Contract Electronics Manufacturing and PCB Assembly Blog

Important Elements That Add Up To Great EMS Electronics Design

Posted by Matthew Turpin on Tue, Aug 04, 2015 @ 07:00 AM

ems-electronics-assemblyEMS Electronics design becomes more and more difficult to do well, as we continue to push both density and speeds higher when it comes to circuit design.  High-RF designs require highly precise and controlled manufacturing to produce boards capable of standing up to lengthy use, and with sufficiently low failure rates.

Important Elements That Add Up To Great EMS Electronics Design

1 - Weave Density

Many newcomers to modern board design are surprised to learn that modern PCBs are layered.  In fact, they can have dozens of layers, up to 50 or more.  They alternate between high-resistance and low-resistance materials, so that multiple circuit lines can be stacked on top of each other.  The high-resistance materials are what keep those lines from getting crossed by creating a barrier.

Generally, these materials are fiberglass and resin, using fiberglass weaves on top of resin surfaces.  The issue here is that low-cost manufacturers, especially overseas, will skimp on the fiberglass.  Their products have a very loose weave,  leaving gaps with little fiberglass conducting the electrical current.  This degrades performance, as well as introducing syncronization issues due to the uneven speed of line transmission.

2 - Precise copper etching

In many cases, the "adding" of copper lines to a PCB is actually a subtractive process:  The board starts with a full layer of copper, which is then etched away to leave only the lines and connector areas needed for the circuit design.  It's crucial that these lines be as smooth as possible.  Jagged edges or uneven etching on the copper reduce reliability and introduce extra RF interference when the board is placed under a high load.

In many cases, this is plainly visible, even to the naked eye.  Take a look at one of your boards sometime.  If the edges of the copper wiring look jagged, wavy, or otherwise not-smooth, you may want to start looking for a manufacturer with higher-quality equipment.

3 - Prototyper vs Manufacturer Mismatchespc-board-design2

This is another issue we see crop up more and more:  When a company is using Manufacturer A to create prototypes and Manufacturer B to mass-produce the final build, it is absolutely essential that B be able to provide the same level of precision and worksmanship that A can.  We've seen far too many situations where a great prototype has given way to a poor product, because the full-scale manufacturing run couldn't match the prototype.

Frankly, the best solution here is usually just to go single-source.  When a company has the capability to go straight from prototyping to a full run, that eliminates guesswork as well as the redundancies involved in hiring two separate manufacturers. 

4 - Cleanliness / Ionic materials

When dealing with high-RF EMS electronics design, cleaning the board after production should involve more than just spraying it with water and hoping for the best.  Even microscopic specks of ionic materials - natural insulators - can have significant impact on the final speed and reliability of PCBs.

Higher-quality manufacturers have equipment which tests the conductivity of the board throughout the cleansing process, which allows them to know when a board is sufficiently clean.  Without this sort of qualitative assessment, the cleaning process becomes guesswork.

Is your EMS electronics manufacturer able to keep up with the demands of modern tech?  Contact ZenTech today to learn more about state-of-the-art PCB design techniques.  

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Topics: ems electronics, ems electronics services

Better Prototyping Brings Better EMS Electronics Services

Posted by Matthew Turpin on Tue, Jun 16, 2015 @ 07:30 AM

smt-ovenA company that means to make a name for itself in electronics, whether consumer or industrial, is under more pressure to perform today than ever before.  The rise of the Internet and social networking has exponentially decreased the amount of time it takes for a poorly-designed product to become known as a lemon.

Previously, a company had weeks or even months before enough poor reviews accumulated to damage their reputation.  Today, it's a matter of days or hours.  If someone buys a poor product, one of the first things they do is tell the world about it, literally.

The only real solution here is more work up-front to ensure the product is as good as possible.  Better prototyping and testing services are the keys to seeing this happen.

Superior Prototyping And Testing Bring Superior EMS Services

1 - Robust pre-release stress testing

Electronics are treated as commodities these days, not items to be protected.  A piece of electronics has to be able to stand up to the rigors of day-to-day use, and be built for users who probably will not care for it as well as they should.

To a certain extent, they need to be over-engineered for specifically that reason.  Proper stress-testing in natural use simulations can point out physical weak points in the electronics themselves, and make strong recommendations as to case design to minimize these problems.

2 - Integrated software testing

If your electronics manufacturer also handles their own software, you'll be way ahead of the competition.  In too many cases, the hardware design will be handled by one group, and software by another, without much communication between the two.  This is a recipe for poorly-performing products.

Buyers and users are unlikely to know or care about the distinction.  A poorly-performing OS will simply be blamed on the product.  The ability to test the two together, and refine as needed, is necessary for a well-rounded design.

3 - Easier redesigns for multiple build sizes

A new electronics product is likely to be several products, under the same name, but with differences in size and other design elements.  Very often, this isn't simply a matter of "scaling" a design up or down.  It may take substantial re-engineering to properly move a board design from one size to another.

Without easy prototyping and testing, this becomes difficult or impossible to achieve.  In a market where personalization is currently prized, this can create big barriers to product acceptance. 

4 - More prototypes bring better results

Traditionally, prototyping has been one of the slowest parts of the electronic design processes, since a single prototype can require re-configuring an entire assembly line.  However, times are changing.  The top manufacturers can now create prototypes, even from scratch, in about 3-5 days.

This allows many more iterative design cycles, more chances for feedback, and a much stronger product at the end.  Partnering with a company that can do fast-turnaround prototyping will help ensure that your product arrives in the best possible shape to succeed.

Quality Matters More Than Ever

A company today can't afford to gamble its name on a product that hasn't been tested, optimized, and focused to provide the best possible user experience and the highest possible reliability.  Contact ZenTech today for a free consultation on how your product can be made even better.  

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Topics: ems electronics, ems electronics services