Contract Electronics Manufacturing and PCB Assembly Blog

Creating Electronic Manufacturing Solutions

Posted by Matthew Turpin on Fri, Nov 08, 2013 @ 07:00 AM

Like all other businesses, yours has probably been faced with challenges and obstacles from Electronic Manufacturing Solutionstime to time. Although there are many instances in which these problems can be overcome in-house through a little resourceful thinking, it is important to have the ability to recognize when a solution cannot be found on your own. It is the companies who possess the foresight to anticipate issues and form alliances with a qualified contract manufacturer who generally find the most success.

Paired with the expertise of a contractor, you and your team will find that it is much easier to create effective electronic manufacturing solutions for your every need. Here are a few challenges that your company may be faced with, and how working with a contract manufacturer can help you to resolve them quickly.

Creating Electronic Manufacturing Solutions for 4 Common Problems

Even though every business will experience its own unique set of problems, there are some that are fairly common across the board. While a good contract manufacturer will be able to help you find electronic manufacturing solutions for these issues, a great one will also be happy to provide you with customized solutions that are tailor fitted to your exact needs. To get you started on your journey toward finding the best contractor for your company, look for an industry leader who can create the following solutions to four common problems:

Solution #1: Improve design efficiency

There's an old adage that encourages us to never stop striving toward improvements until "the good is better, and the better, best". Regardless of how good you think your PCBs design schematics are right now, there is always room for growth. Too often, in-house design and engineering teams begin to settle for the status quo, believing that there is no way to make their devices even greater. By requesting the help of a contract manufacturer, you can get an outside perspective on your design plans from experts who have been working in the industry for years. These professionals can help to quickly spot problem areas, and suggest solutions that would help you to create a faster, more efficient product that costs less to produce, and is more compact.

Solution #2: Comply with industry standards

For smaller businesses, or start-ups, it can be difficult to attempt to keep up with the demands of design and production, as well as staying current on all of the latest industry standards. It can also be tempting to cut corners to save time, or to order counterfeit parts from an overseas supplier as a means of cutting down your costs. Contract manufacturing companies can help you to produce your devices quickly, affordably, and in a way that is completely on par with industry regulations and standards.Electronics Contract Manufacturer

Solution #3: Free up capital and space

Although machinery is obviously a necessary part of manufacturing PCBs and other electronic devices, this type of equipment is also very expensive to purchase and maintain. On top of this, the machinery takes up a lot of space in your facility. Your electronic manufacturing solutions provider should be able to shoulder this burden for you. By producing your devices with their equipment in their facility, you can save space in your building, and free up some extra capital.

Solution #4: Boost customer satisfaction

To keep customers coming back, you must be able to continuously impress them. A partnership with a manufacturing contractor can help you to create more advanced boards, produce devices faster, all while cutting down buyer costs. Electronic manufacturing solutions should also extend to exemplary fulfillment services. By taking the time to troubleshoot and repair faulty or malfunctioning boards, your manufacturing partner can help you to properly care for your customers through every step of the process. 

What challenges has your business had to deal with? Could a third party contractor have helped you to create faster, better electronic manufacturing solutions for those problems?

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

Topics: electronic manufacturing services industry, Electronics Contract Manufacturer, Electronic Manufacturing Solutions

Surface Mounted Technology Makes Manufacturing Processes Smooth

Posted by Laura Austin on Tue, Jan 15, 2013 @ 07:00 AM

One thing that often surprises newcomers to the contract electronics industry is that its backbone is a manufacturing process that was developed back in the 1980s. Surface mounted technology revolutionized electronics manufacturing, and it did such a good job that some thirty years later, we're still using it.

Sure, the technologies involved have improved radically in the intervening decades, but the underlying processes are the same. So what is it about surface mounted technology that SMTmade it such an effective process? Let's take a look.

Electronics Manufacturing Before Surface Mounted Technology

Automation first came to electronics manufacturing in the 1950s. Before then, electronics had to be assembled by hand using point-to-point construction, making them both costly and difficult to create. Advanced electronics and computers could really only be afforded by governments.

Then, the Printed Circuit Board (PCB) was invented. Circuit boards could be pre-designed and then mass-produced, creating a stable platform onto which the rest of the components were inserted. The standardized design also allowed automation to be introduced, with assembly lines inserting components rapidly into the pre-made PCBs.

At this time, manufacturing was dominated by "Through-Hole" technology. Holes were drilled through the PCBs, with each individual component using a small "peg and hole" arrangement to stay in place before being secured on the opposite side.

While a huge step forward from previous hand-crafted solutions, this still had significant problems. The drilling made the process more expensive and difficult than it could be, and lowered the strength of the boards. As technology advanced and miniaturized, space on PCBs was at a premium.

A new solution was needed, one which would allow electronics manufacturing to be a swift,SMT production smooth process of sticking parts together with a minimum of other activity.

Surface Mounted Technology Smooths The Electronics Manufacturing Process

Surface mounted technology (SMT) took the basic concept of through-hole manufacturing and streamlined it. PCBs no longer had to have holes drilled through them. Instead, components could be applied using a solder paste that doubled as glue.

This simplified the process to the point that electronics could be produced nearly as fast as they could be envisioned, leading to the consumer electronics boom of the late 80s and 90s. While SMT-mounted components lacked some of the inherent strength of a through-hole mount, being able to place far more of them onto smaller spaces more than outweighed this minor disadvantage.

Contract electronics manufacturing flourished as a result.

Surface Mounted Technology: A Five Step Process

Modern SMT production is a remarkably streamlined process that, once set up, requires little intervention. It boils down to five main stages:

  1. The PCB itself is produced, with circuitry and solder points already laid out for solder paste to the solder points on each PCB.

  2. Silk-Screen -like printers precision deposit solder onto the pads that will join the components to the board.

  3. Pick-and-Place machines precisely apply components to the prepared solder points.

  4. Reflow soldering ovens then bake the combined PCBs at exact temperatures to harden the solder into its final state without damaging the surrounding components.surface mount technology

  5. Finally, the finished assemblies are visually and automatically inspected via automated optical inspection (AOI), with defective boards sent back for rework to fix improperly-bonded components.

From there, the finished board can be shipped off to its final assembly into the completed product.

The Tried and True Solution

Undoubtedly, one day someone will find something better than SMT electronics manufacturing, but that day is likely still many years ahead of us. It's hard to imagine a more streamlined process for electronics creation without a significant change in how we create circuitry.

Until that day, the technology will continue to be refined, placing more components into smaller spaces, to keep providing gadgets to meet the demands of consumers.

Although, it does leave one to wonder: what will come after surface mounted technology? What might the circuits of the future look like?

Topics: electronics manufacturing, electronic manufacturing company, electronic design and manufacture, PCB, printed circuit board, contract electronics industry, Electronics Contract Manufacturer, through hole technology, electronic design, surface mounted technology, electronics design

Top 10 Things To Look For In Your Electronics Contract Manufacturer

Posted by Laura Austin on Tue, Nov 27, 2012 @ 07:00 AM

Choosing an electronics contract manufacturer for your electronics is a huge prospect, but one which is vital to a successful production run.  There are dozens of criteria you could use, but remember: price isn't everything, and you generally get what you pay for.  Taking a little time to research vendors rather than going with the lowest bidder will usually pay off in the long run.

So, we've compiled a list of the ten elements we'd consider most crucial in choosing an electronics manufacturer.  Tick these off, and you can be more confident in the future of your new products.

Ten Things You Need to Know When Choosing an Electronic Contract Manufacturer

  1. Financial Stability:  Contract electronics manufacturing requires a significant initial outlay, usually beyond what ever up-front payment is made with the contractor.  You need reasonable assurances that they have the capital and resources necessary to put your order together on time, and up to your specifications.

  2. Operator Certifications:  Dozens of organizations are set up around the world, testingelectronics-manufacturer and evaluating manufacturer processes, such as the IPC series of manufacturing standards. Research which certifications are relevant to your products and find an electronic contract manufacturer who meets them and can show proof of certification.

  3. Quality System Certifications:  As with operations, many international standards exist like the universally-recognized ISO:9001 2008 and AS9100 quality standards.  Look for manufacturers whose quality controls are guaranteed.  However, remember: certification is nice, but seeing the raw data on their defect rates paints a more accurate picture.

  4. PCB Assembly Environment:  A manufacturer's output is only as good as their working environment.  A clean, well-managed, professional assembly environment is a must.  Pay particular attention to their humidity and electrostatic discharge protections.  These environmental factors can have significant impact on your products' reliability.

  5. Information Management:  Successful High-volume manufacturing services requires considerable data management systems.  Ensure your electronic contract manufacturer uses an integrated Resource Planning System and robust lot control to help guarantee quality throughout the entire production process.

  6. Equipment Set:  Higher-precision electronics with fewer defects requires significantelectronics-contract-manufacturing hardware investments.  A reflow oven that was fine ten years ago is now under-equipped, and likely will not have enough separate heating zones for any particular job.  Inquire about their equipment purchases and how current their technology is.

  7. Transparency:  In a perfect world, every business would be transparent in its practices, but that's rarely the case.  In general, however, the more open a company is about its processes and success rates, the better you should feel about working with them.  You have to trust them to tell you if problems crop up or if there are issues you need to address.

  8. References:  Data is nice, but it doesn't tell the whole story.  If your electronics manufacturer isn't willing or able to provide actual testimony from past clients, you may have cause to worry.  Any decent manufacturer should have at least a few references who can vouch for their standards and practices.

  9. Inventory Management Processes:  Inventory management covers a lot of vital ground, from where your manufacturer sources their parts to how they guarantee your products are being produced from the components you requested.  Ask them for details on how they track your items in production, and how they prevent counterfeit parts from getting into their supply chain.

  10. Technical Competency:  Your electronics provider needs more than an assembly line and some good materials.  They need the competency to provide you with manufacturing and design services that can adjust for new challenges, quickly provide solutions to problems that occur, and produce your items with a minimum of hand-holding from you.  Their references, specifically, can speak to this ability - ask about how your contract manufacturer handled a crisis to really learn their character.

Of course, everyone has different priorities and criteria.  Did we miss any considerations that you considered crucial in your own manufacturing decision process? 

Topics: electronic manufacturing company, Electronics Contract Manufacturer, manufacturer process, manufacturing standards