board for manufacturing.

Engineers working together to design a product)

Utilizing DFM and DFA rules in yor design process is invaluable in your product’s design lifecycle

The Importance of Product Design for Manufacturing and Assembly 

Circuit board and electronic devices follow a design → manufacturing → testing development process. The manufacturing stage consists of fabrication, where the bare board is made with traces, vias, and pads. The assembly process is where components are soldered to the board.

Design for Manufacturing vs. Design for Assembly

Product design for manufacturing (DFM) involves making design decisions such as layout, material selection, stackup, via position, and more to optimize for ease of fabrication and assembly. Product design for assembly (DFA) refers to design decisions being made with assembly in mind. This includes component spacing, clearances, board edge spacings, solder masks, silkscreen panelization, and more – all to enable ease of assembly. DFA is usually a subset of DFM. If designers use badly-defined constraints in their product design, a variety of issues may occur during manufacturing. Using the right DFM ruleset should be a priority to prevent these issues. 


The most direct DFM rules should come from your contract manufacturer, and it should be a top priority to adhere to these during product design. Uploading your CM’s DRC file into your CAD program is the simplest and most reliable way to ensure your product design will be suitable for manufacturing and assembly.

If your CM does not supply specific DFM rules, follow general industry standards to ensure quality and safety. If these rules, for any reason, are also unavailable or vague, using your CAD software’s defaults may be a good point to start from.

Being able to utilize design tools to create production-ready circuit boards is an invaluable tool. Through ECAD and MCAD design capabilities, electronic product design for manufacturing and assembly is more streamlined than ever before, allowing for higher board yields and lower costs. The best way to ensure these strong product designs is to use a PCB design system with all the features required to design a board with any information and required design rules. OrCAD PCB Designer amplifies the advantages of integrated DFM and DFA, allowing for design constraint visualization in real time, preventing errors and delays in manufacturing.

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