What is the difference between PCB DFA, DFM and DFMA?

By Mer-Mar Electronics Date posted: Last updated: June 7, 2022
DFA vs DFM vs DFMA

With a large percentage of production costs being determined by design decisions, it stands to reason that Design for Manufacturing has come to occupy a huge role in manufacturing. What, however, are the differences, if any, between Design for Manufacturing, Design for Assembly and the more comprehensive sounding Design for Manufacturing and Assembly? Let us take a deep dive and find out.

PCB DFA vs DFM vs DFMA – What do these terms stand for?

DFM

Design for Manufacturing is a design method that goes a long way in reducing the complexity of manufacturing operations. It also has a positive implication on the overall cost of production including the cost of raw materials.

DFA

Design for Assembly is a design method that facilitates the assembly operations of components of a product.

DFMA

Design for Manufacturing and Assembly is an engineering technology or method that prioritizes both ease of manufacture as well as simplified assembly of the parts, during the early design phases of the product lifecycle. It, therefore, helps bring down time-to-market as well as total production costs. As a singular philosophy, it brings together what was so far considered to be two distinct methodologies, namely DFM & DFA.

Main levers to reduce manufacturing costs through Design for Manufacturing and Assembly (DFMA)

Given that DFMA is a comprehensive, balanced approach that combines DFM & DFA practices, let us look at what are some of the main levers when it comes to reducing PCB manufacturing costs through the DFMA approach.

Reduction in number of parts

Reducing the number of parts not only reduces the cost of PCB assembly, it also has an implication of a number of other costs including but not limited to:

  • Administrative and logistical costs
  • Cost of testing and reliability

Using Standard Parts

Using standard parts as opposed to customized ones can prove to be more cost-effective. The fact that they are easily available also adds to ease of production.

Adopting a Modular Design

The use of modules offers a wide range of benefits including:

  • Reducing the number of components. This also reduces the indirect costs.
  • Reducing redesign costs by using existing modules.
  • Taking advantage of production scale for modules that are common.

Modularity, however, is limited by the increase in PCB assembly costs with an increased number of connections.

Designing Multifunctional Parts

Use of a multifunctional part reduces the need for an increased number of parts.

Error-proof parts

This involves designing parts that cannot be assembled in the wrong way or be assembled on other products.

Designing Parts to facilitate Assembly

Parts can also be designed to facilitate assembly as well as testing.

Limiting Tolerance Constraints

It is important to ensure that the binding tolerances are reduced, and any over-specifications aren’t followed, as these could result in higher costs on account of the following:

  • Need for more robust processes.
  • Need for sophisticated equipment.
  • Need for extensive quality control.

Limiting Fasteners

As a thumb rule, separate and complicated fasteners need to be limited as they increase costs.

Facilitating Handling

The parts need to be designed in a manner such that they are easy to handle. Sharp edges, parts that are too large etc. for example are best avoided from the handling perspective.

Reducing Assembly Directions

Wherever possible all the parts need to be assembled in one direction.

Design For Manufacturing and Assembly Methods

There are a wide variety of methods that aid DFMA. Noteworthy among the following are:

  • Collaboration between design and manufacturing teams. It is important that all stakeholders are a part of the process so that there are no last-minute surprises.
  • Design for Testability, to ensure that it is easy to test while in production. This is often a part of the Design for Manufacturing mandate.
  • Design for Maintainability, which ensures easy, less costly maintenance for manufacturing equipment and which ensures there is no downtime.

To Sum Up

DFMA, a combination of Design for Manufacturing (DFM) and Design for Assembly (DFA), enables a product design to be efficiently manufactured and easily assembled with minimum labor cost. Through the use of DFM best practices as well as DFA, a company can do the following:

  • Prevent manufacturing inefficiency.
  • Eliminate waste.
  • Not dealing with costly errors.

For effective application of DFM/A, the two activities must work together to ensure success.

Mer-Mar Electronics is one of the leading PCB design and manufacturing companies, providing all in one PCB assembly and fabrication solutions. Our consistent quality and quick turnaround endear itself to our customers, who look on us as a one-stop-shop for all their PCB manufacturing requirements. In case if you have any questions or require more information about PCB assembly and fabrication services, contact us via sales@mermarinc.com or call us on (760) 244-6149.

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