Contract Electronics Manufacturing and PCB Assembly Blog

All-In-One Contract Electronic Assembly Lowers Your Costs

Posted by Matthew Turpin on Thu, Aug 27, 2015 @ 07:00 AM

PCB-ServicesSometimes, it just makes sense to keep your business under one roof.

Demand is higher for electronics today than ever before, and at the same time, electronics manufacturing requires ever-greater levels of skill and precision to deliver top-quality products.  Older methods of outsourcing different aspects of production are having trouble keeping up with this, as the layers of sub-contractors often cannot coordinate sufficiently well to produce a truly high-quality end product.

Hiring a single-source contract electronic assembly firm can easily result in better products, as well as bringing cost benefits throughout the manufacturing process.

5 Ways Full-Service Contract Electronic Assembly Firms Lower Costs

1 - Surface-Mount Board Optimizations

When your manufacturing partner utilizes the most modern Surface Mount Technologies, it can lead to big refinements in your board design as well as significant cost-cutting.  SMT-based components are significantly smaller than alternatives, as well as very often being less expensive.  Additionally, SMT designs allow you to utilize both sides of a circuit board, potentially cutting entire unnecessary PCBs from the final product design.

2 - Alternative Component Sourcing

Manufacturing centers which have been in business for a significant amount of time have a huge range of component manufacturers to choose from.  Often, small changes in component sources and slight adjustments to the build can pay off with substantially reduced per-unit manufacturing costs, with little or no reduction in overall product quality.  

Additionally, a full-service provider can provide a bigger picture look at your component costs.  Aspects such as shipping time and fuel, or the availability of spare parts, can be utilized to further optimize your build costs.  In a markets where price is always a consideration, small optimizations can bring big price cuts when the product comes to market.

3 - Rapid Prototyping

When your contract electronic assembly service can provide prototypes more quickly and at lower cost than hiring a separate third-party for prototyping, that translates into pure savings.  It can also generate additional feedback loops, refining the design, as well as guaranteeing that that final build is an exact match to the prototype it's based on.

4 - Predictive Failure TestingEMS-Electronics2

When all your prototyping, design, and production is handled by one company, this brings increased knowledge and awareness of product issues across the board.  Every component can be tracked for likely failure rates, with component buys and system build quantities computed ahead of time to allow for likely post-sale support needs.

This can lower long-run costs by preventing the need for special small-batch orders due to an unexpected defect or high failure rates on a particular component.  Buying everything up-front ensures you're getting the lowest per-part costs.

5 - Repairs Rather Than Replacements

When assembly is done overseas, or multiple third parties have different roles in the manufacturing process, actual repair work becomes difficult or impossible to achieve in a timely and cost-effective fashion.  Unfortunately, this leads to huge waste, as entire replacement builds have to be sent out when a single component is likely at fault.

A manufacturer equipped to also handle post-sale support generates cost-savings throughout the support window, by lowering the per-customer costs for any warranty claims. 

If you're looking for a better way to bring electronics to market, ZenTech has the solution.  Contact us today for a full consultation on how single-source manufacturing can make your products better.

Latent Defects In Underfill

Topics: Contract Electronic Assembly, electronic assembly

Domestic Contract Electronic Manufacturing Services Bring More Value To Your Product

Posted by Matthew Turpin on Thu, Jun 18, 2015 @ 10:00 AM

 american-based-electronicsLikely because of the offshoring boom of the 90s and 2000s, there persists a belief that American-based manufacturing is too expensive to be worth considering - but nothing could be further from the truth. According to multiple studies into the matter, in the long term, costs associated with manufacturing in China and manufacturing in the USA are effectively at parity.

Moreover, American manufacturers have been hard at work updating their processes and competing on value rather than sheer cost.  Sure, the up-front costs of a cut-rate overseas manufacturer will be lower than domestic... but that domestic manufacturer can offer plenty of services and long-term value that few, if any, overseas centers could hope to compete with.

When looking at costs across the entire lifespan of the product -not just its initial manufacturing- domestic contract electronic manufacturing services deliver a better product, happier customers, and a superior ROI.

Four More Reasons To Consider Reshoring In 2015

1 - Reshoring is going mainstream

What was once a trend largely among smaller businesses looking to get an edge over the competition has expanded to cover more and more major A-list businesses.  Just last year, General Electric brought roughly 1,900 jobs back from China.  And given that GE is well-known for its cost-cutting efforts, they're obviously not doing this solely for PR value.

The problems with offshore manufacturing are becoming increasingly well-known and, accordingly, companies are looking for better alternatives.

2 - Better infrastructure and equipment

China may be one of the leaders in overall manufacturing, but America is still tops in innovation and the adoption of new technology.  Most of the factories in use in China were built 10-20 years ago, and haven't seen many updates, at least outside of the biggest names like Foxconn.

In the meantime, US manufacturers are continually investing in new manufacturing techniques, allowing them to offer products that are smaller, faster, or more rugged.  When the market for electronics is so competitive, a company needs to be able to say their products are being made in cutting-edge facilities.

3 - Fully integrated product developmentPCB-Repair-Services3

Modern US contract electronics manufacturing services do far more than simply build products to spec. They can be true partners, working with you every step of the way, from initial concept through multiple prototypes and into the final build.  Testing and even focus-group sessions are also possibilities.

This can vastly accelerate the development of a product, when one company is handling its development throughout the process.   The testing process, in particular, can quickly iron out the problems in a product before release, creating a product that garners great reviews right out of the gate.

4 - In-house technical support

Who could ever be more effective at providing post-sale support than the same facility which designed and manufactured the product?   In-house support services have the benefit of the engineers' own expertise, as well as gaining insight from the testing reports previously generated.

In many cases, highly accurate failure rate predictions can be made. allowing them to precisely manufacture components based on likelihoods of failure.  This allows better-targeted purchases, as well as reducing the chances of a production run having to be re-started due to a lack of spare parts.

ZenTech is one of America's premiere wholly domestic electronics manufacturers.  Contact us to learn what US manufacturing can do for you. 

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Topics: contract electronic manufacturing services, electronic assembly

How To Know When To Repair or Replace Electronic Devices

Posted by Matthew Turpin on Fri, Jun 05, 2015 @ 09:00 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? 

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Topics: electronic design services, electronic assembly

5 Ways You Can Reduce Your Electronic Assembly Expenses

Posted by Matthew Turpin on Tue, Jun 02, 2015 @ 09:00 AM

 Electronic ManufacturerThese days, everyone is looking for new ways to scale back their spending and become a more profitable business. Although it may seem counter-intuitive, hiring a contract manufacturing company to assist you with the design and assembly of the PC boards for your products is one of the best ways for electronics companies to save money. How can spending money on a third party manufacturing service actually allow you to increase your bottom line and thrive? Here, we'll take a look at some of the many ways that a contract manufacturer can help you to achieve your business goals.

5 Ways a Contract Manufacturer Can Reduce Your Electronic Assembly Expenses

1. Reduce Design Time

Even if your design and engineering team is skilled and experienced, the design process itself can be very time-consuming and can present issues - even more the most seasoned veterans. When tackling a new project, your staff my come across problems that they experience difficulty in overcoming. This may require them to go back to the drawing board and start anew, or simply get "stuck", preventing the project from moving forward. The advantage of having a contract manufacturer on your team is that a fresh set of eyes will be introduced to the issue and can help you to more quickly complete your plans. A contract manufacturer is also useful in situations where your design team is overwhelmed by a large volume of projects, or you need help completing protocol specs on a tight deadline.

2. Lower Equipment Expenses

One of the biggest problems that smaller electronics companies are faced with is their lack of funding or resources. Because a small scale operation will generally bring in less profit than major corporations, it can be difficult for the underdog to keep up with the competition in terms of purchasing the latest and greatest machinery and equipment for electronics assembly processes. When you have a partnership with a contract manufacturing company in place, you no longer have to worry about this. Your partner company will shoulder the burden of purchasing state-of-the-art equipment so that your boards can be assembled with the best of the best machinery available. You'll also enjoy savings on equipment maintenance, and won't be required to store the equipment within your facility which can reduce space needs and rent costs. 

3. Increase Production Speed & PrecisionContract Electronic Manufacturer

Wouldn't it be great if you had the ability to mass produce your PC boards faster than you are currently able, without being required to sacrifice the quality of your products? Knowledgable and experienced contract manufacturing companies with advanced electronics design and assembly equipment will have the ability to not only process your batch orders with speed, but also with painstaking accuracy. Boards are then tested to avoid problems with malfunctioning devices.

4. Spend Less on Parts

The costs associated with the parts and components used to assemble your product's PC boards can really add up. Contract manufacturing companies can help you to reduce those costs in 2 ways. First, by reviewing your plans carefully, a contract manufacturer may notice ways to make the board more efficient and compact. Secondly, contract manufacturing businesses will have long-established relationships with suppliers, resulting in a lower cost for parts.

5. Minimize Warranty Replacements

When something goes wrong with a PC board, many small electronics companies do not have the means to correct the issue, but simply choose to cut their losses and offer the customer a warranty replacement. In many cases, though, repairs would be much cheaper. When you work with a contract manufacturer, you will have someone on your team with the time to troubleshoot for the underlying problem, make the necessary corrections, and return the product to the customer. 

Sometimes you have to spend money to make money. Hiring a contract manufacturer to assist with your electronics assembly processes is an excellent investment that will benefit you in the long run. 

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Topics: Contract Electronic Assembly, electronic assembly

A Great Electronic Product Demands Great Assembly Manufacturing

Posted by Matthew Turpin on Tue, May 12, 2015 @ 06:00 PM

freight-routing-optionsThere are more electronic devices entering the market today than at any other time in history.  With the current boom in global manufacturing and shipping, companies all around the globe are jumping into the electronics game.  Regional companies are now looking to go global, as well, with low-cost overseas brands looking to carve a niche for themselves.

This means that if your company wants to be part of this booming market, you need to stand out from the crowd.  At this point, cheap electronics are ubiquitous and widely-derided.  People want to purchase gadgets that are reliable, and a large majority of consumers are now doing plenty of online research before making purchases.

Basically, lowest-bidder assembly manufacturing simply can't cut it in today's market.    You need an assembly manufacturing service that can create the products that people actually want to buy.

Four Ways Superior Electronics Manufacturing Creates Superior Products

1 - Refined Designs

There are plenty of factories -especially overseas- which simply churn out products based on the schematics you provide, and that's it.  What you submit is what you get.

The issue here is that when you're working with the newest in manufacturing technologies, the schematics can often be redesigned or revised to take advantage of those technologies.  An assembly partner with design services can take a good design and make it better, using fewer or smaller components.

2 - Software Services

These days, there's basically no such thing as an electronic device that doesn't have onboard software running it.  This is something that's often overlooked, especially by companies looking for the cheapest possible solution for manufacturing.  

They use assembly services that merely build the hardware, then have to find third-party solutions for creating the software.

However, this is inefficient and greatly increases the chances of having buggy software onboard.  Bad software can quickly ruin the usability of otherwise good hardware.  So, it makes a lot more sense to find an electronics partner who will handle the software in-house, allowing software and hardware designers to share information and build better products.

3 - Extensive Prototypingamerican-pcb-assembly

Prototyping, of course, is always needed to ensure that your schematics can result in a working product.  However, in today's market, it's a bit more complicated than that.  Most consumers now want a range of options in their devices, such as different sizes and colors.  One-size-fits-all options rarely gain traction.

So prototyping becomes doubly important.  It doesn't just ensure that your product works.  It allows you to experiment with form factors and layouts, ultimately creating a range of product variations based on the same underlying technology.  

4 - Post-Sale Support

No electronic device run, even from the best of global manufacturers, will be 100% free of defect.  There will always be issues coming up in the weeks and months after release, and your customers will want proper support.

In fact, research has found that post-sale support has a higher impact on consumer perceptions and loyalty than the initial purchase experience.  It's counter-intuitive, but a customer who has a problem with a product and then receives excellent service will have better brand loyalty than a problem-free customer.  Why?  Because you've demonstrated your loyalty to them.

So, partnering with an assembly manufacturer who also offers post-sale support and repair services is an excellent long-term investment in your product.

ZenTech can bring you the best in modern manufacturing, right here in America, with all the services your customers want.  Contact us today for more information

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Topics: assembly manufacturing, electronic assembly

Domestic Contract Electronic Assembly Services Protect Your Product End-to-End

Posted by Matthew Turpin on Tue, May 05, 2015 @ 07:00 AM

board-design1There's been plenty of talk lately about the growing trend of reshoring - that is, companies which had previously moved their electronics assembly overseas are now coming home.  We're not just talking small companies either:  Major names like GE, Ford, and even Apple are moving assembly services back to America.

The reasons behind these shifts are complex, from the rising cost of living in Asia to the flexibility problems created with extra long-tailed supply lines.

However, in our opinion, one of the biggest driving factors may be plain security.  There are a number of ways that offshore manufacturing can risk the integrity of your product or your Intellectual Property, whereas US manufacturing greatly reduces those risks.

Major Ways Overseas Partners Endanger Your Product

1 - IP Theft

Groups have been noting for years that corporate espionage in overseas factories was becoming a major issue.  There've even been reports of knockoff products managing to hit shelves in local stores before the "real" product made it to sale in the US.  

Much of this is due to the local environment.  The Asian countries simply do not have terribly strong IP laws, nor are the governments very interested in enforcing them - especially when it's the IP of economic competitors.  Even culturally speaking, ideas are largely seen as being free.  It wasn't until 1996 that China even had an official center for informing people about IP-related crimes.

This is, of course, simply not the case in America.  The US has been a global leader in IP protections for at least a century, and the workforce at large is well aware of the laws in place.  It's far more difficult to get away with IP theft domestically, and far fewer companies will even try.

2 - Supply Line Pollution

When manufacturing overseas, it's extremely difficult to maintain the integrity of your supply lines.  Their long tails and longer distance away from you means that it's very easy for unscrupulous actors to make a switch, without anyone -even other members of the supply line- knowing.

Even the US military has not been immune to counterfeits slipping into its jets!

However, US manufacturing partners are now using much more stringent supply line oversight and optimization measures which can track individual components from factory to finished circuit board.

3 - Higher Defect Ratesamerican-based-electronics

What this adds up to is a product that's hard for you to trust.  Any failure predictions based on authentic parts are invalidated, and if defects arise, there's no way for your engineers to know with certainty what components are causing the failure.

In worst-case scenarios, these unexpected defects could even lead to consumer harm.

US firms, on the other hand, can offer extensive design, testing, and prototyping services.  When combined with a solid supply line, you get highly precise data and products guaranteed to be truly up-to-spec.

Pick An Electronics Assembly Partner You Can Feel Secure With

It's important to look beyond the bare-bones costs when evaluating electronics assembly solutions.  Externalities are everything in electronics manufacturing, and it's very easy for a service that's cheap up-front to end up costing far more in the long run.

With domestic electronics production, you get partners you can trust working in a tightly-monitored regulatory environment.  That means your designs, your supply line, and your products themselves will be in safe hands.

To learn more about your options in assembly services today, check out our free ebook: 

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Topics: electronic contract manufacturer, electronic assembly

How Can You Improve Your PCB Assembly?

Posted by Laura Austin on Tue, Jun 11, 2013 @ 07:00 AM

A Printed Circuit Board, abbreviated as PCB is a foundation used in the design of electrical gadgets. It plays to important roles:

  • Providing mechanical support to components in the design

  • Electrically connection the components through conductive pathways

In the current electronic world, the leveraging of a PCB can result into a simple yet PCB-assemblycompressed electronic gadget design or the creation of Very High Scale Integration designs important in the creation of microcontrollers and processing units.

PCB assembly consists of a series of intricate steps that must be followed to the latter if the product is to be of any use in the electronic design and creation fraternity.

Readying the board that will eventually be the PCB

The preparation of the board and the type of material chosen for the board varies depending on the quality of product the designer desires to achieve. The first step is in the creation of the laminate, which is achieved by pressure curing layers of cloth or paper with thermoset resin to create a final uniformly thick panel.

The type of material used in the curing determines the laminate classification hence the job it can do. Characteristics considered in classification include fire resistance, dielectric constant, loss factor, shear strength and tensile strength.

Printing the circuit into the board (etching)

This is a dynamic step whose approach varies depending on the end product desired. Most PCB assembly procedures however cover the laminate with copper on both sides and then proceed to remove the copper from unwanted places resulting into the wanted fine copper traces. This method, referred to as subtractive method, is cheap to implement but more environment polluting than the more complex additive method.

Additive PCB assemblage procedure electroplates the copper traces onto the laminate to form the desired circuitry. Though it uses less copper and creates fewer residues, it comprises of several intricate steps making it a more complex approach in comparison to the subtractive approach.

Individual approach to the etching procedure

Whatever etching approach you decide to settle for, there also are other choices to make in the implementation mode. Major approaches are

  • Large volume approach: This consists of the silkscreen printing approach, which is the main commercial approach and the photographic option used when fine line widths are needed.

  • Small volume approach: This involves printing onto a see-through film and using aPCB photo-mask along with photosensitized boards then etch, using laser resist ablation or using a CNC mill with a spade shaped cutter or tiny end mill to gauge off undesired copper from the laminate.

  • Hobbyist approach: This uses Laser print resistance technology that laser prints onto a transparent layer before heat transferring it with iron or bespoke laminator onto exposed laminate and then touching it up with marker before etching it. Other approaches in this category are hard to achieve in mass productions.

Drilling holes into the PCB and adding circuit components

The next step is in drilling holes through which the components in the design have to go into. This is achieved by the use of tiny diameter drill bits prepared from coated tungsten carbide. To accomplish this, you have to use high-speed automatic drills to keep away from marring and tearing up the copper tracks.

The contact ends that have to remain open are coated with a viable solder composite to ensure that the PCB will remain conductive without suffering from problems of copper oxidation.

The best way out of the mayhem

It is clear to see that PCB assembling needs heavy investment in terms of expertise and infrastructure. To avoid wasting all this money in the creation of a system that might not end up being as productive as it should be, you might have to consider the option of outsourcing. Out sourcing complete builds for use in your activities could be the simplest and cheapest way out for your enterprise.

Topics: pcb assembly, electronic assembly, electronic PCB assembly

Electromechanical Assembly Connects Complex Technology

Posted by Laura Austin on Tue, Dec 18, 2012 @ 07:00 AM

Technology is only going to continue to be a big part of our lives, whether we like it or not. That means the assembly of all sorts of components within everyday products is going to rise, along with the complexity of said components. Oftentimes, assembly is done efficiently through machines or by hand by skilled technicians, including electromechanical assembly, which is one of the biggest bridges between complex technology and making sure something simply works.

All sorts of products and technology are utilizing electromechanical assembly. The biggest example, however, is probably the car. All automobiles have relays which are triggered by assembled electromechanical components that tell the car what should be turned on or off. Switches of this sort are common in most industries. However, a majority of businesses and assembly teams alike mostly just focus on Printed Circuit Board (PCB) technology. While this is fine, there is so much electromechanical assembly can do in order to help you that a PCB cannot.

Importance of Electromechanical Assembly

Like mentioned before, such components help switch things on and off in machinery and technology--the example given being cars and the engine cooling system within. If thereelectromechanical-assembly were no assembled parts to watch the temperature of the engine, then the engine would overload and then you've got yourself a car on fire. It's more than just another component that is part of the engine, it is a fail safe to make sure there is no overload on the wiring or other mechanics for safety.

The same can be said about all sorts of products utilizing electromechanical parts. Relays in technology help divert certain functions, switches help regulate power and other properties, and all of it can be done because of some little assembled product.

The end result is simple:

  • Money will be saved both in the short and long-term, as very expensive pieces of equipment and machinery will have fail safes activated. No more worrying about multi-million dollar machines and technology going to waste and costing even more money to replace or repair.

  • Time is also saved because of electromechanical assembly, since we all know the old adage: time is money. Equipment can be saved and there's no need to make time for costly downtime because of broken equipment.

Quality versus Quantity

However, there's more to it than just having a fail safe, it is also about the actual productionelectronics-assembly and assembly of the components. Electromechanical assembly does share some similarities with PCB assembling in that both still require quality, testing, great design, and a highly skilled team of engineers and assemblers to make sure only the best is being produced.

Also much in the same vein, you need to be conscious of where exactly the parts going into the assembled product are coming from--as well as the finished piece itself. Are they coming from factories from outsourced companies in China, or are they being carefully built and made right in the United States? This is important because of the threat of faulty, outdated, and counterfeit parts which could be very costly in the future.

Also, it is always about quality over quantity. Pushing out tons of product without going through the right tests and making sure everything is working is only going to cause headaches for you that means going back and redoing everything up to spec. Instead, a dedicated team can do all of that for you and send you the final, working, and quality result.

Topics: product assembly, printed circuit board, electronic assembly, Electromechanical Assembly

Moving To A Lead Free Assembly Electronic

Posted by Laura Austin on Thu, Nov 15, 2012 @ 07:00 AM

Transitioning to lead-free assembly electronics requires not only product reliability, but also the ability for an optimized assembly process. Additionally, material selection, component changes, and handling potential testing failures are integral to a successful transition. 

Choosing Materials

Surface finish is one of the key material choices impacting the entire assembly electronics process. The assembly process itself, plus the complexity of the board and its use environment, all make an impact on this decision. Typical options include lead-free HASL or ENIG, OSP, ImAg, and ImSN, with new innovations becoming market-ready all the time.electronic-assembly Different laminates are often under-specified due to underestimating their quality during the assembly process. Alternatively, laminates may be over-specified, which commands a higher cost.

Solder alloys are another important decision: wave solder, surface mount, and solder for BGA balls all have to be considered. Typ[ically, SAC305 is the surface-mount alloy of choice, and it performs acceptably under most circumstances. Depending on the complexity required for your wave solder alloys, the most cost effective solution is SnCU, especially if you have thin boards with low-aspect holes that need to be filled. SnAgCuNi is preferable for more challenging holes, although this may depend on the surface finish and choice of flux as well. For board flexing capabilities, or withstanding shock events, a variety of lower modulus alloys like SAC105 are becoming more prevalent.

Component Qualifications and Testing

Early adopters of lead-free assembly electronics discovered frequent occurrences of melted plastic components on wave solder connectors. This lead to a switch away from nylon 66 toward the more appropriate nylon 46, or sometimes LCP. These meet the requirements of moisture and temperature sensitivity, a must-have in surface-mount LF components. 

Other components that need to withstand heat damage may be more difficult to detect, which makes preventing that damage a greater challenge. Electrolytes within electrolytic capacitors may boil if time limits and safety temperatures are exceeded, yet these limits are not always outlined in sufficient detail.

Common specs may offer some suggestions, yet without the necessary variables to predict possible behavior. Component engineers end up guessing at preheat durations and total peak heat, while attempts are made with lead-free alloys to properly fill holes under various conditions.

Testing the strain capability of separate components following lead-free assembly is anotherlead-free-assembly blind spot. For example, it’s commonly known that SAC alloys have a reduced tolerance for strain, yet their assembly manufacturing people rarely offer specific limits for these devices. If suppliers could record results of four-point bend testing for their components in order to determine an objective maximum strain capability, the user could know if problems are more likely to arise during component stuffing, performing ICT, or attaching their boards to the chassis.

Reworking

All too often, lead-free reworks are overlooked in favor or meeting tight manufacturing schedules. However, records indicate that reworking is one of the greatest challenges involved with making the transition to lead-free assembly. A Lead-free assembly electronic has a more difficult window lying between the cold solder on one end and heat damage at the other.

Reworking can bring operator-to-operator benefits to the mix, optimizing equipment process that was probably originally designed for Sn-Pb rework. Every critical component requires a strict rework process which must be rigidly adhered to. Extensive failure analysis has to be undertaken before a determination regarding appropriate rework procedure can be made. Damage to the PCB, the component itself, or any neighboring components must be prevented. New rework equipment may be necessary, as well as the employment of new shielding techniques. 

Implement Auditing

Despite the growing experience with assemblage of lead-free PCBs, high quality is not always maintained after high-volume production begins. A comprehensive audit plan should be in place to address with the supplier in order to ensure accountability.  Making the change to lead-free assembly electronics provides an excellent opportunity to review your supplier’s typical process, and make any necessary adjustments for optimum quality control.

Topics: pcb assembly, electronic assembly, electronic PCB assembly, assembly electronic

Why Do I Need a PCB Assembly Service?

Posted by Laura Austin on Sat, Nov 03, 2012 @ 07:00 AM

Here's a question we get asked more often than we might otherwise expect: "Why do I need a PCB assembly service?"

Printed Circuit Board assembly is one of the mainstays of consumer electronics today, although that's only been the case for the last 30-40 years. Thanks to the development of surface mount technology and other advanced production techniques, it's now become more simple for most companies to outsource their jobs to a PCB assembly service than to do it in house.

None the less, it's good to review why things have developed this way. So let's take a look atPCB assembly some of the major reasons a manufacturer should look at using PCB assembly services to aid in their production.

The Advantages of a PCB Assembly Service

1. Doing it in-house requires a lot of expensive investments. It used to be that everyone did their own electronics manufacturing, but that requires a huge capital investment in production lines and equipment, not to mention manpower and expertise. For most companies, there's little foreseeable ROI on an investment like that, even looking years down the line.

2. Economies of scale work. Another primary benefit of outsourcing your PCB assembly is that allows you to leverage the investments other companies have made into production technology. A large, dedicated electronics assembly plant will be able to produce more units, more quickly, and at a lower cost than you could with your own facilities.

3. Design services are often part of the deal. While this isn't true of all PCB services, many offer design services to help you refine your designs. Expert PCB manufacturers can often engineer superior solutions and help you produce better products, and more cheaply.

4. True expertise. Most major electronics assembly companies have years or decades of experience in mass-producing electronics. That's expertise that would be incredibly costly if you went looking to a specialist to oversee your own operations, but comes relatively cheap when you go with an outsourced assembly firm.

5. Guaranteed quality control. Another major issue with self-assembly of electronics components is QC. On top of the production facilities, do you have the resources to also PCB assembly servicecheck and guarantee the quality of the PCBs that you produce? Top electronics manufacturers have extensive QC procedures and can provide top quality components.

And all this adds up to one key point:

If you don't trust the components, you can't trust the final product.

Any electronics company with any regards for its future has to consider its own reputation to be extremely important. People today can use the Internet to instantly research your company as well as all of your competitors. If you become known for putting out low-quality products, it can become a nearly insurmountable problem.

The best way to have reliable final products is to ensure that reliable components go into their manufacture. Besides improving your own products, this will also aid your engineers as well. After all, if something does go wrong, knowing that all your components were created to top-line specs will make it easier for them to find the actual source of the problem.

So, in short, why do you need a PCB assembly service? For the lower price, for the higher quality, and for the peace of mind that comes with putting out a reliable product. There is simply little reason today to do your own manufacturing in-house, and plenty of reason to look outside your company instead.

What convinced you to hire a PCB assembly service for the first time? Was it worth it?

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