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Frequently Asked Questions

This section contains the questions and answers that many of our new contacts have asked about our products and services.  If you cannot find the answers you need, please contact us through email phone or FAX.  We will be glad to answer any question you may have, to the best of our ability.

This section is being updated.  The following is a partial list of FAQs.

Q: What contract vehicles are available for development programs?

A: ATL offers several types of contracts.  Which one applies to your case is dependent on the number of unknowns in the product or system specification or concept.  If the number is minimal, a FIXED PRICE contract could serve very well.  This is also the vehicle of choice for contract assembly, printed circuit board layout, or any of the number of "commodity" services offered by ATL.  If the number of variables is great, a COST PLUS FIXED FEE (CPFF) arrangement is considered the most efficient vehicle.  If the job is small and there are variables a number of variables, a TIME and MATERIALS (T&M) contract is the best fit.  The major difference between the CPFF and the T&M is that we provide a detailed proposal for the CPFF effort and provide financial progress reports.  The T&M charges are directly related to the actual time charged on the contract and the materials purchased.

Q: What do I need to get a PCB design started.  I have an idea of what I want?

A: A minimum requirement is a description of what the board assembly is to do. However, your costs and the time to complete the work are reduced in direct proportion to the information you supply.  For the most economical scenario, you could provide a schematic, a parts list and a set of guidelines for the physical size of the board and the locations of major components (if their placement is restricted).  Anything you can do will reduce our time and hence your costs.  For instance, if you supply the parts list in electronic format, it reduces our labor required to type in the list.

Q: I have an assembly that we have been producing, but the documentation is poor and the vendor we used has gone out of business.  Is there any way to continue the production of the product?

A: A common problem today in the electronics industry is a company having a product that is no longer supportable.  This could be due to down-sizing, design vendors going out of business or materials becoming obsolete.  In many cases, minimal information and a sample of the product is all we need to regenerate all of the design and production documentation.  We can then produce the product in volume, with any engineering changes required to replace obsolete materials.  ATL has reverse-engineered assemblies for private industry, the federal government and the military.

Q: I want to generate my own designs and have a PCB layout.  What is the best course of action?

A: The best thing to do is is to generate the schematic using a compatible schematic capture program, such as OrCad Capture and provide the design file to us.  We can compile the PCB and generate the layout and supply the required Gerber files for PCB production.  We can also produce the boards for you.  Once the layout is complete and approved, we can supply pricing for the unpopulated boards, or on a complete assembly.  ATL maintains up-to-date board layout software under maintenance contracts.  The next best thing is to supply a hand-generated schematic that is clear enough for us to generate the electronic design file.  The latter course of action requires a little more work on our part, but generally is not a show-stopper.

Q: What documentation do I receive when I contract for a PCB design and layout?

A: The amount of documentation depends on what you specify and the conditions under which the design is accomplished.  Usually, you receive a schematic (either in printed or electronic format, or both), PDF files of the board silkscreen, the Gerber files for fabricating the PCB, and a bill of materials (BOM).  The format of the BOM depends on what you contract for.  As a minimum, we provide a CAD-generated BOM that lists the parts as used in the design.  You usually provide the material information, such as manufacturer, part numbers, etc.  We can generate an electronic format of the BOM that includes all of your material or information that we generate for you during the design process.

Q: Can ATL produce the boards that it designs?

A: Yes.  We do not fabricate the unpopulated boards at our facility, but we have working agreements with several PCB vendors to provide you with a competitive pricing structure.  The benefit to you is lower cost, single-source responsibility and extremely good feedback n any design deficiencies.  Of course, we can also populate the boards with the generated BOM, if you want.  Our assembly capability extends from a single prototype to production of tens of thousands of boards under a single contract.

Q: What kind of control do I have over the design process?  How do I make sure you are producing the board that I want?

A: There are several approvals required on your part at important milestones in the design process.  This ensures that we do nothing that is not agreeable with you.  The approval is at the schematic level.  We submit an preliminary schematic for your approval.  We make any changes you request and resubmit the design.  Only after you are satisfied with the schematic do we continue.  The next approval occurs with a preliminary PCB layout.  The preliminary layout depicts all components in  their desired locations, and the location of any mechanical parts, such as connectors and controls.  This preliminary board layout is iterated until it is approved.  Upon approval of the preliminary layout, the final routing is performed.  This is again subject to the approval process prior to finalizing the design.  Once approved, we clean up the design and make any last minute adjustments we think are necessary.  We then generate the electronic production files.  The entire package is sent to you via email, or to a selected board house for fabrication.

Q: I have a list of approved vendors that my company uses.  How can I take advantage of these approvals and work with ATL?

A: We routinely works with our customers' approved vendors.  You can specify the vendors we use for procurement of PCBs, mechanical parts, subassemblies, or electronic components.  The approved list could include your company.  Some of our customers are set up as both a customer and a vendor.  We purchase material that they manufacture or have in inventory.  Our arrangements include both net 30 day terms and credit applied to invoices, at our customer's discretion.

Q: What are your payment terms?

A: Our standard is net 30 invoicing for large established companies with good credit ratings.  Other forms are COD, deposit account or prepay, depending on our exposure, the dollar amount of the contract, and the type of work involved.  Once established as an ATL customer with a good track record, terms are net 30 to net 90 days, depending on the market and your needs.

Q: Who owns the intellectual property generated in a product development project?

A: Our default terms include the assignment of all intellectual property rights to the customer.  We consider anything we design, develop or manufacture for you as proprietary to your company.  We can arrange other relationships where we cost-share in the development or production ramp-up costs and retain some ownership in the product.  We can also develop a product specified by you entirely at our expense and supply it as a commercial product for you to sell.  An analysis of the market, the product's merits and the overall cost help to determine if ATL would offer this package.

Q: What kind of production do you offer?

A: We offer both short run and high volume production in surface mount technology, through hole technology or a combination of both.  We also offer prototyping services prior to production to ensure your design is produceable and that the production programming and tooling are OK.  On the low end of production, we provide 10 to 25 systems for our customers at one time.  We have produced up to 40,000 board level assemblies under a single contract.  With the slower economy, we typically run 500  to 300 systems per contract.

Q: Can I schedule deliveries, or do I have to order everything at one time?

A: We can schedule deliveries or ship at one time.  Of course, the cost of money tied up in inventory is reflected in the delivered price for scheduled deliveries.  In the long term, it is more economical to schedule deliveries rather than build several times at lower volumes.

 


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Copyright (C) 2005 - 2006, ATL, Inc.                             Last modified: March 17, 2006