The Printed Circuit Designer's Guide to...™
Producing the Perfect Data Package

by: Mark Thompson, Prototron Circuits

For PCB designers, producing a comprehensive data package is crucial. If even one important file is missing or output incorrectly, it can cause major delays and potentially ruin the experience for every stakeholder.

Written by Prototron Circuits’ Mark Thompson, an industry veteran with over 38 years of experience, this book describes exactly what a PCB fabricator requires in a design output package and explains the consequences of providing incomplete or inaccurate information. Mark also highlights the importance of earlier communication between the designer and fabricator.

Readers will learn effective ways to eliminate discrepancies and errors, ensure project success, and ultimately reduce costs and wasted time.



ISBN:978-0-9998648-8-3

With more than 38 years of experience, Mark Thompson, engineering support and CID+ at Prototron Circuits, has reviewed thousands of data packages and worked with customers’ designers and engineers to help them hand off better data. Over his career, he has become one of the most trusted names in the industry when it comes to advising customers on how to productively work with PCB vendors. Mark believes that the PCB will only be as good as the data it takes to build it, and he has dedicated his career to fulfilling this philosophy.

His popular column “The Bare Board Truth,” one of I-Connect007’s most widely read columns, covers design, layout, and engineering practices as they relate to PCB fabrication. Mark also manages Prototron’s “PCB Bare Board Truth” LinkedIn group—a conversational forum devoted to networking solutions to today’s PCB fabrication issues. Mark’s other passions include flying aerobatics, art, history, and music.

He can be reached at markt@prototron.com.

With over 30 years in business, Prototron Circuits is one of the industry leaders when it comes to high-technology, quick-turnaround (QTA) PCBs. Their continued outstanding performance (98%+ quality and delivery) has made them a true preferred source of all companies needing reliable QTA PCBs. With their new global sourcing solution, Prototron Circuits is truly America’s board source.

Prototron Circuits has facilities in Redmond, Washington, and Tucson, Arizona. Due to their focus on the high-mix, low-volume market, they see thousands of new part numbers and data packages, making them especially qualified to write “The Printed Circuit Board Designer’s Guide to… Producing the Perfect Data Package.”

For more information, visit www.prototron.com. You can also visit Prototron’s company LinkedIn page. Further, PCB designers are welcome to join the “PCB Bare Board Truth” LinkedIn group.

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This book has been technically reviewed by the following experts in the PCB industry.

Kelly Dack
CID+, CIT, EPTAC Corporation

Douglas Brooks
Retired engineer, Ph.D.

Chapter Summaries

  • Chapter 1

    Identifying Product Board Class and Pre-Quote Software


    Chapter 1 outlines standards, specifications, classes, and quoting tools.
  • Chapter 2

    Contents of the PCB Output Package


    Chapter 2 highlights five essentials for output packages, including drawings and README files, image data, NC Drill files, IPC netlists, and assembly array drawings.

What Our Readers Are Saying



As a PCB CAM and manufacturing engineer for a leading quick-turn prototype PCB company, it is clear that Mark Thompson eats, sleeps, and breaths PCB data day in and day out. Mark could spend most of his day overwhelmed by the crazy amounts of problematic design data that are sent to his department from PCB design customers who are still learning and are not yet aware of how a PCB is manufactured.

-Kelly Dack, CID+, CIT, EPTAC Corporation
Full Review

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Book Recommendation -- By Kelly Dack, CID+, CIT, EPTAC Corporation

How would you like the tone of your day to be set by opening the contents of a PCB data zip file at 6 a.m. in the morning? If the data is neat and complete, the PCB fabrication shop’s CAM department and virtually every department in that company can look forward to doing what they love—quickly building a quality PCB. However, if even one important file is missing or output incorrectly, it can cause major delays or errors and potentially ruin the experience for every stakeholder of the PCB project.

As a PCB CAM and manufacturing engineer for a leading quick-turn prototype PCB company, it is clear that Mark Thompson eats, sleeps, and breaths PCB data day in and day out. Mark could spend most of his day overwhelmed by the crazy amounts of problematic design data that are sent to his department from PCB design customers who are still learning and are not yet aware of how a PCB is manufactured.

Instead, Mark is an educator. He selflessly offers his time and advice talking on the phone, visiting customers, or conducting plant tours to enlighten designers about PCB manufacturing capabilities so they can layout better PCBs and provide better data. I have called on Mark countless times for over a decade for wise counsel that works!

There is a saying that goes, “You’ll never know what folks need until they ask.” There has been a dangerous communication void in the EMS industry. PCB suppliers are often afraid to ask for risk of appearing weak and needy. When trying their best to serve customers who rarely ask what their suppliers need, this void often leads to assumptions by the supplier and incorrect fabrication and scrap.

Recognizing this, Mark Thompson is not afraid to ask for what he needs from a customer to start a job with the end in sight. In fact, he does the industry one better in this book by telling you what a PCB fabricator needs to get the complex job done right. Much appreciated!

Kelly Dack

Kelly Dack understands that PCB design involves more than how well a designer can get electrons to flow through a circuit on a PCB. He has dedicated his career to demonstrating that PCB design also includes how well a designer can get a PCB layout to flow efficiently through the manufacturing process floors of fabrication and assembly. Kelly’s holistic experience in the printed circuits industry is underlined by employment serving companies in aerospace, medical, telecommunications, gaming, PCB fabrication, and EMS assembly.

Currently, Kelly provides PCB design and manufacturing engineering services for a dynamic EMS provider in the Pacific Northwest. Additionally, he serves on the executive staff of IPC Designer Council and is employed by EPTAC Corporation as a CID instructor. Kelly is an author and contributes on-camera talent for the I-Connect007 Real Time with… video program. He can be reached at kelly@eptac.com.

Douglas Brooks
Douglas Brooks has a BSEE and an MSEE from Stanford and a Ph.D. from the University of Washington. For the last 27 years, he has owned a small engineering service firm, written numerous technical articles on PCB design and signal integrity issues, and published two books on these topics. He published “PCB Trace and Via Temperatures: The Complete Analysis, 2nd Edition” in 2017 and “PCB Trace Current/Temperature Curves, 1/4 Oz. to 5.0 Oz., The Complete Set” in 2018, both with Johannes Adam. Brooks has given seminars several times a year all over the U.S., Moscow, China, Taiwan, Japan, Israel, Melbourne, and Canada. His primary focus has been making complex technical issues easily understood by those without advanced degrees. Brooks is now retired and lives with his wife of over 50 years in Issaquah, Washington.