How to Choose the Right PCB Assembly Vendor
Not many one of us may be aware of the fact that almost each electronic device or gadget that we make use in our daily lives, perhaps has one integral and basic component that is common. It could range from laptops, smartphones, desktops, dishwashers, televisions, air conditioning machines, etc. All these machines certainly cannot function without a PCB assembly. Hence, there is no denying the fact that there is an indispensable role as far as these Prototype PCB Assembly technologies and units are concerned. A few years back, PCB assembly was an integral part of the manufacturers of various end user products.
Slowly, the concept of OEM or Original Equipment Manufacturers became the norm and also the necessity. This led to many third party manufacturers becoming vendors for different types of PCB assembly machines. In fact, it makes much better sense for most manufacturers to have third party service providers when it comes to meeting their specific needs and requirements of PCB assembly technologies, machines, and kits. In this article, we will try and learn about the basics of PCB assembly. Additionally, we also will have a look at the various points to be kept in mind whenever as manufacturers or other small scale units, you are planning to hire the right PCB ASSEMBLY VENDOR.
WHAT EXACTLY IS PCB ASSEMBLY ABOUT?
Put in simple words, PCB assembly is a process of assembling, soldering and attaching various electrical and electronic components. This is done on manufactured and pre-formatted printed circuit boards or PCBs. PCB assembly is an integral and critical part of any specialist production machinery. It is extremely useful whenever there is a need for mass production and the entire unit is often referred to as PCBA. There is a subtle difference between PCB and PCBA and it would be a good idea to have a basic understanding about the same.
To put it simply, PCB refers to the empty circuit board and in most cases the board is deep green in color. It may resemble a green slate with some divided spaces and lines. The PCB unit by itself cannot be of too much use unless the entire assembly is complete. This is where the role of a professional and experienced PCB assembly vendor becomes quite critical and for many manufacturers and even for OEMs, or original equipment manufacturers their role is indispensable.
When we refer to PCBA, we are talking about the entire process of soldering as well as assembling the various electronic components onto a circuit board. This is referred to as assembling or finishing the circuit board. Hence, it is quite obvious that PCBA is used in different types of electronic devices rather than the PCB.
We hope the above may have given our readers a reasonably good insight and information about the most important aspects of PCB assembling, soldering, and other such things. Let us now try to list down a few important points that may be helpful in identifying and then employing the right PCB ASSEMBLY VENDOR.
As mentioned above, there is an ever-growing demand for third party PCB assembly vendors. At the same time, there are dozens of such assembly vendors. As customers and end users of the PCBA products, we must be sure that we hire the right service providers. This is not an easy job simply because many small scale and medium entrepreneurs and manufacturers of various end products do not have the right idea about the whole thing. Hence, we are sharing below a few of the most important points to be kept in mind when it comes to hiring these professionals.
* QUALITY OF PCB. THIS IS THE KEY DIFFERENTIATOR FROM ONE PCB MANUFACTURER TO THE OTHER. QUALITY WHEN IT COMES TO ASSEMBLING PCBS MEANS MANY THINGS. THERE ARE MANY ATTRIBUTES THAT GO IN DEFINING QUALITY AND HERE ARE A FEW OF THE MOST IMPORTANT ONES. TO BEGIN WITH, THE BOARD SHOULD BE OF THE RIGHT DIMENSIONS. FURTHER, THE HOLES MUST HAVE BEEN ACCURATELY POSITIONED AND DRILLING PERFECTLY. THERE IS SOMETHING KNOWN AS A BARE BOARD TEST AND ALL PCB UNITS MUST PASS THIS TEST. THE BOARD MATERIAL SHOULD BE OF GOOD QUALITY AND SHOULD BE FREE FROM BOARD WARPING AND OTHER SUCH ISSUES.
* ABILITY TO CATER TO SPECIFIC REQUIREMENTS: THERE IS NO POINT HIRING A PCB MANUFACTURER WHO CANNOT PROMISE THAT HE WILL WORK EXACTLY AS PER THE REQUIRED SPECIFICATIONS. THEY SHOULD BE READY TO RECEIVE FILES CONTAINING THE DESIGNS AND LAYOUT IN FILE FORMATS THAT THE CUSTOMERS ARE HAPPY WITH. THEY SHOULD THEN BE ABLE TO PRODUCE THE RIGHT THAT THEY CHOOSE THE RIGHT TYPE OF PCB MATERIALS WITH THE RIGHT NUMBER OF LAYERS, TOLERANCE CAPABILITIES AND OTHER SPECIFIC REQUESTS FROM THE CLIENTS.
* COST IS A FACTOR. THERE IS NO DOUBT THAT COST IS A FACTOR OF MAJOR IMPORTANCE AND SIGNIFICANCE. AS END PRODUCTS BECOME EXTREMELY COST-SENSITIVE, THE PCB ASSEMBLY VENDORS SHOULD BE READY TO OFFER THEIR FINAL PRODUCTS AT A COMPETITIVE PRICE WITHOUT COMPROMISING ON QUALITY UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES.
* BEING ABLE TO MEET TIMELINES. TURNAROUND TIMES ARE ALSO EXTREMELY IMPORTANT CONSIDERATIONS. THIS IS BECAUSE MOST PCB ASSEMBLY COMPANIES THAT MAKE USE OF THE KITS AND OTHER END PRODUCTS WOULD LIKE THE PRODUCTS DELIVERED TO THEM WITHIN THE GIVEN DEADLINES. THIS MAY LOOK EASY TO BEGIN WITH, BUT AS VOLUMES MOVE UP, MAINTAINING UNIFORMITY, QUALITY, INTEGRITY AND ALSO ADHERING TO TOUGH AND DEMANDING TIMELINES IS NOT AN EASY JOB. IT REQUIRES A COMPLETE UNDERSTANDING OF THE ENTIRE PROCESS OF PCB MAKING FROM START TO END. MEETING DEMANDING TIMELINES AND TURNAROUND TIMES OFTEN READ TO
* BEST OF MANUFACTURING FACILITIES: WE MUST ALWAYS BEAR IN MIND THAT YOUR PCB ASSEMBLY END PRODUCT IS AS GOOD AS THE MANUFACTURING FACILITIES AND THE SKILL SET OF THE PEOPLE YOU HAVE WITH YOU. THEREFORE, BEFORE YOU CHOOSE A PCB ASSEMBLY VENDOR MAKE SURE THAT YOU INSPECT THEIR MANUFACTURING FACILITIES. THEY SHOULD BE STATE OF THE ART AND THE FACILITIES SHOULD ALSO BE SUPPORTED BY THE RIGHT SET OF SKILLED PEOPLE ACROSS ALL LEVELS. IN FACT MANY OEMS AND EVEN MANUFACTURERS OF VARIOUS END PRODUCTS TAKE THE RESPONSIBILITY OF SUPPORTING THE RIGHT MANUFACTURING FACILITIES ON BEHALF OF THE VENDORS. THE QUALITY AND PROCESSES ARE ALSO OFTEN MONITORED BY THEM ON A CONTINUOUS BASIS.
The above are just a few of the most important tips that one should keep in mind while choosing a suitable assembly vendor for your PCB. There are other attributes like being able to scale up numbers in case of increased demand, being able to make design changes in line with changing product needs and requirements amongst other things. To conclude, hiring a good PCB assembly vendor does take quite a bit of time, effort, understanding and patience.