PCB Board Assembly Done Right

Written by Chad on . Posted in Custom pcb, Pcb fabrication and assembly, Turnkey pcb

Modern technology is more advanced than ever, and most often, any electronic device today has computers inside it. A “computer” may be not only a PC, Mac, or a laptop, but any information-processing component of an electrical device. In fact, these computers can be found in nearly anything from calculators to video game consoles to cars and even household appliances, such as refrigerators. Early computers in the 1940s and 1950s were massive machines with vacuum tubes, but microprocessors changed all that. From the 1960s to now, computers became rapidly more advanced, enabling the Internet, digital imagery, and a whole lot more. But none of this is possible without PCB assembly, or “printed circuit boards.” PCB board assembly is a major industry in the modern United States and other developed nations, and PCB board assembly is always in high demand, given how universal computers have become.

What is more, these PCB board assembly firms may offer PCB quotes to interested buyers ahead of time. PCBs vary in their complexity, quantity, and capabilities, and there is no one-size-fits-all price for an order. So, a buyer such as a calculator factory may ask for a PCB quote that is based on the quantity and type of PCBs needed. For those unaware, a sales quote is when the manufacturer estimates the total costs for making series of items based on the client’s request, and a client may ask for quotes from several different manufacturers. This information helps a client choose where to make wholesale purchases.

PCB Board Assembly

It may not be a surprise to hear that PCBs are in great demand nowadays, and some clients may ask for quite advanced and powerful models from manufacturers. In fact, the demand is so great, and PCBs are so delicately made, that human labor is often too inefficient for production. Rather, an automated assembly line will solder together these PCBs with consistent quality, and turn out a great deal of them in a short time. This is often what it takes to meet demand.

How might this process start? Skilled human engineers will use specialized software to design new patterns and layouts for PCBs, and once they have a design in mind, some prototypes will be made before mass production can begin. Many industries do this, and PCB workshops are no exception. Aberdeen Group, for example, has conducted some surveys to study how PCBs are made, and the Group found out that simple PCBs require (on average) 11.6 physical prototypes before the design is finalized. More complex ones may require as many as 161. prototypes, on average.

What is more, some of these PCBs are quite complex, and some clients will need PCBs with many layers in them for certain applications. Some of the simplest PCBs are just one layer, but others can have four, six, eight, or even 10 different layers, based on the client’s needs. Some of the most complex PCBs being made today have 42 different layers to them.

When it is time for PCB board assembly, an automated line will handle this work for maximum efficiency. In particular, a shop can make a quantity of these boards in a fraction of the time frame a human crew would need. Some PCB assemblers have a standard turn-time of only five days or under, which is 75% faster than the industry’s average. Just one automated line can solder more components than 50 human operators together could, and some line scan solder as many as 50,000 parts per hour. Some printed circuit boards may have spaces between their electrical conducting paths be as narrow as 0.04 inches, or just one millimeter or less. And in theory, transistors may continue to miniaturize until they are only one nanometer wide, or the thickness of just 10 atoms side by side.

PCB assembly houses, despite these achievements, are always looking for new ways to make this work more efficient. Aberdeen Group conducted some more surveys, and 53% of respondents said that increasing product complexity was their number one problem to solve in terms of improving their process. And what is more, PCBs represent fully 31% of the price of any electronic device, so naturally, there are extremely narrow margins for error or delay in their production and quality.

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