How to ensure a smooth PCB assembly
Printed circuit board manufacturing and printed circuit board assembly are different disciplines. The reason: they each require their own set of processes and equipment.
For the record, printed circuit board manufacturing is the fabrication of the bare printed circuit board itself. Printed circuit board assembly is about the placement of components on the bare printed circuit board. Often, the manufacturing and assembly are undertaken by different companies, but not always.
Take these steps to ensure a quality, cost-effective result.
Is your assembler IPC certified?
IPC (Institute for Printed Circuits) is a global organisation responsible for setting international quality standards for PCB design, manufacturing and assembly. The general assembly standards are:
- IPC-A-610 – Acceptability of Electronic Assemblies: the industry accepted workmanship criteria for PCB Assembly
- J-STD-001 -Requirements for Soldered Electrical and Electronic Assemblies: recognised worldwide as the sole industry-consensus standard covering soldering materials and processes
- IPC-7711/7721 – Rework of Electronic Assemblies/Repair and Modification of Printed Boards and Electronic Assemblies: essential during the prototype stage to ensure changes to specification can be implemented effectively
IPC certification ensures you’ll get Best Practice from your assembler, so include this on your search checklist.
Think twice before offshoring your PCB assembly
Consider the total cost of your PCB assembly. It’s tempting to go for low-cost overseas assembly, but what are the risks you might encounter? How can you be sure they won’t cut corners with substandard or even imitation parts? Board malfunctions or failures will eat up your initial cost savings. There’s also the issue of potential shipping problems from an overseas assembler. There’s something to be said for being able to sit down face-to-face with your assembler to talk about your needs while getting their advice.
Involve your PCB assembler at the very beginning
You’ve decided on your PCB assembler. Don’t wait until after the manufacturing process to involve them. They can act as a valuable resource, offering suggestions on effective board design. They can also let you know about any new or improved materials or techniques. The more you know, the better your final product.
Your labels should be consistent and make sense
You’ve double-checked all the markings on your design documents, right? Do the same for the markings on the components you’re including with your design.
Make sure all the parts are numbered, labelled, and match your documentation – and make them easy to read. Leave nothing to guesswork. For example, if it’s a Z, not an O, then make that clear.
Use all the tools you can at the beginning to get the most effective results at the end
Ask your assembler if they have any tools that can help you with your design and schematic creation, along with Design-for--Manufacturing (DFM) reviews. DFM analysis during the design flow eliminates costly and time-consuming problems from PCB assembly and test.
Prioritise your features
Doubtlessly, you’re pressured to pack more and more features into a small board size. That’s just not always possible. Take the time to list the capabilities you want. Don’t just list them, rank them. For instance, which is most important, higher power output or stronger signal transmission? Enlist the help of your PCB manufacturer. They’re in the perfect position to show you how to improve your design to get the outputs you want, or at least, the most important ones.
Plan your lead time, from design to assembly
Don’t assume your standard lead times apply to every design. If you’re developing a board different from you usually design, you could be in for longer lead times all the way around. Take every step into consideration when doing your time estimates.
Lastly, ensure that the manufacturer you’re using is experienced with the file formats you’ll be submitting. Not doing so can add unnecessary time to your project.
Download free CADs and try before you buy
Free CADs are available for most solutions, which you can download. You can also request free samples to make sure you’ve chosen exactly what you need. If you’re not quite sure which solution will work best for your application, our experts are always happy to advise you.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or speak to one of our experts for further information on the ideal solution for your application 800-847-0486.