The key to high-quality small-scale PCB assembly

A presentation at The key to high-quality small-scale PCB assembly in in China by Luo Zhan

Leonardo da Vinci is arguably the most renowned artisan in human history, with talents that spanned across various fields such as architecture, aviation, and other sciences. As an artisan, he excelled in painting and handcrafting. Before the Industrial Revolution, everything was crafted by hand, and skilled artisans were highly sought after. While this may be significant for collectors, it is a less crucial factor for PCBA manufacturers.

Although circuit board assembly is a highly creative process, it is also a manufacturing operation where consistency and repeatability are essential traits, even for low-volume printed circuit board assembly.

Small batch or large batch? Electronic product design and manufacturing are ongoing processes, with printed circuit board assembly playing a crucial role in both prototyping and production. PCB assembly after prototyping can be classified into two types: mass production, where hundreds or thousands of boards are produced to ensure maximum yield at minimum cost, and small-batch production, which offers unique advantages, as explained below.

Features of Small Batch PCB Assembly

High-Mix Low-Volume (HMLV) Flexibility: HMLV allows for the production of various board designs in small batches. This minimizes the number of orders and increases the chances that the manufacturer will build the design. High Performance Classification: PCB assembly orders in small quantities may be used in critical applications, such as medical devices, aerospace and automotive systems, and must typically meet IPC classification 2 or 3. Complex Designs: Small-batch PCB assembly may involve complex designs that require special manufacturing considerations and handling. High Quality and Reliability Standards: Circuit boards in critical systems demand higher quality and reliability than other electronic systems, as their failure can have severe consequences. As shown in above, small-batch PCB assembly is often suitable for specialized applications with higher manufacturing standards. Therefore, it is essential to carefully choose a FS Tech for your PCB assembly services.

How to ensure low-volume PCB assembly is of high quality While the process of creating a board remains the same, the difference in CMs can be significant. Some CMs rely on skilled technicians at various stages of the process, and while experienced professionals can do a good job, not all technicians have the same level of expertise. Relying on only a few skilled workers can be counterproductive.

To address this issue, many CMs today are incorporating automation and robotics into their PCBA manufacturing operations. This helps to ensure that substrate assembly is repeatable and meets the required quality level of the design. In addition, software control helps to eliminate human error and comply with quality management system standards, such as Aerospace Systems AS9100. By following these guidelines, you can ensure that the low-volume PCB assembly process of your chosen CM meets or exceeds your design requirements.