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Smart Homes are Being Made Possible by Fast and Efficient PCB Assembly

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The computer chip has revolutionized our daily lives in more ways than one. But it’s not just smartphones and laptops that are bringing us all closer together. Many of the machines we use on a daily basis are quickly becoming more connected with the help of cheap, printable computer chips.

Printed circuit boards (PCBs) have not only become more cost effective in the last decade, but they have also become much easier to prototype and design. What was once a strenuous process for large companies, requiring vast resources, can now be done with incredible precision and speed by specialized PCB company’s like BESTProto.

This revolution in PCB assembly has allowed companies to build smart technologies into more and more devices. Our cars look more like driving computers than the simple mechanical machines our parents used to operate. Washing machines, refrigerators, and even glasses that send a signal to the bartender when sensors indicate your drink is getting low all use this progressive technology.

These current trends in smart products have driven the rapid growth of the PCB, semiconductor, and other computing chips as more and more products continue to build themselves with smart technologies. Soon you may find that maintenance on your household appliances deals more with software updates than it does hardware updates.

The machines in our lives are learning to communicate with one another. This revolution in interconnectivity has also sparked a revolution in small computer chip manufacturing. Instead of expending vast resources on the design and manufacturing of computer chips, companies like BESTProto can now quickly prototype and build PCBs that make our lives safer, easier, and less wasteful.

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PCB Assembly in Modern Medicine

Technology has facilitated the evolution of nearly every major industry within the past few decades. Today, one of the main electronic components in most medical equipment is the use of PCB, or printed circuit boards. These components act as the “brain” of any given electronic medical device.

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The layout in modern PCBs is optimized for the task performed by the device. For example, most medical device PCBs are intended to be highly precise and quick. Because of the tremendous complexity of a PCB Assembly, most medical equipment companies today outsource the assembly and sometimes the layout and design to highly specialized third parties. The development of PCBs from scratch is a tedious and time consuming process, but specialized third-party manufacturers can often have PCB assembly prototypes ready within weeks.

Development of these electronic components can be traced back to the early 1900s, but it was not until the latter part of the century that they became reliable enough to implement in medical equipment. Older board assemblies were large and often did not work consistently. They had to be assembled by hand, which led to failure in most instances due to human error during assembly.

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2014 Spring E-Newsletter

OFFSHORING, ONSHORING AND THE REBIRTH OF AMERICAN MANUFACTURING

UncleSamBestProtoIt is well-known that US manufacturers have spent the past 30 years off-shoring production in pursuit of low-cost labor and economies of scale. This trend has had significant ramifications for the landscape of the US economy, in which manufacturing as a share of total employment has fallen by more than 40% since its peak in 1979. Off-shoring, however, is no longer the default choice for US manufacturers. Issues with logistics, culture clashes, intellectual property, and quality control have made on-shoring or re-shoring more attractive.

Companies participating in this counter-trend note a range of advantages associated with producing on-shore, from better quality control, improved responsiveness to product changes, more logistical flexibility and lower shipping costs, to simply operating in the same (or a similar) timezone. Small businesses in particular see an advantage in domestic manufacturing, which frees them from the challenges of financing the required bulk orders from Chinese manufacturers. Larger businesses have found savings by eliminating the need to send employees to China and India to oversee production processes.

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BESTProto Late Winter E-Newsletter 2014

Auto electronics industry still booming and poised for huge growth

Auto_electronics_croppedThe global market for automotive electronics is set to rise to $240 billion by the year 2020, up more than 50% from $157 million in 2010, driven to new levels of prominence by government and automaker safety initiatives, according to a new report entitled, “The World Market for Automotive OEM Electronic Systems.”

A bevy of electronics-based options are driving new car decisions, according to the report. World production of automotive electronics will grow 8.4% this year, up from a 6.8% gain in 2013, says Henderson Ventures in its monthly report.

“Car makers have hit the technological accelerator,” writes Ed Henderson, president of Henderson Ventures. The research firm predicts the market will expand 7.7% and 7.5%, respectively, in 2015 and 2016, when the market will exceed $200 billion.

The sophistication of electronics-based additions has been kicked up a gear with high-tech apps such as adaptive cruise control, collision mitigating systems and automated parking, among others,” Henderson said. “Despite the fact that many of the features are used only occasionally, manufacturers have found that the technological smorgasbord available to potential customers helps to move cars and accelerate profitability.

The US market will see growth of 6.4% and 5.8%, respectively, in 2014 and 2015, down from 9.6% in 2013. Western Europe will rebound from two straight years of losses to post gains of 2% and 2.9%, respectively, in 2014 and 2015.

China and Japan will see the most robust gains. Japan will grow 9.1% and 8.1%, respectively, while China will be up 11.8% and 10.9%.

Inside Coin’s techie vision for the all-in-one credit card

 

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In a compact San Francisco office suite equipped with soldering stations and swipe-testing machines, Coin’s team of seven has been working furiously to perfect the final prototype of an unlimited credit card. No, not one that will let you charge with abandon. Rather, a device as slim as a standard piece of payment plastic that can hold countless credit, debit, and gift cards in its dynamic magnetic stripe.

Kanishk Parashar, the CEO and founder of the Y Combinator-backed startup, embodies the effort-worn entrepreneur. “I got to work out today,” he said, eyeing the limited set of weights in the waterfront suite’s back room, a combination of a hangout and meeting room space adorned with a gigantic television and a beat-up original NES.

It was why he admitted to feeling a bit winded. Running a hardware startup means he doesn’t get much time for anything else. Yet he’s more animated as he glances over to a table lined with what look like flattened Raspberry Pi’s grafted to multicolored business cards.

“I built prototypes like this by hand,” Parashar said, holding out Coin’s first iteration. “It actually works. I was able to pay with this at restaurants.”

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Fall into Winter BESTProto E-News

What You The Customer Can Do To Increase Build Time & Efficiency

Let’s both put together the puzzle pieces for a more efficient build.

Customers often ask us how we can increase or improve lead-time on certain projects. The resounding answer often goes many different ways depending on if the project is turn-key, consignment, or a re-run.

We’ve put together a quick reference guide to help in getting your project back in your hands, as quickly as possible.

  • Assembly drawings in detail. Having clear polarity marks, especially LED’s cathode/anode marks can at times take an entire extra day off the lead-time.
  • BOM with manufacturers and their part numbers is key. Even if you only use your own part numbers, the manufacturer’s part numbers can help speed up the check-in and set-up processes
  • Kitting overages (additional parts) are always appreciated. Tape and reels work the best. We’ll send back what we don’t use in ready-to-use condition
  • Schematics can help to eliminate questions back and forth.
  • CAD Data is preferred although we can use X-Y-R Data. The more precise the better.

The following tips can help your board build move more quickly through the assembly process and improve the results:

1. Bill of Material (BOM) preferably in Excel format (but a plain text file is acceptable). All component designators of a given part number should be in the same cell (if Excel).

2. Gerber files for the PCB. A full set of files is required if we are supplying the PCB. If the PCB is customer supplied, we will need external copper (top and bottom) and Silkscreen layers at a minimum, but a full set is still preferable.

3. CAD files. They are commonly referred to as a GENCAD or ASCII output files and are an output or export from the CAD system the board was designed on. There are several choices which will work. One is a “native” ascii output file which is CAD system specific (i.e. Protel *.pro file), (Allegro .val or .va2 file). If you tell us what CAD system was used, we can tell you what the file extension would be. Another choice is a GENCAD file (usually a “.cad” extension). We can also use an IPC-D-356 file (either a “.ipc” or “.356″ extension). Also acceptable is a Fabmaster file (.fab). NOTE : The IPC-356 file seems to be the most popular and generic. Finally, in lieu of ASCII Cad files, we can also import the ODB++ data files.

Stay warm and connected with winter gadgets to beat the chill

The long, cold winter can be a depressing prospect for many. The threat of cabin fever looms large as we battle through the snow to get from one warm place to another. Sledging adventures and snowball fights offer a brief respite from the numbing, bitter cold. Braving the elements for the daily commute can be torture without the right gear. A warm coat, scarf, and hat is a given, but what can technology do to help? Let’s take a look at some high tech winter gear to keep you cozy until the spring thaw.

180s Down with Headphones ($35)

Everything is better with music and the right choice of tunes can transform barren, icy tundra into a winter wonderland. 180s combine behind the head earmuff designs with built-in headphones so you can keep your ears warm and enjoy good music at the same time. Your ears will feel great as they are protected by this down filled, water resistant shell with a faux Sherpa lining. The standard audio jack will work with most smartphones and there’s even a microphone for hands-free calls, which means you don’t need to get that phone out of your pocket in the cold.

NuTouch Gloves ($20)

There are actually quite a few options when it comes to warm gloves that will work with a touchscreen now, but these NuTouch Gloves offer great value for money. They are comfortable, they are fairly warm, and all ten tips will work well with your smartphone touchscreen. The classic charcoal color isn’t too eye-catching and the fingertips contrast in a darker color. You can wear thicker gloves over these if it’s really cold outside.

Columbia Bugaboot Plus Electric ($250)

If you’ve had that feeling that your toes are going to fall victim to frostbite then you’ll appreciate the idea behind Colombia’s Bugaboots. These boots are equipped with Colombia’s Omni Heat technology. They are completely waterproof and you can press a button on the side to activate battery-powered warmth immediately. They have three warmth settings and you can get an extra battery pack to give them a boost on extended trips. Colombia also offers Bugagloves and Electro Amp core vests for men and women that work in exactly the same way. We took their electric jacket for a test drive.

Tooks Headphone Beanies ($25 to $30)

Fool of a Took! If ear muffs aren’t enough, go for a beanie hat with built-in headphones. You’ll find various styles of hat available from Tooks and the headphones have a standard 3.5mm stereo plug. The nice thing about these is that you can easily remove the headphones and machine wash the beanie when you need to.

Hammacher and Schlemmer 12-Hour Heated Socks ($25)

Not everyone will want to spend $250 on a pair of electric boots, so for a tenth of the price you can enjoy toasty feet thanks to these heated socks. They run on batteries, one D battery for each sock. You can set them to a low or high heat and you’ll get 12 or 10 hours of warmth accordingly. They come with a lifetime guarantee so you need never have cold feet again.

HotRox Electronic Hand Warmer ($40)

This pebble-shaped hand warmer slips easily into your pocket and can be turned on for a blast of heat when you need it. It has two heat settings offering between 3 and 6 hours of warmth. You can charge it from the wall outlet, but this one also comes with a USB cord so you can plug into a PC at work to recharge. The underside of the device heats up quickly and it’s perfect for warming your hands as you wait for a bus or train. Try Firebox for U.S. delivery.

USB Heating Gloves ($20)

It’s official. You can literally get anything as a USB accessory now. We’ve all experienced cold hands as we type in a chilly room. Why suffer? Grab a pair of these gloves, slip them on, plug them into your computer and warmth will regenerate those fingers. You may even find your typing speed improves as a result, but if you’re in the office expect some funny looks from co-workers.

Scottevest’s  Revolution Plus Jacket ($200)

Here’s a warm winter jacket that is all about keeping your favorite electronics close and hidden. It has 26 pockets to hold everything from your glasses and your smartphone up to an iPad. The hood and sleeves are removable for temperature control. It also features wire management for headphones. With this jacket you can effectively load up all of your electronics and keep them safely stowed about your person. The internal clear touch pockets even allow you to operate touchscreens without removing the device. We took a look at their fleece jacket a while back.

This high tech winter gear should be enough to see you through to spring. If there is any other great winter tech device or clothing that you swear by then post a comment and share.

Garth’s Top 10 Car Winterizing Tips

Winterizing your car is one of the easiest precautionary steps you can take to be prepared for the cold winter.

1. Keep an Emergency Kit Inside Your Car
2. Make Sure Your 4-Wheel Drive Works
3. Check Your Car’s Belts and Hoses
4. Replace Windshield Wipers and Wiper Fluid
5. Check Your Defrosting and Heating Units
6. Keep Your Fuel Tank Full
7. Put in the Right Amount of Antifreeze
8. Check Your Oil and Oil Viscosity
9. Check Your Battery
10. Check Your Tire Pressure and Consider Snow Tires

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What iPhone, iPad owners need to know about iOS 7

Apple is releasing its latest operating system for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch today.

The system, iOS 7, will come installed on the new iPhone 5S and 5C models that go on sale Friday. Owners of some older Apple devices also can download it to replace their current systems. But should they?

Before you jump in and upgrade, here’s what you need to know about iOS 7.130918140403-ios-7-screenshtos-story-top

What is iOS 7?

Apple’s iOS is the software that controls all the basics of your gadget, including the look, feel, settings and hardware. iOS 7 is Apple’s latest update to this system and its biggest change since iOS debuted six years ago.

What time is the iOS 7 download available?

Developers have been testing early versions of the new operating system for months, but Apple made it available to the general public at 1 p.m. ET today.

To see whether it is available, go to Settings > General > Software Update on your device, or visit iTunes on your computer.

How is it different from what’s already on my iPhone or iPad?

Six years is a long time to wear the same look. Apple’s iOS has received a major design overhaul in this version and now has a more streamlined, flat, abstract look. The typography is all new, and nice touches like transparency and subtle animations abound.

There are also a handful of new features, though some are not available on all older devices. Here are a few of the biggies:
the biggies:

• A new time-saving control center slides up from the bottom of the screen for easy access to basic settings such as brightness and Airplane Mode. It has shortcuts for the flashlight, timer, calculator and camera.

• An updated notification center now shows a summary of what you have in store for the day and details on the weather and your commute.

• The camera adds a square-photo option and new filters, while the photos app drops the map view and sorts your images into events by date and location.

• It adds AirDrop, a feature for people who use iCloud that makes it easier to move photos and files between computers and mobile devices.

• The Siri voice-search tool adds an option for male voice, defaults to Bing for Web searches and pulls in results from Twitter and Wikipedia.

• Multitasking looks different. The same double-click of the home button now zooms you out to show a carousel of mini versions of all your open apps.

iOS 7 won’t require a great deal of re-learning. The basic layout and functions are the same: The home screen is still a grid of icons, there’s a dock with your favorite apps at the bottom, and the gestures you’ve become used to work the same. There will probably be some initial confusion as you struggle to re-identify all the new icons, but a proper upgrade should leave them all in the same spots they were in before.

iOS 7 won’t require a great deal of re-learning. The basic layout and functions are the same: The home screen is still a grid of icons, there’s a dock with your favorite apps at the bottom, and the gestures you’ve become used to work the same. There will probably be some initial confusion as you struggle to re-identify all the new icons, but a proper upgrade should leave them all in the same spots they were in before.

New iPhones: The reviews are in

Can I update my iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch?

Although iOS is coming out the same time as a pair of brand new iPhone models, it can also be installed for free on some older devices.

At the press event announcing the new models, Apple CEO Tim Cook said there were 600 million devices running iOS. Just because you have a year-old iPhone 5 doesn’t mean you can’t freshen it up with the latest operating system. Look for your device below to see whether it is eligible.

• iPhone (original): No

• iPhone 3G: No

• iPhone 3GS: No

• iPhone 4: Yes. Does not include AirDrop, Siri or camera filters (you can add filters later in the photos app).

• iPhone 4S: Yes. No AirDrop.

• iPhone 5: Yes. Includes all new iOS 7 features.

• iPod Touch: Only the 5th-generation iPod Touch can upgrade but will include all new iOS 7 features.

• iPad (original): No

• iPad 2: Yes. No AirDrop, Siri, camera filters or square format, or Photos app filters.

• iPad 3rd generation: Yes. No AirDrop or camera filters.

• iPad 4th generation: Yes

• iPad Mini: Yes

Some of the cooler new features you may have heard about, like the Touch ID fingerprint sensor and the new camera tools — slow-motion, burst mode and image-stabilization — are available only on the new Phone 5S.

Should I update?

Just because your device is compatible doesn’t mean it should be upgraded right away. Once you update your device to iOS 7, there is no going back to iOS 6 or whichever earlier iOS you were running. (Yes, there are unofficial ways to downgrade, but these are not recommended for regular iPhone and iPad users.)

If you are not in a rush, wait a few weeks or months until Apple releases the first updated version of iOS 7. The early releases of the operation system can include bugs that should be addressed with subsequent iOS 7 updates. Let other eager people spend the next few weeks finding and reporting these issues so you don’t have to deal with them.

Older devices can experience frustrating performance issues when upgraded to a new OS. The iOS 7 software was designed specifically for the hardware that’s faster than your trusty old iPhone 4. If your device is anything older than the most recent generation, it might suddenly slow down, and battery life can suffer.

This should not be as much of a problem for newer devices, such as the iPhone 5, 4th generation iPad and iPad Mini, or the latest iPod Touch. If you are worried about performance issues, skip the update.

Updating immediately is recommended only for tech-savvy early adopters who are comfortable with the risks.

Are there any downsides of not updating?

Immediately, not much. You won’t have the new features to play with, but your phone will continue to work as it always did.

In the long run, there could be a few drawbacks. Apple has been pushing developers to update their apps to be iOS 7 compatible. The updates can be as minor as changing the look of an icon or as major as adding all new features. Many developers may stop updating and supporting older versions of their apps as they move their focus to iOS 7. That means eventually, you could be stuck with out-of-date (or even non-working) versions of your favorite apps.

I’m going for it! How do I upgrade?

1. Back up: Before you make the leap, it is very important that you back up your iPhone or iPad. There is always a small chance your device could be wiped clean in the upgrade process, so make a full backup of everything. To back up, plug your device into your computer, open iTunes, and if it does not start backing up automatically, click the “Back Up Now” button.

If your photos are not set to back up automatically, use Image Capture or iPhone on a Mac and Windows Explorer on a Windows PC to make copies of all your pictures.

Another option is to skip the cord and back up to iCloud over Wi-Fi. On your device, go to Settings > iCloud > Storage & Backup. Tap the “Back Up Now” button.

2: Download the new iOS: You can get the update by plugging into a computer and opening iTunes (this is the faster option) or over a Wi-Fi connection directly to your phone.

If iTunes doesn’t automatically ask whether you’d like to upgrade when you plug in, click “Check For Updates” in the Summary tab. It will do the rest automatically.

From your phone, go to Settings > Software Update and click the install button. Make sure your phone is fully charged and connected to a Wi-Fi network, not your cellular network.

-Contributions from CNN Tech.

 

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Why Quality and Customer Feedback Top Our Priority List

Why Quality and Customer Feedback Top Our Priority List

ROLLING MEADOWS, Ill. – Quality of our product and responsive customer service are undoubtedly two of our most important values here at BESTProto Inc.

Knowing our Customers

Quality and speed are key.

At BESTProto, we try to tailor our efforts to provide individualized services to meet each customer’s specific needs.. The knowledge that transfers on a daily basis helps to strengthen our relationships with our customers. Real world examples  are where we are able to develop customer specific component libraries to aid in the assembly, inspection and ultimately, quality of their boards assemblies.  “I’d like to think we stand out among others when it comes to quality and speed,” said Director of Business Development Garth Cates. “We strive to bat .1000 but understand that things do happen during the course of product development and production. Our goal is to always get it right the first time, and learn for the next time.”

 

Proactive Service
Being proactive by catching potential mishaps before they occur, is another key to quality, but even more so in our customer service. We compare this to going into a diner and asking a customer why they didn’t touch certain pieces of food on their dish.  We’d rather replace the dish for free or remove it from the bill if there is anything unsatisfactory. We don’t send our customer’s home hungry or feeling they didn’t receive value for their money spent.

Reactive Service
While proactively addressing potential customer issues, we also strive for speed in being reactive. “If our production floor is busy we’ve worked late into the evening and over weekends to put in the extra hours for our customers,” said our Production Manager. “If we’ve got people waiting in line, we’re going to make sure we do everything we can to meet their schedule.”

Personal Touch
Don’t be shocked if you receive a message from us just to see how things went. Every relationship is a two-way street. We like to know how our customers are feeling about their experience with BESTProto. We value your feedback and we’d appreciate your filling out any questionnaires you receive from us.   Most importantly, always feel free to send any quotes our direction. We strive to meet our customer’s needs so if you have any questions regarding special assembly requirements, component issues, cost, lead-times etc. we’d be glad to discuss them with you.

As summer moves into fall, we wish you a happy and safe month ahead. We look forward to hearing from you soon.

 

 

 

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Safety Tips

Safety Tips for Animals and Humans

For many people, nothing beats lounging in the backyard on the Fourth of July with good friends and family—including the four-legged members of the household. While it may seem like a great idea to reward Rover with scraps from the grill and bring him along to watch fireworks, in reality some festive foods and products can be potentially hazardous to your pets. The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center offers the following tips:

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BESTProto June 2013 Newsletter

DESIGN FOR MANUFACTURABILITY
How to Prevent Tombstoning

ROLLING MEADOWS, Ill. – Now you may say that this is an “assembly issue????” But not so fast. Yes it is true that assembly materials including solder paste and stencil design, improper profiling or even inaccuracy of the pick and place machine accuracy may cause tombstoning but the PCB layout may be a cause as well. Possible culprits include the following:

  • The lack or imbalance of thermal relief’s
  • Incorrect land patterns – when in doubt use the IPC standard guidelines

To control the effect as a designer, you have to look after symmetric soldering process on both sides of the component. Make sure there are symmetric pads in your design. This can easily be checked via automatic scripting.

Finally, look to problems in the manufacturing of your PCB’s for potential causes. The thickness of a soldermask is critical. Make sure the mask is below the level of the lands.

Click here to read more.

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