to produce the best product for the job and win the order –
and more business. The key to fulfilling that goal is designing and creating the right product to meet the need.
3. Balance quality with lowest justifiable cost
Design engineers are under pressure to at least control, if
not cut, costs. You need to strive for efficient and cost effective designs without giving in to temptation to cut beyond
the point of good design practices.
Some of the great engineering disasters have occurred
because of this mistake. It only takes one weak link in a
design to cause a cascade system failure. The trick is to
determine where costs can be cut without sacrificing the
critical — plus safety margin — quality threshold. Careful examination and collaboration with available technical
resources during the design, development, and testing
phases will result in the most reliable product at the lowest
justifiable cost. It is always more costly to rework or replace
returned product than designing it right the first time.
4. Utilize consolidated project management
Today, design projects are fast-tracked, but that doesn’t
mean all project tasks are rushed. It means the same
thoughtful, competent effort is applied to each task.
However, multiple tasks take place simultaneously. The
interdependence of tasks is rearranged and overlapped to
shorten the project completion time. This requires proper
fast-track project management and monitoring techniques.
Under fast-track conditions, mistakes or errors, if not iden-
tified and corrected immediately, can spiral out of control
in a matter of hours, jeopardizing the entire project. The
usual protocol of reporting by exception during the next
scheduled project meeting is often too little too late. Proper
fast-track project management includes a system that man-
dates immediate and centralized reporting of all milestones
reached and problems encountered. The window of oppor-
tunity to fix a problem before it creates other, more severe
problems is very small. Only near instant awareness by the
project manger can avoid disaster. This is the reason the
project manager must have access to the current status of
all tasks to keep all phases and aspects at a balanced rate.
5. Partner with suppliers
This is akin to verifying assumptions. Selecting a component, without consultation with the manufacturer’s
technical staff or moving foward with partial performance
specifications just to discover a flaw, is an all-too- common mistake. A component’s capability, size, temperature
tolerance, and/or reliability may often be incomplete or
overlooked. In addition, the component’s assembly and
operating conditions often changes more than originally
assumed. If the component has no safety margin, it can
fail. Working with the component suppliers early in the
design process will assure awareness of the latest available
specifications and technology, as well as the best component choice available for the application. The help is free.
Why not use it early and often? ■
By James C. Lewis, KEMET Corporation
Tantalum capacitors deliver important performance advantages, but ensuring a supply of ethically sound, high-purity tantalum demands coordinated commitment across continents.
Measuring tantalum purity
Tantalum capacitors are often the first choice for engineers
where a high capacitance value is required within a small
case size. The MnO2 type, with manganese dioxide cath-
ode, can operate at temperatures up to 175°C or even 200°C
and also benefit from good self healing properties and low
leakage current. Tantalum capacitors with organic-polymer
cathode deliver high volumetric efficiency with the advan-
tages of low equivalent series resistance (ESR) and a benign
High-purity tantalum powder holds the key to ensuring
the best possible capacitor quality and reliability. Since
2012, however, capacitor manufacturers must go even fur-
ther to provide the market with capacitors that are not only
dependable but also uphold the best ethical standards.
In January 2012, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and
Consumer Protection Act came into force. Section 1502 of
the Act aims to help prevent conflict in parts of the world
where precious natural resources — also called conflict
minerals — are plundered by militias and sold to fund continued fighting, by requiring publicly listed companies to
Do your capacitors have principles