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The PCB, PWB, CCA Assembly Inspection and Testing Process

BESTProto-PCB-inspection-testing-process

PCB Assembly Inspection Guidelines and Procedures

In the past, manual inspections were the standard in the printed circuit board assembly (PCBA) industry. Today, machines help testers perform inspections. Learn more about this cost-effective and essential process:

Manual Inspections

During a manual visual inspection, a group of technicians will examine each board assembly individually. Then, they will compare the data to the proper design documents. Every board must meet the designer’s specifications.

AOI Inspection

An automatic  optical inspection (AOI) is faster, more reliable than a manual inspection, but it requires a state-of-the-art optical system. A typical AOI machine will take pictures of a board assembly, then it will compare duplicate images to find flaws.

X-ray inspection

BESTProto utilizes X-ray inspection on all lead-less devices such as BGAs, LGAs and QFNs.  In order to ensure there are no shorts between pads, we use an X-ray machine 100% of the time on lead-less devices.  X-ray inspection is also helpful to verify voiding on the solder joints and to quantify what percentage of the pad is covered with solder.

An AXI Inspection

To ensure a thorough inspection, a PCB technician must check every solder joint on a freshly assembled board. The problem is that some joints on a printed circuit board are hidden. In order to examine these joints, the PCB technician has to use an X-ray system. AXI stands for automated X-ray inspection. During this process, a machine produces an X-ray image that will display all solder joints that are nestled underneath the chips on a PCB.

Flying Probe Testing

This kind of test utilizes a machine that makes a quasi in-circuit test to the top and bottom of the PCB assembly. Flying probe testing can discover most manufacturing defects that most commonly occur during PCB manufacturing, such as:

  • Shorts
  • Opes
  • Resistant levels
  • Diode problems

Why PCB assembly Inspections Are Important

A PCB assembly inspection is important because it helps manufacturers find defects before moving forward in the manufacturing process. By finding flaws early, manufacturers can ensure the reliability and quality of a PCB.

At BESTProto, we have experienced PCB inspection and testing technicians and engineers on our team. We can help you navigate the complex challenges of PCB inspection and testing. Contact us today to learn more about our PCB inspection and testing services.

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Military and Aerospace PCB Assembly Needs and Requirements

All About Military and Aerospace PCB Assembly Services

Military-grade circuit boards power essential equipment during field operations. They’re tougher than traditional circuit boards. During a mission, a high-quality PCB can handle:

  • Harsh desert temperatures
  • Temperatures at altitude
  • Volatile chemicals
  • Strong contaminants

A circuit board must meet strict standards before it can be cleared for military use (IPC Class 3). Discover what steps are taken during the process and how military PCB assembly services benefit the armed services.

The Design Process

When military-grade circuit boards are designed, their tolerance range is tested. If a product fails the tolerance test, it won’t be approved for military use.

A standard circuit board has a generic clock generator that produces regular clock signals. PCBs for the military and aerospace applications have a more refined clock generator that produces leaner clock signals, and the hardware is heat resistant.

The Purpose

Military-grade circuit boards power necessary equipment and systems. BESTProto has experience in a wide variety of military systems, including:

  • Tactical communication systems
  • Digital information processing systems
  • Guidance and navigation systems
  • Simulators
  • Power and control systems
  • Propulsion systems
  • Electronic systems
  • And more

Military and Aerospace-grade circuit boards help teams accomplish their objectives safely and efficiently. Thanks to their rugged design, these PCBs will be less likely to require maintenance or repairs in the field.

The Manufacturing Process

Before the manufacturing process begins, a manufacturing team must review the specs from the military or aerospace client. These specs are concepts for the final circuit board design. The first phase always begins with a prototype. To work on the prototype, a manufacturing team must review a batch of Gerber files. The military provides these files in advance. The final circuit board is assembled after the prototype is complete.

Previous experience plays a large role in the military PCB assembly because the process of building military-grade parts requires a special skill set. Reliability is essential when these PCB assemblies are used in the field, so high-quality design and effective testing are necessary parts of the PCB assembly process.

At BESTtProto, we have an experienced military PCB assembly team with the knowledge and skills to build circuit boards for essential tactical equipment. If you need high-quality military PCB assembly services, contact us today.

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Which Industries Need PCB Fabrication and Assembly Services?

Different Types of Industries and Their Need for PCB Fabrication and Assembly Services

There are many industries in which PCB fabrication and assembly services are necessary. PCB fabrication and assembly services are used for a wide range of applications in electronics, automation, and more. Below are just a few of the industries that need PCB fabrication and assembly services.

  1. Automotive

The automotive industry needs a high-quality PCB design to decrease the time and costs of testing their cars. They depend on flexible PCB fabrication and assembly services or rigid-flex PCB fabrication and assembly services to reduce the cost of replacing parts and complete cars once they hit the production line.

  1. Electronics

The electronic industries use the PCB fabrication and assembly services for producing various electronic items, including smartphones, computers, and home appliances like washing machines and air conditioners.

  1. Medical

The medical industry needs PCB fabrication and assembly services for several purposes, including measuring blood pressure and other vital signs like heart rate monitors. The industry also uses PCB fabrication and assembly services for surgical equipment and medical diagnostic equipment.

  1. Aerospace

The aerospace industry relies on PCB assembly services to develop circuitry for satellites, rockets, and parts used in airplanes like landing gear assembly lines, navigation systems, and aircraft instrument displays.  Often times PCB is called PWB or, Printed Wiring Board

  1. Agriculture

The agriculture industry uses PCB fabrication and assembly services to develop machines that work to harvest crops or manage livestock. The PCB assemblies are utilized for automated milking machines and greenhouses used in horticulture (growing plants) and hydroponics (growing plants without soil). 

  1. Mining

The mining industry relies on PCB fabrication and assembly services for vehicles and equipment used in all phases of extracting natural resources (sand, minerals, oil, etc.). The PCB fabrication and assembly services are used for underground mining machines and the pipelines used to transport oil or gas.

  1. Construction

The construction industry uses PCB fabrication and assembly services to process steel and other building materials like concrete and ceramic tiles. These materials are then formed into objects with various functions like buildings, tanks, pipes, or bridges.

  1. Transportation

The transportation industry utilizes PCB and assembly fabrication services for their various land, air, and sea travel forms. The PCB fabrication and assembly services are used to develop GPS systems that track planes in flight or ships at sea and the electronic components included in cars and trucks used for personal transport. 

At BESTProto, we offer PCB assembly services, engineering, and design for different industries. The above examples are just a few of the numerous industries that rely on PCB and assembly fabrication services. As you can see, various industries and their needs for PCB fabrication and assembly services are vast and diverse. It is easy to see how important these types of services are in all aspects of manufacturing.

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Common PCB Assembly Issues That Cause Malfunctions

person fixing a PCB with tools

Common Problems With Your PCB Assembly

Most electronic devices feature some type of printed circuit board assembly, also known as a PCB. Some folks and industries refer to them as PWB (Printed Wiring Boards) CCA s (Circuit Card Assemblies) What is common on all these is, the components are what give electronics their abilities. PCB Assemblies can be vulnerable to problems and damage. When you have a PCB Assembly that is not working, it can be hard to troubleshoot the cause of the problem.

There are multiple reasons that PCB Assemblies fail or stop working. Sometimes, they need to be rebuilt or remanufactured, but some shops offer PCB repair services.

Issues Due to Physical Damage

Physical damage is the most common reason a PCB Assemblies malfunctions. Physical damage can mean some sort of shock, overheating, or even being dropped. If the PCB Assemblies part is still in one piece, most physical damage can be fixed.

It still takes a certain amount of expertise to take apart the device and measure the damage to the PCB. Instead of attempting to fix it yourself, your best bet would be to receive assistance from a shop that offers PCB repair like BESTProto.

Issues Due to Component Failure

Sometimes PCBs are made with faulty components or components fail over time. The components are the small, intricately connected parts of the printed circuit board that allow it to work and send signals throughout the device.

Overheating or aging are the most common causes of component failure if a device has slowly become faulty. Individual components can rarely be repaired. In order to save the PCB, you would need to replace the component (or components) entirely.

What Are Other Reasons a PCB Might Break?

There are several different reasons that a PCB might suddenly stop working. Sometimes there’s a power failure, where the PCB stops transmitting power either due to physical damage or component failure. Other times, it could be due to a faulty design of the PCB board or device itself. 

It can be hard to diagnose PCB problems if you’re not a professional. PCBs are small and so intricately designed that if you take them apart yourself, you might damage the PCB in the process. Next time you need PCB repairs, contact PCB professionals like BESTProto.

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soldering iron and PCB

Tips for the Best Soldering Results

soldering iron and PCBBasic Tips for Ensuring Good Solder Results

Before beginning a PCB project, it’s important to have the right tools and a basic understanding of the soldering process. The following tips are helpful for ensuring the best solder results:

1. Make Sure You Pick the Right Soldering Iron

The right soldering iron will play an essential role in ensuring you can get the job done properly. Consider the following when choosing an iron:

  • Be sure that the iron is capable of producing a high enough temperature to melt the solder.
  • Read plenty of reviews before purchasing to ensure the iron is safe and easy to use.
  • Make sure that the soldering iron is designed to be compatible with PCB systems.

2. Know Your Secret Weapon: Flux

The whole point of soldering is to create an electrically conductive connection. Flux simplifies this process by cleaning the metal surfaces before they’re joined together. Essentially, flux chemically cleans away oxides and other impurities on the metal, and it promotes the wetting of the solder while preventing corrosion. Without flux, you will not be able to get an effective connection.

The most effective type of flux for PCB projects is made from rosin that is extracted from pine tree sap. Here are the types of rosin flux to know:

  • R (rosin): As the weakest type of rosin flux, it should only be used on clean metal surfaces. Since it has a lower level of activators, this rosin flux won’t create any dangerous residue during soldering.
  • RMA (rosin mildly activated): This type has a higher level of activators that’s effective for cleaning PCB pads and holes in addition to component pins. While this flux can leave some residue, it shouldn’t be enough to cause concern.
  • RA (rosin activated): Having the highest levels of activators for cleaning, RA flux will also leave the most residue after soldering.

3. Research Proper Soldering Techniques Before You Start

To properly solder, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the basics techniques of the process. Here’s what you should know:

  • Ensure that all of the surfaces you’re soldering have been properly cleaned with a sponge before you add the flux. 
  • The soldering iron must be set to a high enough temperature.
  • Bring the two surfaces you’ll be joining up to temperature at the same time. Do this with the tip of the soldering iron.
  • Add enough solder to the heated joints so that it completely covers the joints you’re connecting.
  • Clean off the excess flux when you’re done soldering.

4. Don’t Hesitate to Contact an Expert

If you need help with PCB testing services or some other kind of soldering-related and PCB or PWB Assembly services, reach out to BESTProto.

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PCB Surface

Types of PCB Surface Finish

PCB Surface

Choosing the Right Printed Circuit Board Finish

An often-overlooked decision in designing printed circuit boards is which surface finish is the best choice for the project. At least nine different choices are commonly available. Thinking through some factors will help you make the best decision.

Lead-Free Solder

Depending on where the product will be used after PCB assembly, you may face government regulations on the type of solder used in the project. Choices include:

  • Lead-free hot air solder leveling
  • Organic solderability preservative

* Immersion silver

  • Immersion tin
  • Electroless nickel immersion gold (ENIG)
  • Electroless nickel
  • Electroless nickel electroless palladium immersion gold
  • Electrolyte wire bondable gold
  • Electrolyte hard gold

Denotes BESTProto preferred finishes

Tight Pitch

Pitch refers to the center-to-center spacing between conductors, such as pads and pins. If you have a project, such as ball grid arrays, where that space is extremely minimal, it is vital to choose the right finish. Making a poor decision often leads to weak connections.

If you need a tight pitch, consider:

  • Immersion silver
  • Electroless nickel immersion gold (ENIG)
  • Electroless nickel electroless palladium immersion gold

Shelf Life

Many different factors determine the shelf life of PCBs. Keeping the boards in a low-humidity environment that is dust-free helps extend their lives. Choosing quality materials for the PCB assembly can help. High frequencies and high loads on PCBs can make them fail more quickly. Boards should be stored in an environment that is colder than 30 degrees Celsius and has less than 85% relative humidity.

When shelf life is one of the deciding factors, choose:

  • Hot-air solder leveling (HASL)
  • Lead-free hot-air solder leveling (Lead-free HASL)
  • Immersion silver
  • Immersion tin
  • Electroless nickel immersion gold (ENIG)
  • Electroless nickel electroless palladium immersion gold
  • Electrolyte wire bondable gold
  • Electrolyte hard gold

Extra Costs

Some raw materials can be more costly to obtain. The manufacturer must pass these costs on to the company using the PCB. The market can change rapidly, but some types of PCBs that typically come at a higher cost include:

  • Electroless nickel electroless palladium immersion gold
  • Electrolyte wire bondable gold
  • Electrolyte hard gold

Considering these different factors can help you make a more informed choice based on your specific needs. Contact BESTProto, and we will be happy to discuss the specifics of your PCB needs with you.

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PCB Assembly Enclosure

Considerations When Choosing a PCB Assembly Enclosure

PCB Assembly Enclosure

When designing and manufacturing a printed circuit board assembly (PCBA), the creator must make countless considerations. Designers must specify size, weight, shape, materials, and a number of other features. Another aspect of PCB design and layout  includes the PCB enclosure. Similar to the board itself, a PCB enclosure consists of numerous variables from materials to size. Below is a guide to expound on considerations when choosing a PCB enclosure.

Evaluate the Source

Research potential suppliers to determine whether an organization is reputable. Newly-established or poorly-reviewed companies may not consistently provide products of adequate quality or reliability. Be aware of a supplier’s customer support and service, since these factors can play a pivotal role in long-term satisfaction with the enclosure. Compare a supplier’s pricing patterns with reputed quality and customer support to help determine the best company for your project.

Consider Flexibility

Determine how much effort should be spent on assembling each enclosure. Ease of assembly is an important factor in selecting the cost-effectiveness of a product. Ease of modification informs how much delicacy will be required for drilling, fitting, and printing. Easily-modified enclosures may reduce overall PCB assembly costs. Select a product that offers flexibility of design, including height, depth, and width.

Environmental Considerations

Enclosures will serve somewhat different functions depending on the usage environment. A PCB in a hot, humid indoor area will require different protection compared with a board in a dry, dusty environment. Depending on the anticipated placement of the PCB, an enclosure ought to protect against certain environmental factors. A board may need protection from elements such as temperature, airborne particles, and ultraviolet light. 

Choose Ideal Materials

Each material type offers specific advantages as a PCB enclosure. Metal cases are highly durable, which translates to lowered long-term costs. Metal, however, can have relatively high initial costs, and metal construction can be somewhat labor intensive. Conversely, plastic is highly malleable, so it is a popular choice based on its workability. Plastic also survives humid environments without corrosion common to metal. A plastic enclosure is prone to breakage, but the initial cost is lower for this material.

PCB enclosures are an important element of printable circuit boards. While the “best” enclosure is the product of several variables, a few considerations can help the buyer determine where to begin in the selection process. Refer to this guide when evaluating what type of enclosure is a viable option for your upcoming project.

BESTProto is a leader in PCB prototyping, PCB assembly, and PCB production. Contact us today for a quote on your project: 224-387-3283

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PCB Assembly

An Overview of Documentation for PCB Assembly

PCB Assembly

PCB assembly is a very precise and highly-technical process. In order to ensure the finished product meets every specification exactly, manufacturers rely on a number of documents provided by the client.  Although manufacturers work with documentation frequently, clients (especially new clients) may require some guidance in order to understand what information to provide and when. In this overview of documentation for PCB Assembly, we list the documentation required by most manufacturers and outline the benefits of a complete documentation package.

 

The Importance of Documentation

A PCB Assembly project requires countless specifications. Manufacturers make quality PCBs, of course, but even the best board is useful only if it meets client requirements.The documentation packet protects both parties and causes the assembly to run as smoothly as possible. By providing written instructions, the client establishes what is expected of the finished product. The manufacturer follows the specifications precisely, ensuring the client receives exactly what they asked for. Documentation eliminates any guesswork or miscommunication that may have occurred during verbal agreements. 

 

Key Documents

While requirements may vary slightly between manufacturers, most documents are quite standard to the industry. These include:

 

  • Gerber Files
  • BOM in MS Excel File
  • Test specifications
  • CAD Files in ODB++
  • Assembly drawings
  • Approved vendor list

 

Obtain a quote using complete documentation. Doing so will guarantee the price and timeline are accurate. More importantly, the manufacturer will have to input the specifications only once, which dramatically decreases the risk of human error. 

 

Regardless of project size, every PCB Assembly ought to meet several requirements which are specific to each client and each project. Because accuracy is paramount, detailed, precise instructions are a common requirement in the PCB Assembly process. Consider the document types listed above when preparing for PCB Assembly RFQ and build.

 

BESTProto is a leader in PCB prototyping, PCB assembly, and PCB production. Contact us today for a quote on your project: 224-387-3283

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PCB Prototype Assembly

5 Tips for Choosing the Right Materials for Your PCB Prototype Assembly Project

PCB Prototype Assembly

A high-quality, reliable Prototype PCB Assembly will be composed of appropriate materials. Based on the desired cost and performance of the finished board, certain materials will work better for a given specification. Below, we list a few tips for choosing the right materials for your Prototype PCB assembly project.   

General Considerations

Each PCB Prototype Assembly project presents a unique set of material needs. Consider what threshold your project will require for heat and power. Maximize cost efficiency by selecting the least expensive material which will still meet performance specifications. As a rule, when performance increases, so does the cost. Review the following materials to determine which will be the best balance of  cost and performance for the project.

Standard FR-4

FR4 (fiberglass) is the most common PCB material. It is durable, easily manufactured, and a popular choice for general use. This flame-retardant fiberglass also performs well in a wide range of humidity levels. FR4 is among the most inexpensive materials to use. As such, it may not be adequate for LED light, microwave, or high-heat projects.  

Rogers materials

Rogers materials serve as a sort of “upgraded” version of FR4. In fact, Rogers material is essentially FR4 with copper coating. The coating, of course, renders this material more costly than the uncoated fiberglass. However, Rogers materials are appropriate for more demanding jobs, such as RF, microwave, or high-speed designs.

Metal core

Moving away from fiberglass altogether, metal core is built around a plate made of aluminum, copper, or an alloy. The major advantage of a metal core is its performance in high-heat or heat-sensitive projects. The metal plate is designed specifically for heat distribution and is most commonly made from aluminum. 

HDI material

For smaller, lighter products, consider High Density Interconnector (HDI) material. HDI material is rapidly growing in popularity due to its performance in increasingly small gadgets. Heat transfer is kept to a minimum, and vias can blind or buried. This material supports microvias, which are .006 in diameter (or smaller.) 

The quality and longevity of a PCB Assembly can have a lasting impact on the designer’s reputation (and future clientele.) Selecting the best materials for a given project can enhance PCB reliability and quality. Use the points above to determine which material will be right for your PCB project.

BESTProto is a leader in PCB prototyping, PCB assembly, and PCB production. Contact us today for a quote on your project: 224-387-3283

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High Quality PCB

How to Maintain High Quality PCB / PWB Assembly Without Breaking the Bank

High Quality PCB

Most producers endeavor to save as much money as possible while maintaining high-quality products. PCB / PWB assembly is one area where costs can be reduced while maintaining a company’s reputation for quality devices. Below are a few ideas for achieving high-quality PCB assembly without breaking the bank.

Produce a Simple Design

Most PCBs are square or rectangular in shape. Some manufacturers produce various shapes to achieve practical or stylistic designs. Uniquely shaped PCBs typically require a unique fit into other hardware. Special tools or modifications (and the associated costs) may be necessary in such cases. Designing a standard shape and using a minimal number of unique components can significantly reduce material and assembly costs.

Find the Best Size

Smaller components are less expensive to manufacture than their larger counterparts. That being said, assembly may become more expensive when working with smaller pieces. Hole drilling, for example, requires a great deal more precision for smaller holes than larger ones. Assembly using larger holes requires less time and less expertise, usually resulting in a smaller bill. It is, of course, important to keep boards and components reasonably small. Efficient spending can be accomplished by balancing the assembly costs of small workmanship with the material costs of larger components.

Utilize Quality Parts

Ensure all components are made from parts which meet industry standards and come from a reputable seller. High-quality parts are less likely to warp or fail, and the alloy ratios are likely to comply with design specifications. The use of quality parts maximizes the lifespan of individual components and the board itself. In addition, assembly will be more efficient if each component adheres and functions properly with the first piece and on the first attempt. Efficient assembly is paramount in reducing costs.

Smart assembly practices will reduce overall PCB costs. By utilizing quality parts and using the best size and a simple design, you can effectively produce PCBs on a budget. Not only can efficient assembly increase overall profits, but it can also allow savings to be passed on to consumers.

BESTProto is a leader in PCB prototyping, PCB assembly, and PCB production. Contact us today for a quote on your project: 224-387-3283

 

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