Panel Wizard

The ExactCAD Panel Wizard is a comprehensive tool which takes a completed (or partially completed) PCB design and goes through the entire process of building the panel database in Fablink.  It distinguishes between a full panel and an array.

The full panel is the entire fabrication panel the board fabrication shop will work with, including the panel borders with coupons, thieving, and other objects the fabrication shop will need space for.

The array in this context is a smaller group of one or more individual boards which will be delivered from the fabrication shop as a unit, with tooling holes, fiducials, V-scores, break-off tabs, mouse bites, break-away holes, and any other features needed to create a functional array for PCB Assembly operations.

Starting with the board outline, the tool enables the user to specify the following:

– Whether there are contours (milled cutouts or notches) in the board outline which need to be accommodated by the array.

– The use of V-Scores along any of the sides of the PCB.

– Whether there are any parts overhanging the board outline which need to be accommodated by the array.

– Minimum spacing between boards in the array.

All of the above is specified in the first part of the Panel Wizard, the Board Worksheet:

After the board worksheet is complete, the tool will move on to define the rest of the panel.  In this part of the wizard, the user can define the following:

– Panel overall size (fabrication shops will specify this)

– Panel border width  (fabrication shops will specify this)

– Array border width (typically defined by assembly equipment requirements)

– Maximum array size (usually limited by assembly equipment capability)

– Minimum array spacing (space between arrays in the panel)

– Tooling holes added to the array.  (selected from the design’s library)

– Fiducials added to the array.  (selected from the design’s library)

– V-scores in the array, and whether or not the V-scores will extend into the break-away tabs or not.

– Break-away holes (might be used in place of V-scores to separate the board from the array)

Taking all of the above into account, the Panel Wizard then calculates all possible array configurations that will fit in the panel, and lists them so that the user can choose which to use.  The list of possible arrays includes:

– The number of boards in the array, and how they are arranged – 1 X 3, 2 X 4, etc.

– The orientation of the boards in the array – 0° or 90°.

– The number of arrays that will fit in the panel.

– The total number of boards that will be produced in each panel.

– The overall size of the arrays.

When the user selects a given array configuration from the list, it is drawn graphically in the Panel Wizard window.  End contours, V-scores, break-off tabs, tooling holes, and fiducials are all shown. This display can be switched between a full panel view and the view of a single array.

Once the user is satisfied that the proposed panel design will work, the GO button is pressed and the complete array is built in Fablink. Boards, tooling holes, fiducials, and V-score lines are all added.  The Panel Border and Panel Outline are redrawn in the Fablink database to represent the array outline and provide space for array dimenisons. Dimensions are added to the panel for the overall size of the array, the locaiton of the boards and tooling holes, and the locations of all V-score lines.

Compared to various other methods of doing the calculations for how to set up the panel and arrays, then doing all the work to redraw the fablink border objects, add the board parts, add the tooling holes, add the fiducials, add the score lines, and all the dimensions, the Panel Wizard is very easy and takes much less time.  The entire process can be completed in a few minutes as opposed to hours. And since the Panel Wizard does all the math and saves it, any changes to the panel design are easy to implement – everything done before will be used as a starting point if the Panel Wizard is started again.

If a change is needed, the entire panel database can be erased and quickly re-created with the Wizard in just a few minutes.  Even if the board outline changes, the Wizard can be run again and the panel design quickly completed.

When the panel database is placed on a sheet in Drawing Editor, the array and V-score views are already dimensioned, so there is very little additional work needed to finalize the PCB fabrication drawing.  Modify notes as needed, place the drill chart, and place the layer stackup chart.  Spending hours to do a PCB fabrication drawing is a thing of the past.

Finally, all the parametric data from the Panel Wizard is saved in the design.  When the Quote Sheet is created, it reads this data and the panel information is automatically updated in the quote sheet.  The same image of the full panel shown in the Panel Wizard is exported and then added into the Quote Sheet along with the parametric data to make it easier for the CAM operators at the fabrication shop to quickly see what the panel design should look like when they make fabrication quotes.