A talk with Amit Bahl, CRO at Sierra Circuits

  • Amit Bahl - CRO at Sierra Circuits

Amit Bahl, the PCB Guy, serves as the Chief Revenue Officer at Sierra Circuits. He earned his Bachelor of Science in Engineering from UCLA in 1997, launching his career in Silicon Valley's tech industry. In 2009, he assumed the role of Director of Sales and Marketing at Sierra Circuits. Sierra expanded to offer blogs, design guides, webinars, calculators, and design tools, and a vibrant forum, SierraConnect. Assuming the position of Chief Revenue Officer in 2022, Amit's mission persists: to simplify the PCB design journey for all stakeholders.

Q. Could you give us a brief overview of Sierra Circuits? 

Amit: Sierra Circuits is a leading provider of high-quality printed circuit boards located in Sunnyvale, CA. We specialize in delivering advanced PCB solutions to customers across various industries, including aerospace, automotive, medical, telecommunications, and more. We are ITAR-registered, we build IPC Class 3/ES boards, we have a bunch of certifications, like AS9100D, MIL-PRF-31032/55110, ISO-13485… Our mission is to empower engineers and innovators by providing them with the highest quality boards and exceptional customer service to bring their ideas to life.  

Q. Can you tell us about the PCB services that you offer? What service segment is the largest for you? 

Amit: We offer a comprehensive suite of PCB design, manufacturing and assembly services, including quick-turn prototypes, mid-volume production, and advanced technologies such as HDI, rigid-flex, and RF/microwave boards. We do a lot of complex circuits that only a few fab houses can handle. That’s why we work with everyone in Silicon Valley as well as the biggest aerospace and defense companies in the USA.  

Q. Can you tell us about your PCB prototyping services? What is your turnaround time? 

Amit: We can deliver standard rigid boards as quickly as in one or two days. The turnaround time really depends on the complexity of the circuit, the number of laminations, whether we handle the assembly or not… The advantage of being located in Silicon Valley is that our customers can pick up their boards themselves at our facilities and eliminate the delivery time. And they do! 

Q. Can you tell us more about your PCB fabrication services? What are your capabilities here? Applications, board types, layers, etc. 

Amit: We handle standard rigid PCBs as well as flex, rigid-flex, micro, HDI, HDI-flex, RF, and microwave. We’re very good at controlling impedance and building high-density boards so we do a lot of high-speed and high-frequency projects with blind, buried, and microvias. We can go down to 2-mil trace and space, up to 30 layers, edge plating, bevels, and heat sinks. Our customers can also benefit from our PCB manufacturing and assembly services, which done together provide extra benefits. This comes in handy, specifically when you’re in a hurry and have a short time to market. One single vendor is always the best choice to avoid fab errors and wasting time and money. 

Q. When it comes to PCB assembly? How do you work with customers? Can you tell us about the process from start to finish? 

Amit: Most of our customers order turnkey with us. This means we handle both their bare board fabrication and assembly at once. They send us their ODB++ or IPC-2581 files and we run both a DFM and DFA check to make sure that not only their board is manufacturable but that there won’t be any issues when it reaches the assembly floor. For instance, we check for part-to-part spacing, component-to-hole spacing, we validate the BOM, etc. That’s an extra step that saves customers time and money as we almost always notice potential issues that could delay the delivery or even cause the board to fail. 

Q. What market segments / sectors do you cater to? Which one is the largest for you? 

Amit: Literally all! Defense and space, aviation, automotive, medtech, telecom, university teams… If you develop electronics and need PCBs, we’re here for you. Of course, as a high-quality and fast-turnaround fab house in Silicon Valley, our products don’t come cheap. But if you’re a start-up that needs to get to the market fast or an R&D department looking for advanced capabilities, knock on our door. And please, if you’re developing complex electronics with very specific, I want to say even unusual requirements, do not make the mistake of going to a cheap manufacturer. You’d think you’d spare your budget but when your board fails, it will cost you time and money to fix or rebuild. You wouldn’t believe how often we pick up the pieces. As Dan Beeker mentioned in our EMC seminar back in January, you get what you pay for! 

Q. Can you tell us about the PCB design tools that you offer? 

Amit: That list of PCB design tools is getting longer and longer every year! We started with our Better DFM and BOM Checker back in the early 2010s. A few years later, we launched our famous Stackup Designer, Impedance Calculator and Material Selector. Then, during Covid, we expanded our team and built about ten more tools. We also upgraded our existing tools, which means that we now offer a comprehensive and competitive suite of calculators, from transmission line reflection, and conductor spacing to trace width or via current capacity. And guess what? These 15 tools are free! We really put the emphasis on helping designers and engineers succeed. Speaking of which, we’re currently developing a design portal for designers to cut down their layout time in half. But more about this later… 

Q. Can you tell us about your online PCB quotation systems? 

Amit: We offer online services for customers with standard projects who do not have time to talk to an account manager. It’s very simple, all you have to do is fill out your board information, upload your files, choose your turnaround time and place your order. All of which takes about five minutes. It’s very effective! The best part is that, just like for our custom orders, our engineering team runs DFM and DFA checks. Should we find errors that could affect your fab, we alert you on our customer portal. So the entire process is online, quick and practical.  

Q. Can you tell us about your facility and offices? Where is your facility located? Sierra Circuits has a large presence in India as well, can you tell us more about the role of this office? 

Amit: Our HQ is located in Sunnyvale, CA right next to our bare board manufacture. Our assembly is in San Jose, 15 minutes from Sunnyvale. But our roots are in India where we started in the 1980s. We are contemplating opening a location in India in the next couple of years. India’s growth is fascinating. I mean, don’t people call Bangalore the Silicon Valley of Asia? Of course, we’d like to be part of the electronics landscape over there. Great, now I’m craving sev puri! 

Q. How do you differentiate yourself from other PCB companies? 

Amit: We’re fast, turnkey, precise, industry certified. We do things that others won’t even try. We offer a wide range of advanced capabilities and we’re not afraid to take on complex projects. We know how to manage data security. It goes without saying that our equipment is state of the art and our engineers and technicians on the floor are very competent. You can only become a high-quality shop and get our stellar reputation when you invest as much as we do. It doesn’t hurt that we also offer a huge amount of resources to assist and guide designers and engineers. Have you seen our blog, design guides, webinars? Follow us on LinkedIn and YouTube, you will learn a lot from us.  And engage on our new PCB forum SierraConnect because we certainly can also learn from you! 

About Sierra Circuits Ltd.

Sierra Circuits is an ISO 9001:2008, ISO 13485:2003 and MilSpec MIL-PRF-55110 certified, Silicon Valley-based, high-technology Printed Circuit Boards manufacturer and Assembler. They specialize in quick-turn PCBs, and medium production and control every aspect of the production schedule and quality. They can provide their customers with unprecedented quality, reliability, and a single point of support.

Sierra Circuits stands at the forefront of microelectronics innovation, boasting unparalleled capabilities in micro PCB design, manufacturing, and prototyping. Their groundbreaking No-Touch PCB manufacturing capabilities, promising cost-effective solutions with Made in USA quality.

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