Printed Circuit Board Assembly: What Capabilities Should Be Expected from a PCB Assembly Service Provider?

· Printed Circuit Boards,PCB Assembly
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Printed Circuit Board Assembly: What Capabilities Should Be Expected from a PCB Assembly Service Provider?

Do you have a design and need help with a prototype? 

Do you have an existing printed circuit board assembly that needs electronic repair?

Do you have a new product in the works and need a dependable electronics manufacturing partner to ensure your prototyping and production go off without a hitch?

What Should You Look for in a Printed Circuit Board Assembly Company?

When evaluating a PCA company, there are some basic expectations that should be met; and then there are other capabilities and services that high-quality electronics manufacturers offer to stand out from other companies.

Some of the basic services and capabilities to look for include:

  • Surface Mount Technology (SMT) - a method in which the electrical components are mounted directly onto the surface of a printed circuit board (PCB). SMT allows for easier use of both sides of the PCB. It is faster and easier to automate than through-hole assembly.
  • Through-Hole Assembly - a method that uses a pre-drilled hole in the board through which a component can be inserted and soldered into place, typically used for larger components or those that are incompatible with SMT.
  • Hybrid/Mixed Technology - applications that come into play when combining both SMT and through-hole assembly techniques to develop the printed circuit board assembly (PCBA).
  • Screen Printing - silk screening a layer of ink trace used to identify the PCB components, marks, logos, symbols, and so on.
  • Solder Paste Inspection (SPI) - a process that closely inspects solder paste deposition before placing a part. This ensures part placement is both accurate and consistent.
  • Reflow Soldering - the most widely used method of attaching surface mount components to PCBs. The reflow process forms acceptable solder joints by first preheating the components/PCB/solder paste and then melting the solder without overheating.
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What Differentiates High-Quality Printed Circuit Board Assembly Companies?

Most electronics contract manufacturers will meet these baseline requirements to do the job. But, when knowledge, quality, and accuracy matter, you want to find a PCB assembly company that exceeds those basic requirements and offers the experience and technology to produce a finished product that will truly make you proud.

Some of these specialty services include:

  • Automated Optical Inspection (AOI) - an automated visual inspection methodology used to test for defects in PCBAs. AOI uses cameras to detect possibly catastrophic failures, such as missing components, as well as basic quality failures, like skewed components.
  • Ball-Grid Arrays (BGA) - a type of surface mount packaging used for integrated circuits (IC). A ball-grid array can provide more interconnection pins than can be put on a dual in-line or flat package. Soldering of BGA devices on PCBs requires precise control and is usually done by automated processes.
  • X-Ray Inspection - a PCB inspection technology that can find hidden features within a target object, such as a BGA containing integrated circuit components that AOI cannot detect.
  • Automation - gives PCBA manufacturers the ability to sort and disperse parts, place components, apply sealants, perform testing, and even package the assembled products. The more automation that can be used, the faster the assembly can be done, which can lead to reduced costs.
  • Point-to-Point Wiring - a more labor-intensive manual assembly process that involves hand-mounting and soldering all components on a circuit board, which often comes into play with a legacy board.
  • PCB Repair - retrofitting or updating existing components can be much more cost effective in comparison to producing new products. 

Some PCA’s Go Even Further to Provide Unparalleled Service and End Products.

Now that you have narrowed down the pool of potential partners, there are few things to consider that define the best of the best. There are a few printed circuit assembly manufacturers who offer added value, including:

  • Flexibility in Shop Schedule and Capacity - includes the ability to add production shifts, utilize redundancy through off-site equipment/partners, and shuffle scheduled work that doesn’t have pressing deadlines.
  • Expertise in Design for Manufacturability - “designing for manufacturability” means understanding the actual manufacturing of the build beyond just the functionality alone. Why is this important? Designing a product that can be manufactured efficiently and repeatedly helps to reduce costs and shorten lead times. Designing a board and/or product that can be built efficiently and economically is the practice of a very good contract manufacturer.
  • Reverse Engineering - oftentimes necessary to update a legacy board or to discover ways to improve upon an existing product.
  • Sourcing Relationships - involves effective supply chain management, including the vetting of suppliers, maintaining long-term relationships, and years of experience.
  • New Product Introduction (NPI) - having the structure and capability to do both prototyping (short-run production) and full production, as well as the knowledge and experience to do it well.

Selecting a new electronics manufacturing partner is not an easy task. You are likely looking for a long-term solution and need to be sure you make the right decision. And, while evaluating PCB assembly manufacturers can feel overwhelming, taking the above into account will help you find the right partner for your business.

Request a FREE Project Review or Snapshot Analysis.

Are you looking to improve your printed circuit board assembly or box build? Or maybe you’re in the early stages of a new product design? If so, request a free project review today, and we’ll reach out to you to learn more about your project.

If you’re not quite ready for a full quote, try a free “Snapshot Analysis” of your current board or initial drawings. We’ll take a look and give you our thoughts based on more than 100 years of combined experience. 

In the end, quality is our focus. We hope to hear from you soon.

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