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Main aspects of the PCB industry - PCB Design, Manufacturing & Assembling

Main aspects of the PCB industry – PCB Design, Manufacturing & Assembling

In this article, you’ll get to know the fundamentals of PCB manufacturers and how our company “PNC Inc.” is unique from other manufacturers in the United States.

What are the three main aspects of the PCB industry?

According to our experience of more than 50 years as the leading PCB Company in the industry, we can easily write that three main aspects in the PCB industry for which most clients look for are:

PCB Design
PCB Manufacturing
PCB Assembly

Design, Manufacturing, and assembling of PCB is a systematic method for examining the parts and components which is needed to execute. It included obtaining costs of a commodity and seeks to cut costs before actual development begins. There are specific manufacturing, design, and assembling principles required to be following during the PCB process execution of any electrical or electronics part. Eventually, a final design concludes the series with a review among the most common issues related to the PC Board or Printed Circuit Board.

Until continuous description, it is important to explain how the word ‘manufacturing design’ is used when speaking more generally and when talking more directly about PCB output. In general, design for manufacturing and assembling may lead to the simplification and optimization of a model or theoretical design in anticipation of their production. As these words are used to describe PCBs, they also imply a more straightforward study of possible production problems.

Ideal Design can Help PCB Fabrication:

The purpose of addressing the nature of manufacturing and assembling, in general, is to decide how a commodity can be produced and installed most cost-effectively. Manufacturing is to be done in a way to reduce the total cost and, more evidently, assembly design is required to be done to reduce commodity inputs, capital operating costs, and labor reduction. The emphasis is both on applying standards to lower manufacturing costs and also aim to shorten the product creation period. The fusion of these methods is often widely called manufacturing and assembly design for Mil-Spec PC Board.

Rules of PCB Manufacturer and Assembly:

After the conceptual Circuit Board Fabrication design has been developed, the company is required to research opting towards the most economical way of executing the PCB fabrication. The construction of a prototype or the development of a new version of a product could require a conceptual design. Once a conceptual design has been developed, a designer review will analyze the design’s bill of materials.

Try to use fewer parts in a design:

Reducing the number of components in PC board manufacturers is a simple aim with clear advantages. It would minimize construction costs and assembly difficulty, while not as obvious, it is of great advantage. When PCB assemblies are supplied using devices, for example, they are restricted to the number of modules they may be supported in a single port.

Being aware that if use many parts are used by pick and place machines in circuit boards fabrication will contribute to non-assembly. Cost savings are obvious. For example, if a design needs a resistance of 20K ohms, and 10K ohms resistance has been already used in the design, it might also be easier to use two 10K ohms resistors in sequence if this reduces the amount of time the computer picks and places simulation.

In the same way, you can speed assembly time up and transfer portions of the test requisites to the IC maker in search of regularly integrated circuits that can combine part of the specification into one IC. Having in mind the number and form of PCB components is perhaps the most significant move towards reducing total PCB manufacturing costs. In a term, the elimination of a component for the final design would decrease BOM costs, minimize purchase costs, production time, test time, and workload assembly feedback.

Use Original Components:

The use of composite materials will dramatically reduce construction time and expense. It goes without saying that defining a specific custom approach would significantly raise the initial cost of every product which may render a concept unfeasible. In addition, the use of more generic materials will shorten the supply chain of a commodity and mitigate supply issues. The fact that their measurements are easier checked until they are included in a PCB design specification is another advantage to prefer electronic interfaces.

Use Multifunctional Parts for Printed Circuit Design:

When an electric power part may be used for many uses in a model, the designer must take account of it. For instance, utilizing a container that can also act as hot in a design can give considerable cost control. A further definition of a dual-use mechanism through the use of a blockade as a link to ground from PCB board assembly.

Install all PCB Assembly Directions:

If practicable, all the board companies would plan all pieces to be assembled from the same side of an assembly around one axis. This is also referred to as a “Top Down” assembly in which all parts from top to bottom are placed. The use of this kind of single-sided assembly method saves time when a product is turned and rotated during assembly. As for all of the design choices, PCB design engineers would then have to consider whether producing a smaller PCB fabrication with components placed on every s sides of the board safer is compared with developing a larger PCB.

Advantages of PCB Manufacturers and Assembly:

• Fewer pieces ought to be handled and recorded.
• The expense of billing products should be minimized.
• The cost of handling can be reduced to some degree.
• Labor and input of electricity should be reduced.
• The total production period may be reduced to significantly increase manufacturing productivity.
• Lower sophistication results in greater efficiency.
• Increasingly competitive products should be.
• High Replacement margins are achieved.

The Circuit Printed Boards Manufacturers and prototype PCB manufacturers should have a simple way to reduce the next design bill. The advantages of reducing the number of designs are evident. Materials will become more viable as they are cheaper and less vulnerable to loss, however by lowering the number of materials used in the production of product costs, paperwork needs will be decreased and the work required for SMT assembly. All these factors contribute to lower manufacturing costs and encourage either better commodity or price profits at more affordable prices.

In addition, the processing period is shortened so the goods can be delivered to customers in less time. An optimal printed circuit board may be built with the right PCBA assembly considering all the above implementation of these objectives.

At PNC Inc., You’ll get your PCB done from any of the following design tools of your choice as we have an in-house facility available for all the tools.

• Cadence Allegro v16
• OrCAD Capture v16.3 & OrCAD PCB Designer v16.3
• PADS v9
• Signal Integrity Analysis: Hyperlynx

You will get the following deliverables from us:
• Gerber, drill files & PCB File
• Assembly and fabrication files
• Formal drawings on your (client) desired format

Why you should choose us & why we are better than others in the Market?

At PNC Inc., we have got the facility of executing all the design, manufacturing, and assembling in the same building. In this way, you don’t have to visit different places to check the progress of your work. You’ll get all the things done in the same building at our Nutley, New Jersey facility. That’s why we are a “one-stop-shop” and providing all the services under the same roof.

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PCB assembly Pre-Reflow FAI

First article inspection (FAI) prior to SMT assembly is a design verification methodology that provides a reported verification and validation of details of a product on the shopfloor per its manufacturing procedure and requirements. There are various ways to perform FAI, from both supplier’s and customer’s side, making it a very dynamic process. This means that each organization can tailor its FAI method to benefit itself and consequently, its customer, yet maintain rigid performance standards at the same time. FAI involves qualitative and quantitative measurement. FAI is also highly effective since it can potentially fulfill process validation requirements of quality management systems like ISO9001 or AS9100.

In the PCBA manufacturing industry, FAI can be effectively employed in validating materials for manufacture, underlying technologies, manufacturing processes used, packaging, and equipment. It can also be applied to a batch of a given sample-size from a mass-production instead of just the first sample, as the name might suggest. At PNC, strict adherence to our manufacturing standards helps in production with better yield but at the same time, facilitating dynamic validation techniques in our manufacturing process allows us to reduce lead time. The focus of FAI in PNC assembly lies in validating the pcb assembly before reflowing so that the SMT team can make necessary adjustments for the next batch, saving time and effort during rework. They are also responsible for validating the correct loading of the right component in its allotted slot per the assembly program. This extra step helps in validating the placements of the components and improves the turnout rate for a successful production.

All aspects of reflow also must be amenable to improve solder performance and the same translates to our guideline where only the most recent batch of solder paste (with most activity) is permitted for use, which is validated by FAI. Apart from pre-reflow FAI, post-reflow X-Ray also helps validate the solder performance based on the reflow profile which can then be adjusted accordingly so that all components are successfully soldered. This can be similarly implemented at the rest of the printed circuit board assembly stages as well up to testing. But there is a necessity to establish a constant groundwork or point of reference in such a dynamic process to give each validation at a particular stage, the perspective of what changes were made before. This is achieved by using a single piece of documentation used to validate at every stage, wherever applicable, and that document reports any changes made to the processes or product, to the next stage.

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PNC employs the use of AEGIS software to combine SMT assembly guidelines and inspection requirements into a single document (internally referred to as AEGIS). The AEGIS is used to report every single FAI validation to different stages of assembly. PNC’s FAI process for SMT starts with thorough solder paste FAI & its validation, which will be detailed in another post. For this post, let us consider pre-reflow FAI and highlight its validation process since it is the most crucial stage. The procedure is as follows:
1. The SMT team confirms the correct allocation of components as given in the assembly program. This is done by comparing each component with its description, measuring component value wherever applicable, and checking for physical marking on ICs. This helps in validating that the right component has been placed in its respective position on the board.
2. The next step involves checking for the polarity of components, wherever applicable. This is a two-step process. First, the supply angle of a component in the reel needs to be checked and second, the placement of that very component on the PCB needs to be verified.
3. Now, once the first board is assembled, the pcb assembly is put through FAI, where the placements of all components on the board are checked, any necessary placements that remain are placed manually and polarities of applicable components are checked and changed as per what is given in the AEGIS. The same changes are made in the assembly program to avoid the same occurrence in the rest of the batch. Components that are designated as DNP (Do Not Place) are also checked and finally, the solder paste information such as solder type, lot number, date of manufacture, and expiry are checked to ensure that the right solder paste has been used.
4. All these checks translate to notes, remarks, and checks on the AEGIS document, which can then be referred at later stages up to final inspection. If the job in consideration is a repeat job, it can be optimized to avoid any errors made in the first batch of production.
5. The board is then sent through reflow. Once reflowed, the board is extensively inspected under high magnification camera for quality of component placement, solder joints etc. yielded by SMT process.
6. Each section in the AEGIS is meant for FAI by a different team performing a different operation.

PNC has been able to reduce its lead time and increase customer satisfaction significantly and our personalized and successful FAI is a big factor contributing towards it. Further development to the FAI process is underway as much as it is needed to achieve better production yield over time for all the different types of PC Board assembly that are assembled at PNC.

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PRINTED CIRCUIT ASSEMBLY TESTING

No single printed circuit assembly testing system will meet all the requirements of every manufacturing environment. PNC employees the three most commonly used testing methods for defect detection being Functional Test (FCT), In circuit Testing (ICT) and Flying probe testing. Each test method will have different results based on your test strategy.
Your testing strategy must be developed with consideration to many factors such as reliability, cost or functionality traits. The key here is to detect defective boards and catch issues prior to end usage. Some considerations like opens, shorts, resistance, capacitance, inductance, diode issues, detecting incorrect component values, functional failures, and parametric failures are a few things that need to be addressed before your test strategy is finalized. Below is a brief description of the three test methods that are performed at PNC.

Functional Circuit Test (FCT)
Functional Circuit Test (FCT)

PNC offers multiple pc board assembly testing services. The most commonly performed, non-automated, printed circuit assembly test for electrical performance is functional testing, whether it be a partial or a full test procedure. Variabilities include what is to be tested, what inputs/outputs are needed, what are the required results and what are the testing parameters. These parameters are pre-determined from our customer supplied test procedures. FCT not only verifies the functionality of the PCB, but can also determine any assembly defects.
FCT is best suited for smaller to medium size volumes which helps our customers save a considerable cost by eliminating the need to buy actual testing equipment such as Spectrum Analyzers, AC/DC power supplies, multi-meters, etc. Depending on the complexity of the functional test to be executed, a pogo pin test fixture may be fabricated to expedite the test for optimum test results making it error-free and robust.

In Circuit Test (ICT)

PNC’s biggest advantage to in circuit testing is that it can test for functionality as well as for printed circuit assembly defects. ICT is normally much faster than probe or functional testing as it makes connection to all the board’s test points at once using a clam shell bed of nails fixture. Interpreting the test results are normally very easy to identify shorts, opens, or a particular faulty component location. As a
pcb assembly contract manufacturer
speed, efficiency, and quick test results help ensure a quality printed circuit assembly.
Although there are advantages to ICT, we do find some disadvantages as well. The development of this fixture has a significant investment of time and money associated with it. To our customer base, the expense of the fixture and programming can only be recovered on boards being assembled in large volumes. In the event there are any revisions to the PCB, the layout would initiate changes to the fixture, thus resulting in a completely new fixture and the expenses associated with it.

Probe Test
Probe Test

Flying probe testing is a pre-programmed, automated system that controls two to six probes that maneuver (fly) around a printed circuit assembly to contact test points, checking nets, on both the top and the bottom of the board. Flying probe has a lower cost and minimal programming time for setup than ICT. The biggest advantage to probe testing is revisions/changes to the pcb assembly. There is no fixturing modification cost, only the programming need be adjusted.
Probe testing is slower than ICT, and best fits medium sized assembly runs, so for complex high volume production runs its not preferred or cost effective. Another disadvantage to flying probe testing is that is does not perform functional testing and is limited to detecting pcb assembly defects.

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Printed Circuit Board thickness considerations and requirements

How Do You Select a Printed Circuit Board Thickness?

Selecting the correct PC Board thickness for your product requires balancing of three often competing aspects of the design: manufacturability, electrical performance and mechanical constraints. Modern PCB fabrication techniques at PNC give the PCB designer great flexibility in specifying the PCB lamination stack-up and gives them the option to design a PCB in a thickness other than the typical choices of .031”, 062” or .093”.

Manufacturing considerations in selecting a PCB thickness

To understand how to specify PCB thickness, it is important to understand how PCBs are fabricated. Most multilayer PCBS from 2 layers to 40 layers are constructed of these three basic materials.

  • Core – a fully cured fiberglass panel usually with copper foil on both sides. It is essentially a two-sided Printed Circuit Board. PNC stocks cores in a variety of materials and thicknesses, down to 3 mils thick.
  • Prepregs – fiberglass sheets impregnated with uncured epoxy resin. This resin will cure and harden when subjected to heat and pressure during the lamination process. It is the functional equivalent of double-sided tape. PNC also stocks prepregs in a variety of materials and thicknesses.
  • Copper foil – used to create conductive layers. Copper foil thickness is chosen by the amount of current the traces in each layer of the board will need to carry.

Multilayer boards can be manufactured in a variety of thicknesses by mixing standard core thicknesses with standard prepreg thicknesses. The lower limit of PCB thickness is set by the number of layers and the minimum available core and prepreg thicknesses. Copper foil thickness also plays a small role in overall PC Board thickness.

Providing you want to stay with the standard thicknesses, I’ll give you an example of PNC’s standard core thicknesses based off the core copper thickness. Let’s take an .062 and compare the stack-ups. See Figure  below:

Stack-up for an .062 multilayer:
062 thick PCB (002)

 

 

 

Notice to achieve the .062 overall thickness, the core thickness needs to be compensated based on the copper weight of the design. When using 1 oz copper we would use .038 core and .035 core for 2 oz. Also, the amount of pre preg would need to be adjusted as well to get to the thickness required. This is just one example when trying to determine overall thickness of your PCB.

The maximum PCB thickness is usually governed by something called the drill aspect ratio, which is the ratio of a drilled holes depth vs its diameter. When a hole is drilled, the deeper the holes becomes the harder it is to guide the drill accurately (because the drill deflects as it is pushed through the material) until you eventually reach a limit where you can no longer guarantee that the resulting drill hole will be centered in all the pads through the PCB. This is also referred to as drill wander in the PC Board fabrication world.

The aspect ratio for a through hole is the (board thickness) / (drill hole diameter).

Typically, the ratio is limited to approximately 10:1 This means that for a .062” thick board the smallest through-hole drill size is .006” which is the minimum drill size available at PNC. For a .093” thick PCB the smallest drill hole size will be .009” As board thickness increases, more complex via creation techniques such as laser drilled microvias are required to maintain the required pad density under components such as BGAs.

PCB thickness considerations for high speed circuits

One of the assumptions an electrical engineer makes when designing a circuit is that the PCB itself does not contribute any impedance to the circuit. However, in high-speed PCB design the integrity of the signals is definitely affected by the physical characteristics of the PCB.

Unfortunately for the designer the primary sources of parasitic capacitance and inductance of a PCB are affected by board thickness in conflicting ways, forcing the designer to carefully consider the trade-offs.

Vias

PCB vias can introduce both inductance and capacitance to the high-speed circuit. Parasitic inductance and capacitance of a via both increase proportional to board thickness.

Capacitance between layers
The capacitance between traces on different board layers or between traces and the ground plane are inversely proportional to the thickness of the dielectric between them. More space between layers will reduce parasitic capacitance and ensuring that all high-speed signal traces are the same distance from the ground plane will help impedance matching between them.

Crosstalk

Crosstalk between signal traces can be minimized by routing the PCB traces further apart and reducing the dielectric thickness between PCB trace and reference plane.

Mechanical Constraints

A PCB is ultimately a mechanical component of the product and is therefore subject to a variety of mechanical constraints. The PCB or PCBs must fit within the product envelope. This often requires that a PCB be as thin as possible. On the other hand, PCBs are subject to the torqueing forces from cables connected to the board edge and external connections. Preventing board failure during assembly or in use requires a circuit board fabrication thick enough to withstand these forces.

Finally, PCBs in the field are subjected to both vibration and shock. For example, large PCB panels can vibrate in several different modes when subjected to vehicle vibration, causing fatigue and eventual failure of solder joints. The rule of thumb is to get the resonance modes of a PCB to be 10X the input vibration. This requires designing thicker, stiffer PCBS and by careful placement and design of the PCB mounts.

These are the three most important considerations in selecting a PCB thickness. To optimize a PCB design, the PCB designer needs to understand all of these requirements and constrains on the PCB lamination stack-up, and have the flexibility to choose a PCB thickness that balances these often conflicting constraints. The team at PNC can help you design a PCB that meets your needs at a competitive cost and lead time.

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Ensuring a successful Turnkey PCB Assembly project

There are many detailed factors involved when pursuing the right company for your electronic or PCB assembly needs. These factors can be broken down into two distinct areas, customer communication and supplier contract review. Either the customer or the supplier cannot afford time lost if there is a misunderstanding or lack of data to efficiently and effectively produce a quality product on time. Time spent up front makes for a smooth and efficient transition through the quoting and manufacturing process.

Customer communication

A majority of communications for a request for quote, RFQ’s, in today’s industry are via email. The email needs to contain the required data files and be clear and concise in regard to quantities and delivery dates, along with any details that are not stated on the fabrication/assembly drawings. Since we are talking about Printed Circuit Board Assembly Turnkey projects, let’s break this down further with the required data files for PCB and PCBA.

PCB data files:

1- Fab drawing with build details such as material type, thickness, Copper weight, Tg rating, IPC-A-600 Class, Stack-up, Drill Chart, LPI & silk screen color, Serialization, Panelization array, MIL Spec, final finish and type(RoHs/Non RoHs) etc.
2- Complete set of gerber files.
3- Drill files.
4- IPC-356 Netlist for electrical testing.
5- Read me file for additional information not stated in fabrication drawing or email.

PCB Assembly data files:

1- BOM with manufacturers part number/description and alternates if applicable or DNP’s.
2- Assembly drawing with build details, Solder paste requirements, torque specs, IPC-A-610 Class, DNP’s, serialization, etc.
3- Pick & Place file.
4- ICT or Probe testing if applicable.
5- Functional test procedure if applicable.
6- Read me file additional information not stated in fabrication drawing or email.
If all the required information and data files are complete, we have successfully met the first half of the RFQ process. With this in mind, it’s up to us to compile this information in our contract review process. Let’s take a look at what is processed on our end to complete the RFQ cycle.

Supplier Contract review

All incoming turnkey projects are given an internal number for uniqueness especially for part numbers that has been revised. They are stored in a secure file folder based on two groups of data. ITAR data is stored separately than non-ITAR data. Once the customers data is stored and secure, engineering is notified to start to contract review process for the PCB and PCBA data sets.

Contract review for PCB:

1- Gerber files are imported and overlaid into correct layer structure.
2- Drill files are imported and overlaid against the gerbers.
3- If there is no IPC-356 Net list file, we extract the net from the gerber.
4- The gerbers are ran through a design rule check for manufacturability.
5- Fab drawing is reviewed by engineering for manufacturing capability.
6- If any discrepancies are determined, customer is notified immediately, If no discrepancies, engineering hands off the internal contract review check sheet to customer service.

Contract review for PCB Assembly:

1- BOM is scrubbed to ensure all parts are identified by manufacturer and P/N.
2- BOM parts stock research from approved vendor list.
3- Assembly drawing reviewed by engineering for assembly capability.
4- Pick & Place file review.
5- Review for testing if applicable.
6- If any discrepancies are determined, customer is notified immediately, If no discrepancies, engineering notifies customer service.
7- Quoting team is notified to officially create the quote and send to customer.
Customer communication and supplier contract review is a relatively simple step in order to achieve and ensure a successful assembly turnkey project. Adhering to the steps above can make for a great partnership.