Contract Electronics Manufacturing and PCB Assembly Blog

Picking An Electronics Design Manufacturer Who'll Bring You Great Returns

Posted by Matthew Turpin on Tue, Aug 19, 2014 @ 07:00 AM

Electronics Design

With the boom in global electronics manufacturing and sales, it's little wonder that more companies are looking into electronic goods than ever before. Thanks to a world of manufacturing facilities, any design can be brought to market at surprisingly low investment costs.

However, like in any wide-open market, there's also a wide range of quality and services on offer. Too many companies simply look for the cheapest source, at least based on up-front costs, without considering the range of additional services that can ultimately reduce their TCO and boost the project's ROI.

Don't settle for bare-bones when picking an electronics design and manufacturing firm. This is a case of spending money to make money, and smart investments will bring much higher returns!

Three Things To Look For When Outsourcing Electronics Design

1 - Robust On-Site Facilities

The first and easiest trap for an upstart electronics concern is the circle of outsourcers. If your partner company doesn't have their own facilities, that means they'll just be handing off the work to someone else while taking a cut as the middle-man.

And for all you know, those outsourcers have their own outsources, and you'll never be able to keep track of who's actually doing what. This especially becomes a concern when dealing with Asian-based companies.

On the other hand, a partner with a state-of-the-art facility designed for medium- or large-sized batches with a number of variations, you'll be able to directly oversee production and verify your designs are built to spec.

2 - In-House Designers

Plenty of people can set up a manufacturing shop and start stamping out PCBs. However, far fewer spend the time and money hiring actual electronics engineers to oversee the designs.

Why? Because all too often, the prototype designs provided by a company can be optimized. Top-flight electronic design manufacturers will investigate cost savings by way of component reduction, or consolidating functions into easier activities.

Additionally, if they have state-of-the-art facilities, they may simply have better/easier ways of designing the product to match their own equipment. They'll have the insight necessary to get the most of their facilities, which translates into cost-savings for you.

3 - Original Product Development

Perhaps you merely have an idea for a great product, but lack the on-site expertise to design a prototype. When you partner with a top-grade manufacturing facility, this isn't a barrier to market entry! They can design new products from scratch, based on the latest techniques, and produce prototypes designed to match the functionality you specify.

Electronics Design ManufacturerBeyond simple manufacturing / assembly, this can also extend to operating systems and other software: A good electronics assembler can be your prototyping facility, even producing multiple prototypes, before settling on a final design.

This can also be extended into market research and demand trending. If, for example, you plan three variations on your product at three different price points, your manufacturing partner could help you determine the most efficiently-sized batches for each build.

Modern Electronics Manufacturing Is "You Get What You Pay For"

So, when you're looking for manufacturing partners, remember that "you get what you pay for" really is the only rule these days. A bottom-bidder may be able to provide exactly what they advertise -maybe- but won't be able to offer the same robust design services as a top-tier electronics manufacturer.

When a company's reputation is on the line, and they're truly looking to build an audience of happy customers, paying a little more up-front for quality designs can pay off throughout the entire life of a product.

To learn more about modern domestic manufacturing and its advantages, just contact ZenTech for a free consultation!

 

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Topics: assembly manufacturing services, american electronics design services, electronic board design

To Repair or Replace: That Is the Question

Posted by Matthew Turpin on Tue, Jun 24, 2014 @ 07:00 AM

pcb assembly

When something goes wrong with one of your electronic devices, how do you handle the problem? For many businesses, protocol is to simply replace the entire unit, when it's under warranty. Although this certainly is a quick fix and provides customers with a functioning devices, this may not always be the smartest course of action. Do you know when to repair and when to replace? This post will explore the answer to this question, the benefits of PCB repair, and the ways in which a contract manufacturer can help you out in the process.

When to Repair vs When to Replace

In many instances, when something goes wrong with one of your devices, it is the direct result of a single failing component, or a small underlying issue. When this happens, it's a lot more economical to consider troubleshooting the device and simply replacing the necessary parts or making the required adjustments in order to return the unit to working order. It's really only in cases where the entire circuitry of the board has blown out or the cost of labor is more expensive than the parts that a total replacement should be considered.

Benefits of Repairing vs Replacing

When you make the decision to make repairs to your PC boards, you can expect benefits such as:

  • Cut Down on Replacement Costs - Have you ever actually stopped and considered how much money you're actually spending on warrant replacements? Despite how infrequently your customers may experience problems with their devices, the cost to replace an entire unit will always be significantly higher than if you were able to simply replace one or two parts. By taking the time to work on repairs, you can help your company to save a great deal of money.

  • Lower Customer Costs - When your business is able to enjoy savings, your customers can actually reap the benefits. If you're spending less money, you're overall operational costs go down. This means that you can afford to lower custompc designer costs on products and in purchasing warranty guarantees. Everyone wins.

  • Improve Customer Faith In Your Products - The problem with replacing an entire unit is that it basically says that the device is no good. This tells the customer that if one component in the unit goes, the whole thing goes, which gives the impression that your products are of a lower quality. When you're able to make a device like new with just a few simple tweaks, it proves that you know what you're doing and that your devices are excellent.

  • Be Environmentally Responsible - Replacing a unit that could be repaired is very wasteful. It requires the use of more resources, and contributes to our overly-full landfills. Replacing only the necessary components through a good repair job cuts down on waste and helps to protect our environment. 

Need Help? Work With a Contract Manufacturer for Troubleshooting & Repair

Even if you know and understand that repairs are nearly always the superior option, you may simply not have the means to do anything other than continue to work with warranty replacements - even when the problem is very small. SMBs in the electronics industry often are unable to spend the man hours on troubleshooting or repairing a device due to resource or budget constraints. The good news is that if you're hoping to push for further repairs in the figure but have had problems in doing so in the past, you don't have to go it alone anymore. When you contract with a third party manufacturing company, you can take advantage of their fulfillment services. Faulty or malfunctioning units can be shipped directly to your contract manufacturer where they will be tested for the core problem. From here, the unit can be repaired and shipped back to the customer quickly.

Are you ready to start maximizing your savings and improving your business by partnering with a contract manufacturer for troubleshooting and repairs? 

 

Selecting an Electronics  Manufacturing Services Provider? Ask the RIGHT Questions>>

Topics: assembly manufacturing services, assembly pcb, pc board assembly

Beneath the Surface: Understanding the Assembly of PC Boards

Posted by Matthew Turpin on Tue, Mar 25, 2014 @ 07:00 AM

Have you noticed that technology actually seems to be shrinking? That's not to say that the PC Board Assemblymarket demand is depleting, but rather, that electronic devices are becoming smaller, more lightweight, and increasingly compact. At the same time, the complexity of technology is expanding. As a result, electronics companies are being forced to find ways to take the explosive size of technological advancements and shrink it down to size. 

Sounds impossible, right?   Anyone who is in any way connected to the electronics industry knows that this feat is far from impossible. This is all thanks to revolutionary ideas and the evolution of the PCB assembly process. PC boards are both the brain and heartbeat of any electronic device, and our ability to utilize smaller system components and create more compact boards opens up a world of possibilities. How does it all work? Let's peal off the surface layer of today's technological gadgets and take a look at how the PCB assembly process works, and how recent changes have improved our ability to meet consumer demands.

In the Beginning: Through-Hole Mounting      

It really wasn't all that long ago when through-hole technology reigned as king in the production of PC boards. In order to manufacture boards by following this method, electrical components with leads were utilized. These leads were inserted into holes that had perviously been drilled through the PC board. Once the leads had penetrated these holes, they were soldered to pads on the opposite side of the board. Before other methods were discovered, through-hole was thought to be the pinnacle of electrical technology and assembly. 

What was believed to be so great about through-hole mounting? For one thing, it's an extremely reliable method. This is because of the strong mechanical bonds that are created. Even today, through-hole is generally the preferred assembly method for boards that require especially large or bulky components, or that will be subject to regular mechanical stress. Still, through-hole technology has its flaws. The biggest problem with this method is that the holes drilled into the board put limitations on the available routing area for signal traces on multi-layer boards, and can also increase production costs. 

Surface Mount Technology Changes the Game        pc boards

Anyone who works with technology or electronics is well aware that in this industry, we're never satisfied with the status quo. Instead, we're always looking for ways to solve problems and improve on what we already have. Hence, surface mount technology (SMT) was born. Although the process was developed in the 1960s, it wasn't until the mid to late 80s that it really began to take off and replace through-hole as the "go to" method for PCB assembly. 

With SMT processes, there's no need for drilling holes. Instead, electrical components can be directly mounted to the surface of a PC board. Since the components don't need to pass through holes, most have smaller leads than their through-hole counterparts, or simply don't have leads at all. As a result, the components are smaller. In addition to this, higher circuit densities are made possible with PCBs assembled through surface mounting methods. Both of these factors make it much easier to create compact yet very complex electronic boards and devices. You'll also find that the pin count is higher in SMT than in through-hole methods. Last, but certainly not least, you'll enjoy the fact that SMT boards are generally less expensive than those used for through-hole methods. This saves you money, and can help lower consumer costs as well. 

In just a few short decades, the electronics industry was completely transformed by the emergence and embracing of a new way of doing things: SMT. With the technological sector continuing to boom, we can only expect that new and even better methods are just around the corner. It's an exciting prospect, and we can't wait to see what the future holds for electronics companies and contract manufacturers like ourselves! 

Electronic Interconnect Cabling Whitepaper from Zentech

Topics: assembly manufacturing services, assembly pcb, pc board assembly

Assembly Manufacturing More Than Line Of Processes

Posted by Laura Austin on Tue, May 14, 2013 @ 07:00 AM

All the marketing and manufacturing analysts are pointing towards outsourcing, they are indicating that your best chance in progressing profitably through the next quarter is in contract assembly manufacturing.assembly manufacturing

  • Disadvantages of Foreign Outsourcing

Most companies have outsourced to other countries where labor is more intensive and the delivery and total manufacturing costs seem to benefit them. What you do not know is that quality is a big issue with product reliability and quality, which cannot be assured. In assembly manufacturing, what it takes to produce a product in not only meeting the technical specifications, but the quality of the material, the competence of the workforce in handling and completing composites and designs. The costs associated with warehousing and shipping are normally broken even in the manufacturing process when you outsource from foreign contractors. After quantifying the long term benefits of using such services, you will discover that the profitability will not last since the product will lose local support due to quality issues and reduced capacity for support and after sales service. While the lead-time may be attractive, what you get is a short burst in sales over a period, then costly strategies for diversification of product designs in keeping up with the required profit margins.

  • Re-shoring

What we are doing is restoring the original industrial supremacy of the country. Cutting costs and running low cost ventures have become the talk of all assembly manufacturing dependent companies. What is does to the local economy is deprive many of the jobs that they are both competent and qualified for. It reduces their employability factor by a significant value, enough to push the local economy to a downturn, increasing commodity prices and reducing the demand for them inadvertently. It can only be of benefit if you invest locally by contracting your  manufacturing processes locally.

  • Workforce Competence

The definition of value is in getting what you deserve when you pay for it. It can be hard to make assurances to your consumers when you cannot ascertain competence of the human resource, which plays a huge role in getting the precise design specifications for the parts, the ability to identify structural and composite flaws, the ability to test the composites before shipping, meeting local and international safety standards for both the company and the consumer. These are factors that can only be accomplished through qualification, training and experience, qualities of the workforce you will only find locally.

  • Quality of Materials and Process    assembly manufacturing services

The other advantage includes the quality of the materials, which meet all the safety and quality codes that are required for all appliances, devices and commodities used locally in protecting the consumer from toxicity, poor quality and safety with use. Extensive testing for all the materials is accomplished before being applied in the fabrication and jointing of parts, which follows precise dimensioning following design specifications. Another advantage you will gain by is the quality of the process, where each stage of the assembly is marked by specific quality checks that are aimed at increasing the quality of the final product with a record low of flaws in mass production.

  • Lead-Times

Delivery time is pointless with a flawed product, you would rather take longer to deliver but with assured quality. Inasmuch as that does not appear to be sound business reasoning, think about having the ability to deliver the product just in time, cutting away warehousing costs thought predictable manufacturing times and meeting the demand of the market. This can only be achieved should once have local access to assembly manufacturing. Revisions and product upgrades are easily implemented, and can easily be added to former designs that are still in process. This can give you the flexibility of upgrading designs and correcting flaws in the design with minimum costs. 

Topics: assembly manufacturing, assembly manufacturing services, outsourcing manufacturing

Assembly Manufacturing: Circuit Cards Ticket to Precision

Posted by Laura Austin on Thu, Mar 14, 2013 @ 07:00 AM

Maybe it goes without saying, but in the world of electronic manufacturing solutions, precision is everything. When you're dealing with circuit cards with layers of micro-printed circuitry, incorporating dozens of smaller sub-components, tiny mistakes can end up having large ramifications for your business.

Indeed, in the world of assembly manufacturing, there are plenty of horror stories of botched manufacturing jobs costing companies millions, or threatening their very existence. A single bad batch of products can sink a product line, especially in today's Internet-enabled world where news spreads very quickly.

A lot goes into assuring the assembly manufacturing of your circuit cards is of the highest quality, with the most detailed levels of precision. Let's take a look at some of what goes intoassembly-manufacturing this.

Assembly Manufacturing Equipment

If there is a single factor in determining whether an electronics assembly firm can meet your needs, it likely lies in their product assembly and their production equipment. PCB manufacturing is a constantly-evolving field, and high levels of precision require equally precise equipment.

For example, when constructing circuit cards, large reflow ovens are used to bind the cement-like solder to the board, gluing everything in place almost like the “stitches” on a gingerbread man. Once upon a time, an oven with a single temperature zone was sufficient for most electronics needs.

However, newer board designs often have need of multiple different baking temperatures, so that the solder can be melted without damaging any of the delicate components around it. Reflow ovens with a half-dozen or more temperature zones, as well as multiple cool-down points also at their own precise temperatures, are now necessary. Is your assembly manufacturer up to snuff?

Supply Chain Oversight

You should also be concerned with the quality of the components that are going onto your circuit cards in the first place. Unfortunately, a lot of overseas manufacturers have become notorious for their use of counterfeit parts, some of which cannot be easily identified.

If your assembly manufacturing firm has a strong grasp of supply chain management, many of these fears can be alleviated. Fundamentally, the best solution to supply chain problems is making use of trusted sources, and only a manufacturer with years of experience will have built up the necessary contacts. Through a combination of quality contacts and software inventory management, it becomes far less likely that bogus parts will make it into your design.

Repair and Rework

No manufacturing job is ever pulled off with 100% perfection. Of course, “four nines” is what most manufacturers desire, but either way, mistakes are bound to happen. In a batch order of 100,000, losing a few to defects is no big deal and, likely, already accounted for inPCB-assembly-manufacturing budgeting.

But what if you're only manufacturing a few circuit cards for specialty use, such as in a custom medical device?

In that case, an electronics manufacturer who offers repair and rework services is what will guarantee your product is as precise as you need. And this is precision work, of a very traditional sort. It's often conducted by hand, through magnifiers, to fix a broken pin or re-solder a bit of circuity that didn't quite bond correctly in the oven.

Such handiwork requires a high level of skill and dedication on the part of your manufacturer, and it's a service you won't get from just any electronics plant.

Precision Means Sales

No matter how many units you're looking to sell, precision in your circuit card assembly is all-important. With modern electronics being smaller and more dense than ever, you should ensure that you employ an assembly manufacturing plant that's capable of delivering the product you need, on time, and without sticking you with dud products.

Topics: assembly manufacturing, assembly process, assembly manufacturing services, assembly manufacturing firm, PCB manufacturing

Assembly Manufacturing: Putting Processes Together

Posted by Laura Austin on Tue, Feb 12, 2013 @ 07:00 AM

What do you look for when you're researching assembly manufacturing services for your next product? Are you simply looking for the lowest price, or are you looking at the big picture instead?

For the last decade, most electronics firms would have said “lowest price,” and left it at that. The entire fad for outsourcing electronics assembly to Asia was based on this idea. If the
assembly-manufacturing production costs are low enough, the theory went, then that could offset any other problems that came up down the road. It made a certain sense, and it turned China into an electronics manufacturing service superpower practically overnight.

Unfortunately, a few years down the line, the honeymoon glow has definitely begun to fade. Companies are now discovering that those “other problems” are more costly than they initially figured. Deficits in offshore assembly manufacturing processes have created a situation where far too many electronics manufactured are of poor quality, with questionable components in the build, and with very large post-sale support costs as a result.

Aside from the well-established brands like Sony and Samsung, “Asian electronics” have
nearly become synonymous in the public mind with “cheap electronics.” That, in our opinion, is a direct result of the earlier emphasis on low prices over all other concerns: it's a short-sighted view that has led to some fairly predictable long-term consequences, such as China's now rapidly-growing cost of living.

So, what's the alternative? Looking at the big picture and selecting the assembly manufacturing service that doesn't just put products together. You want one that puts processes together.

The Processes Behind Assembly Manufacturing Services

The best outsourced electronics assembly services are the ones that focus on delivering the best product and best experience at every step of the way. That's how you put a product on the shelves that you can be proud of, and that your customers will want to buy.

The processes begin at the design level. A good assembly service can do more than simply put things together for you. They can review your design, analyze it, and improve on it. Good electronics engineers can often take a good design and make it better, reducing component use and increasing reliability.

Speaking of component use, that's another key area to consider. Offshore electronics firms have serious issues with their supply pipelines, with low-grade counterfeit components making their way into designs. Most of this is due to pure graft: local managers substituting fake parts and pocketing the difference.

Without robust supply chain management, you have very little way of knowing whether that media player you're making is being produced with Sony components, or "Somy" instead. Going with an assembly manufacturing firm that keeps tabs on their supply chain meansPCB-assembly-manufacturing having a more reliable product, and reducing your post-sale support costs.

Even when it comes to the manufacturing itself, there can be a lot of variety. The best manufacturing services have high-quality production lines that can handle multiple builds at once, giving you more variety in your product line. Low-grade manufacturers often cannot handle high-complexity orders, although they may not tell you that before you sign on the dotted line.

Finally, consider post-sale support issues. Don't you want an electronics manufacturer who will stand by their products with in-house fulfillment services? With a low-cost foreign firm, you will likely be on your own when it comes to supporting the product you've released. Modern electronics assembly companies can handle post-sale support, repairs, and product replacement.

Expecting such services also places added burden on your manufacturer to do it right the first time. If they are the ones handling replacement part shipping, they'll have a lot more reason to keep an eye on quality.

Put It ALL Together

Don't be short-sighted when selecting an electronics assembly manufacturing firm. Look for a provider offering multiple process-based solutions, and you'll be more likely to receive a product you're proud to have on store shelves.

Topics: assembly manufacturing, manufacturing services, assembly manufacturing services, assembly electronic