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How to Tell if a Printed Circuit is Bad

BestProto-How-to-Tell-if-a-Printed-Circuit-is-Bad

A printed circuit board, or PCB, is present in almost all electronic devices. Computers, smartphones, and television sets all have them. PCBs are usually very reliable but may deteriorate because of age and misuse. If your PCB is not working as expected, take the following steps to troubleshoot the issue. 

The Tools You Will Need

You would need a few simple tools to test a PCB:

  •       A multimeter
  •       Soldering iron
  •       Desoldering station
  •       Magnifying glass

Now, let us discuss how we can go about testing a circuit.

Visual Inspection

We should begin with a visual inspection of the PCB. First, switch off the power to the circuit. Look for scratches, broken traces, misplaced solder, and burn spots. See if there are any cracked chips or blown capacitors. Do a sniff test – burned components will give off an acrid smell.

Power Check

Next, turn your attention to the power module. Switch on the power. Measure the input and output voltages of the voltage regulator with the multimeter. Verify that the values are as expected. A very low voltage at the output could mean that the regulator or another point has a short circuit. See if any component has heated up (but be very careful – some parts can get quite hot). Don’t keep the power on for long if you suspect a problem.

Schematic Check

Check each connection physically and compare it with the schematic. If there are mismatches with the schematic, then the circuit is bad.

Software Diagnostics

The PCB might come with a software diagnostic package. If so, run the diagnostic program to get a report on whether the PCB is functional or damaged. The program may also identify the faulty part.

Next Steps

We have discussed some simple techniques for checking if a PCB is defective. There are more complex and expensive methods like In-Circuit Test (ICT), Flying Probe Test, Functional Circuit Test, and Boundary Scan Testing.

If you need an old PCB repaired or a new one designed and built, consider hiring BESTProto. They are a professional group of technicians and engineers who are experts in PCB assembly and PCB repair services.

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Five Types of Product Prototypes

BestProto - Five Types of Product Prototypes

Before most devices are released to the market, a prototype is developed to test the process or the concept. A prototype is the initial version of the final product. The prototype helps inventors and entrepreneurs when they are meeting with manufacturers, retailers, patent attorneys, and sources of funding. It captures how the subsequent products are put together, their appearances, and what they will do. A prototype will provide the specifications for the real product and how it works instead of the theoretical design.  

The following are the five different types of product prototypes:

Digital Prototype

A digital prototype is a virtual prototype or a computer model that represents the real product. Design engineers use 3D modeling or Computer-Aided Design (CAD) to build a realistic product model. Many types of digital prototypes and other sophisticated digital prototypes use a wide range of simulations to test impacts such as temperature resistance, strength, or other product’s behavior virtually before any physical product is created.

A digital prototype offers many benefits in the same way a physical prototype provides the added benefit of being faster to create at a lower cost.

Mockup Prototype

A mockup prototype is typically the easiest and can be made using modeling clay or cardboard and a tape or the cheapest 3D printer. The basic idea is to capture the shape of the final product and how it fits together.

Marketing Prototype

A marketing prototype is created focusing on the appearance and how customers will interact with the product. It is ideal when you have to meet with the customers and want their feedback. The prototype can be used in advertising and branding.

Functional Prototype

A functional prototype is created to show how the products solve consumers’ needs. It is also known as the working prototype because it is created to showcase how the final product will operate.

Pre-Production Prototype

A pre-Production Prototype is created when the manufacturing is ready to take off. The model uses the same manufacturing processes as the final products. The prototype is ideal for marketing.

Where PCB Assembly Prototyping Fits In

Many entrepreneurs looking for PCB Assembly prototyping can find these prototypes a little confusing, and that is why you need to consult an expert. BESTProto remains the leader in PCB assembly and has PCB prototyping tailored to suit any business needs. 

 

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Understanding PCB Assembly Repairs

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Printed circuit board Assemblies are the brains of all of our modern electronic devices. Currently a 58 billion dollar industry, its worth is expected to grow up to 75 billion dollars by the year 2026. PCB Assemblies are so common in all of the devices we use every day that a failure causes us great inconvenience and even some personal stress.

There are times when a PCB Assembly will give some warning that it is about to experience a failure. For instance, a smartphone might display vertical lines or other distortions on the screen and a computer can give corrupt data warnings or reboot at random. The ultimate symptoms of PCB Assembly failure include overheating, smoke, an odor of burnt electronic components, and the failure of the unit to power up at all.

These are some of the most common reasons for PCB Assembly failures.

  1. Manufacturing defects – Misaligned layers, crossed signals, short circuits, and exposure to electrostatic discharge (ESD) are the most likely causes of PCB Assembly failure and generally occur during the PCB assembly process.
  2. Component burning – Caused by incorrect component spacing, component failures, errors made by the technician, and intense heat, repairing a burned component can mean replacing the entire PCB Assembly.
  3. The surrounding environment – PCB assembly is conducted in a clean climate-controlled area in order to prevent heat and humidity from causing the boards to expand and warp. After the board has been assembled and is being used for its intended purpose, external debris including liquid, fibers, dust, and hair can adhere to the PCB Assembly and cause it to overheat.
  4. Soldering errors – The consistency of the solder as it refers to its moisture content as well as application errors result in defects including excessive solder, cold joints, component shifting, and lifted pads.
  5. The PCB Assemblies’ age – The average PCB Assembly can last up to 10-20 years or more. As a PCB Assembly reaches its life expectancy, the electronic components begin to break down and require repair or replacement.

Repairing or replacing the components on a PCB Assembly is delicate work requiring expert precision. The technicians at BESTProto are supervised by master instructors in IPC A610 and JSTD-001 to guarantee that all PCBs we work on will meet current electronic industry standards. BESTProto offers the following PCB repair services:

  • Out of production/non-current electronic equipment and component repair
  • Re-box and re-label services
  • PCB troubleshooting and component level repair
  • PCB testing

Please visit our website to learn more about our PCB repair services or to contact us to schedule a consultation.

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medical devices powered by PCBs

PCBA Services and the Medical Industry

medical devices powered by PCBs

A fascinated first-time mother receives a picture of the baby growing inside her. A diabetic verifies that his blood glucose level is in an acceptable range. A dentist has located a cavity that early treatment can repair. What do all of these scenarios have in common? All of the medical devices that make these discoveries possible are powered by Printed Circuit Board Assemblies (PCB Assemblies) In certain industries and parts of the country, they refer to PCB Assemblies interchangeably as PWBs (Printed Wiring Boards) and also CCAs (Circuit Card Assemblies). Flexibility and surface mount technology are two of the major developments in PCBA services that have made PCB Assemblies for medical companies a reality.

In fact, the market for wearable medical devices is growing by 16.4 percent each year. These kinds of portable devices, such as ECG and blood pressure monitors and biosensors, allow technology to keep up with our fast-paced lifestyles. Patients no longer have to be in a doctor’s office to have their chronic conditions monitored and for that data to be transmitted to the medical professionals who need it. Doctors’ visits can also be conducted remotely thanks to computers, tablet devices, and virtual meeting apps.

The potential for PCB Assembly to revolutionize the medical equipment industry is endless. PCB Assemblies already make the following possible:

  • Implanted devices, such as pacemakers, defibrillators, Responsive Neurostimulators, and cochlear implants
  • Diagnostic and imaging equipment including ultrasound equipment, MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging), and CT (computerized axial tomography) scanners
  • Monitoring devices for glucose levels, body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure

PCB Assembly is also requisite to the operation of infusion pumps and nerve and muscle stimulation equipment.

What does the future hold? Along with greater flexibility, PCB Assembly innovations are predicted to accommodate two major trends.

  1. 3D PCBs – 3D technology will decrease the rate of human error and the production of waste materials.
  2. Biodegradable PCBs – Electronic waste and the short-lived nature of electronic devices is causing concern for the future. Switching to recyclable and biodegradable PCB materials is a workable solution.

BESTProto is an experienced company in the medical PCB Assembly industry. We are ISO 9001:2015 Certified, AS9100-2015 Certified, ITAR Registered and NIST 800-171 Compliant not to mention ROHS compliant. Contact us today to discuss your project or to receive a quote or answers to your questions.

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Understanding Box Build Assembly Services

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When your company needs to create a finished product and you need to have your PC Board Assemblies placed into an enclosure along with a power supply, cable assemblies, connectors to the outside world etc., you are looking for what the industry calls a Box Build.  You have to strike the perfect balance between the ideal design concept and the ability to manufacture it. This can lead to many challenges, including higher component and assembly costs and quality control issues. The answer is BESTProto.  Along with our PCB Assembly services, we can help guide you through the concept and design of the box build straight through to the construction and resulting production of the needed units.

The idea of a box build is relatively easy to understand. It’s literally a box-like shape (enclosure) made out of materials like plastic or metal that will serve as the means to hold all the electronic components. That’s where the concept gets trickier. A box build not only involves the creation of the box/enclosure but also the routing of wires, connectors and cable assemblies and attaching sub-components and other assembly work and in some cases, testing. Some of these sub-components can include relays, pneumatics, logic controllers, DIN rails, PCBs, cable assemblies, safety components, and power supplies.

While creating your box build can be done internally, there are several compelling reasons why you would benefit from having your box build assembly work done by BESTProto:

  1. Removing the burden of managing several suppliers saves money and time.
  2. Miscommunication can be reduced or eliminated by not dealing with several vendors and designers. You can also make changes more effectively, streamline the process, and reduce lead times.
  3. A BESTProto can give you needed input to enhance and perfect your design.
  4. A box build assembly service can provide the most cost-effective resources along with stricter quality control and a one-stop-shop.

Working with one vendor simplifies your process, reduces costs, improves communication, and optimizes quality control management. BESTProto offers design, engineering, and PCB assembly services for many industries including medical, industrial, telecommunications, and the military. AS 9100 and ISO 9001:2015 certified, we are also ROHS compliant and ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations) compliant. Contact us today to learn more about our services and to request a quote. 

 

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green and gold flex PCB

The Benefits of a Flex (Flexible) Circuit Board

green and gold flex PCBFlexible (flex) circuits have been growing in popularity and use in the last decade although the idea is not new. The earliest prototype of a flex circuit board was patented in 1903 and described by Albert Hansen as metal conductors being affixed to paraffin coated paper. Flex circuits are considerably more sophisticated today, but the idea has allowed for the development of life-enriching electronic products.

Its predecessor, the rigid circuit board, has one main disadvantage. Formed by laminating copper over fiberglass then covered by a solder mask layer and finally a silkscreen layer, the board cannot be reshaped or modified, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been vital. Rigid PCBs are used commonly in computers, AC/DC power converters, vending machines, cars, HVAC systems, toys, and GPS devices just to name a few.

Flex circuits are made by applying the metallic traces, usually copper, onto a flexible substrate, usually polyimide. The types of flexible printed circuits include:

  • Single sided circuit
  • Double sided circuit
  • Multi-layer circuit
  • Rigid flex circuit
  • Maxi flex
  • Catheter flex
  • Sculptured flex circuits

Flexible PCBs solve many problems that rigid PCBs can’t, including:

  1. Saving Weight and Space

    – Flex PCBs have a volume of about 70% less than rigid circuits.

  2. Making Dynamic Flexing Possible

    – Flex circuits can withstand continuous movement.

  3. Making Installation and Maintenance Easier

    – They can be moved and even bent or twisted without damaging the conductor.

  4. Improving Reliability

    – A flex PCB can continue to function after millions of repetitions of movement.

  5. Streamlining Product Design

    – Smaller, lighter flex PCBs open up a world of options for portable, wearable products.

  6. Upgrading Thermal Management

    – Flex PCBs have a higher melting point and dissipate heat better to protect components.

  7. Saving Money

    – Flex PCBs are less expensive to produce than rigid PCBs.

In short, electronic products can now be smaller, lighter, and more functional. Flexible circuit boards are currently used in anti-lock brakes, cameras, airbag systems, barcode equipment, and medical equipment like ultrasound imaging, but they are opening doors to new innovations like fitness trackers, heart monitors, and smartwatches. It has been predicted that about 440 million wearables will be sold and shipped in 2024 guaranteeing a place for flexible circuit boards in the future. BESTProto is ready to meet this challenge and to provide PCB services. Contact us for more information about our services.

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Why You Should Outsource PCB Assembly (PCBA) and CCA Prototyping

printed circuit boards

CCA and PCB Assembly prototypes are an essential part of the design process. CCA and PCB Assembly prototyping gives everyone involved, including design teams and clients, the opportunity to conduct tests and make adjustments at various stages in the development process. While prototyping can’t be avoided, there are benefits to outsourcing these tasks.

While it’s true that prototyping can be done in-house, there are distinct advantages to outsourcing it to CCA and PCB Assembly specialists, especially if there is a need for outside expertise, bridge tooling equipment, and better cost analysis.

Advantages of outsourcing PCB prototyping include:

  1. Additional Resources

    – CCA and PCB Assembly prototyping services can give you access to CNC tool centers, 3D printers, and trained engineers that may not be available in-house. 

  2. Avoidance of Scheduling Conflicts

    – In-house systems can be strained by the addition of prototype development into existing manufacturing schedules. A CCA and PCB Assembly service provider can give exact details of how long it will take to build the prototype so that it can be worked into the schedule without disrupting everything else.

  3. Greater Flexibility

    – The use of bridge tooling fills in the gap to create parts using 3D printers in lieu of production tooling. Bridge tooling also costs about one-third of the price of production tooling.

  4. Cost Control

    – New product development costs can be spread out over different in-house resources and difficult to track. PCB services can give you a better idea of the cost of building the prototype before the final decision is made.

  5. Innovation Opportunities

    – Outsourced CCA and PCB Assembly services may have greater knowledge of and access to new materials and production methods that your in-house PCB technicians may not be aware of. The expertise and outside knowledge can provide unexpected and advantageous qualities and features to the process, which results in a better overall product.

Outsourcing is becoming more common and offers great benefits. PCB services, such as those provided by BESTProto, can help your company develop more innovative products while controlling your costs and streamlining your success.

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A Beginner’s Guide to the PCB Assembly Process

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You wouldn’t be able to live your life without PCB assemblies (PCBA). Printed circuit boards are a vital component of the electronics we use every day. Without them, we couldn’t enjoy televisions, mobile devices, computers, or make use of medical devices like X-ray machines and portable heart and glucose monitors. The first PCB was invented in 1936 in Austria to operate a radio system. The technology was picked up in the US by the military and has been advancing ever since.

PCB Assemblies are built on non-conductive material (often fiberglass) and can be single-sided, double-sided, or multilayered. They can also be flexible or rigid and contain both flexible and rigid sections.

The PCB Assembly process is extremely important. Designing the board can be very complex as well. The bottom line is that your board has to be reliable, so the assembly process must be correct and precise.

These are the steps that are necessary to assemble a printed circuit board. It should be noted that surface mount technology is used as opposed to the older method of inserting components through holes in the board. Just as it sounds, it means that components are mounted directly onto the circuit board.

  1. Apply Solder Paste

    – This used to be somewhat like a screen-printing process in that solder is distributed through holes so that it is only applied to component pads. It’s a very meticulous and challenging process done with the aid of a solder screen.  Nowadays, we utilize a much more precise method of solder deposition.  We affectionately refer to it as a “jetter” since it isn’t too far removed from an inkjet printer type device.

  2. Pick and Place

    – After the solder is deposited, the desired components can be placed into their positions on the board. The purpose of the solder paste is to hold them in position but small amounts of glue can also be used where necessary.

  3. Solder the Components

    – After everything is where it needs to be, the soldering process begins and in most cases go through a reflow oven with multiple zones that gradually heat the boards and solder paste and at the correct point in the process, the oven temperature rises beyond the melting point of the specific solder type, the solder reflows and then the boards pass through a cooling zone whereby it is still hot but gradually and carefully let’s the boards cool down to ensure a good and reliable solder joint.

  4. Inspection

    – This is a crucial step. An engineer checks the placement of the components and verifies that they are present, in the right location and with the correct orientation per the customer’s file.  

  5. Test

    – It’s time to connect the board and see if it performs properly.  We can work with customers to develop a siple power-up test or a functional test or just meter-out certain areas to verify they work and were built correctly.

Circuit board assemblies have become a necessary part of our everyday life for computers and other electronics and if you are manufacturing an electronic product, you may well need PCB Assembly services like those provided by BESTProto. A proven and established provider of PCB assembly services can be a valuable partner in helping you bring your products and ideas to life.

 

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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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