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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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PCB Parts

How to Ensure Authentic, Non-Counterfeit PCB Parts: Part Two

PCB Parts

Boards are in a row. Factory for the production of chips

In our previous article (part 1), we discussed how choosing reliable sources and inspecting product packaging can help your organization avoid purchasing lower quality, counterfeit PCB Assembly parts. 

As promised, below we have provided three additional ways you can ensure high quality parts that will help maintain your organization’s reputation.

Compare Parts

Side by side, a counterfeit component may have visible features which vary from an authentic part. Ensure size and color are consistent between previous purchases from authorized distributors and the new shipment. Notches should be uniform in size and color. Counterfeiters often produce pieces which are shinier than the OCM’s parts in order to achieve a more high-end appearance. If the original serial number is sanded off, this can render the piece to be of uneven or lesser thickness. Ensure serial numbers are consistent between the new shipment and those from the OCM (Original Component Manufacturer). The typeface or font should also match both with the OCM part and between individual components within the new order.

Inspect Parts Thoroughly

If a part must be evaluated without an OCM piece for comparison, several techniques may reveal a counterfeit. Original serial numbers may be sanded off or made invisible through a process called “blacktopping.” Blacktopping is effectively applying a matching “paint” on top of a piece (often a board) in order to cover the original serial number. An acetone-covered swab can reveal blacktopping. When the swab is rubbed against the part, it will retain some of the “blacktop” if any is present. Components may also be X-rayed in order to affirm compliance with expected chemical specs. Lead content is often overlooked by counterfeiters. 

Hire a Professional

Businesses are more profitable when costs are reduced. Parts are often ordered from independent distributors or brokers because they are purchased at a lower price. Counterfeits, however, drive up the total cost on account of premature failure and indirect damages. In the U.S. alone, counterfeit parts result in the loss of billions of dollars annually. For larger companies, establishing a quality inspection team may actually lower overall expenses by minimizing the risk of premature product failure or other defects. Smaller businesses may benefit from a small team or an individual performing randomized tests. Contracting with an independent inspector may also reduce overall costs; many such contractors offer some degree of guarantee or insurance.

Obtaining inexpensive parts for your PCB Assembly lowers production costs. Purchasing a lower-priced product often comes with the risk of receiving a counterfeit. Such parts often increase costs. In order to maintain a high reputation and low overall costs, manufacturers should ensure PCB parts are authentic. Parts are most likely to be authentic when they come from a reliable, reputable source. Authenticity can be gauged through inspecting product packaging, the appearance of the part, and its chemical composition. A specialized individual or team of inspectors may increase the likelihood that each part is authentic. Providing PCB boards which are high-quality and highly reliable is crucial for PCB manufacturers and their clients.

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 Components

How to Ensure Authentic, Non-Counterfeit PCB Assembly Components: Part One

PCB Assembly Components

Although government agencies endeavor to eliminate counterfeiting, such parts continue to change hands, often at a high cost to the buyer. Counterfeit components are inexpensive to produce relative to their authentic counterparts. Because they are low-cost, such parts are typically made of low-quality or worn components. Authentic parts are far more reliable, lengthening the lifespan of the component, the parts it comes into contact with (e.g. a fire will impact more than one part of a device), and the overall functionality of whichever device is using it. Spotting and avoiding counterfeit parts is an important aspect of maintaining best practices. Below are some techniques to ensure authentic, non-counterfeit PCB Assembly parts.

 

Choose a Trustworthy Source

Independent distributors often offer products at a lower cost than the manufacturer. This, unsurprisingly, may not always be the best bargain. Buying components from an authorized distributor is  the best idea since counterfeit components are a risk to device reliability and physical safety. Each year, counterfeit parts are responsible for an estimated $250 billion in damages globally. Parts manufacturers typically provide guarantees and/or warranties, an insurance seldom offered by independent parties. As an alternative to buying directly from the manufacturer, “authorized” distributors may be suitable. In finding a distributor, it is important to research the seller’s reputation, which may include customer reviews paired with how long the company has been in business.

 

Inspect Product Packaging

Inconsistencies may be evident on the shipping box itself. Look for discrepancies in fonts between the new shipment as opposed to what is standard for the official component manufacturer (OCM). Counterfeit products may list an unreasonable manufacture date (too far in the past, or, occasionally, in the future). Misspellings and incorrect information may indicate the product differs from what was expected. If the interior packaging does not contain the usual elements (dry packs, foam, etc.) this may be an indicator of counterfeit parts. Inspect the logo for variations such as blurring or discoloration.

Keep an eye on the BESTProto blog for part two of this article, featuring three more important techniques to avoid counterfeit PCB Assembly components.

 

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machinery for positioning smd components on pcb

The Difference Between SMT, SMD and IMT

When designing printed circuit board assemblies (PCBAs), many factors must be considered. Designers must understand and account for size, materials, layout, and connectivity. The quality of a PCB depends largely on the integrity of contact points. Due to the vast number of options regarding connectivity, various forms of soldering have developed and evolved. The newest step in this evolution is Surface Mount Technology (SMT,) which, consequently, created Surface Mount Devices (SMDs.) While the two terms are closely related, there are key differences as described below.

Surface Mount Technology (SMT)

Soldering connections on printed circuit boards has conventionally consisted of through-hole mounting or Insertion Mount Technology (IMT). This form of mounting simply means that connections are created and soldered through holes in the PCB. A new process developed called Surface Mount Technology. In this modality, connections are made not through holes in the PCB, but on devices attached to the board. SMT refers to the concept and process by which a PCB obtains mounting other than the through-hole variety. While SMT has become more common than conventional through-hole technology, it should be noted that not all connection components are suitable for surface mounting and are, therefore, mounted the conventional way.

Surface Mount Device (SMD)

SMT developed, in tandem, surface mount devices. Simply stated, a surface mount device is a component attached to a PCB that allows for a connector to be soldered to the board. If a hand were to be run along the top of the device, the SMDs could be felt to be physically raised from the board. SMDs are most commonly attached to the PCB using a method called SMD reflow soldering. The ideal scenario for achieving this method is by use of an oven, but a soldering iron can be effective for small-scale or at-home projects. The term Surface Mount Device refers to an item or component which can be touched and/or physically handled.

As long as PC boards require connectivity, they will also need a method of attaching the components. As conventional mounting technology became largely replaced by surface mount technology, the popular term SMT developed along with the term SMD. While the two work hand-in-hand, the most important takeaway is that surface mount technology is a concept or practice of mounting in a manner other than the through-hole predecessor; that is, on top of the device using an intermediary device. The device itself is called a surface mounting device and can be moved, seen, and touched.

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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The Importance of Solder Mask

When constructing a printable circuit board (PCB), copper wires form connections within a board and between boards. The points of contact are often coated with a polymer called Solder Mask. Including solder mask in the design process will improve both quality and reliability of the PCB.

Improved Functionality

Connectors on and between PCBs are designed to function only at points of contact. Due to the size and proximity of components, a connection can take place at an unintended location, causing potential malfunction or damage. Applying a solder mask significantly reduces the conductivity of a given component, lowering the risk of faulty connections and short circuits.

Improved Longevity

Solder mask help maximize the longevity of PCBs. This is accomplished, in part, by protecting delicate electrical components from dust and other particles in the air. Dust may land on the solder mask without causing as much interference as exposed components would experience. Similarly, solder mask protect components from oxidation and corrosion.

The application of solder mask can increase both the immediate and long-term reliability of a printed circuit board. Whether it be preventing undesired shorting or protecting from corrosion or every-day dust, including a solder mask is an important step to implement when fabricating PCBs.

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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Best Practices for More Reliable PCB Assemblies

Printed circuit board assemblies (PCBAs) or PWB (Printed Wiring Boards) or CCAs (Circuit Card Assemblies) may vary in use, from remote controls to hospital equipment, extending even to airplanes. But the cost of a PCB failure is easy to predict: Loss of money and/or applications, as well as valuable time. It is important for quality engineering to be paired with good PCB layout design practices to create and deliver a robust and functional PCB assembly.

Quality Versus Reliability

When a PCB assembly is manufactured, the quality of the board is easily measured and can be tested according to a checklist of requirements related to technology and performance. The manufacturer has a variety of responsibilities related to quality and workmanship once the customer accepts the boards, and the customer expects the boards to perform and function properly.

There is no simple answer for determining reliability. Measured over the lifespan of the board, reliability is much more difficult to quantify than quality. Failure can occur after one year, five years, or ten. Below are design tips to help improve PCB reliability.

Maintaining Connectivity

If a board is highly reliable (as in IPC Class 3), all connections will remain intact for the lifespan of the device. Connections can be copper, silicon, gold, or other materials, and maybe fused by means of soldering, vias, or bonding wires. Quality design and workmanship will increase the probability of constant connectivity and improve the reliability of the board.

Matching Coefficient of Thermal Expansion

A PC Board has parts made of a range of materials. When the board or its components increase in temperature, each will expand at a different rate due to its composition. The rate of expansion for each material is known as the Coefficient of Thermal Expansion, or CTE. Designers are advised to use materials with matching CTEs to prevent uneven expansion. If components with differing CTEs are used, cracking or delamination may occur, rendering the PCB unusable and leading to potential failure.

Thermal Profile

Boards may be built using reflow soldering or wave soldering. For either type, it is important to calculate the best temperature at which the board will be processed. PCB components must be able to withstand the high temperatures required for lead-free soldering. While lead-free solder requires temperatures that are higher, the time will be shorter. Adjusting the reflow oven to the correct thermal profile will allow all parts to be effectively soldered.
Printed circuit board assemblies are crucial in important electronic devices, the failure of which can be catastrophic. Through implementing these best practices, designers can increase not only the quality of PCBs but also their reliability, improving the long-term value of the boards and, more importantly, allowing devices to function as expected. BESTProto uses advanced software for creating reliable PCB layouts. We will work with your organization to ensure all design rules are met and that high quality, the reliable layout is produced.

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Methods for PCB Assembly Inspection and Verification

Inspection is a crucial part of the PCB production and assembly process. The inspection process is to ensure high quality and reliable printed circuit boards are assembled. The inspection process helps reveal any design flaws that may exist at different stages during manufacturing and the assembly procedure that must be eliminated. 

This blog post will inspect the leading inspection methods. Here is an overview of the various PCB assembly inspection methods. 

1. Visual Inspection

Manual visual inspection is the simplest form of PCB inspection. This inspection method can be used after most PCB assembly processes have been conducted. To perform this type of test, a worker looks over the board either with the naked eye or through magnification. Although visual inspection is a method commonly used, its validity depends on the capability of the inspection staff and how they apply the inspection standards.

2. Structural Process Test Inspection Systems

Structural process test inspection is often used for large volumes of production where accuracy and speed are extremely important. This inspection method uses some form of light emissions such as visible lights, lasers, and x-rays to acquire data through real-time image processing for locating and measuring defects related to solder joint quality. 

3. Automated Optical Inspection (AOI)

This method typically conducts an inspection using multiple visible light sources with programmable LEDs, one or more still or video cameras and computerized systems for inspecting solder joints.

An automatic optical inspection can find many of the same defects that a VMI can, including open circuits, solder thinning, missing components, displaced components and more.

4. Component Value Verification

BESTProto uses the latest technology to verify that not only the correct package size and types are being placed on a board but, we are also able to electrically test the individual components before placement to verify that the are the correct electrical value as well.

5. X-Ray System Inspection 

The X-ray method can be performed in two different ways: the X-ray fluoroscopic system and the X-ray lamination system. The fluoroscopic system produces a density image to accurately inspect solder joint distribution, thickness, and internal integrity. The lamination system, on the other hand, uses X-rays to generate focal planes of a horizontal sectional area of a PCB. 

Inspection is a crucial part of the PCB production and assembly process. There are five different types of manufacturers, and assemblers can use to inspect the PC board assemblies and help to eliminate workmanship defects. BESTProto ensures quality through our quality assurance program and continues our commitment from first articles through a disciplined approach to process control. Contact our team today to request a quote on your PCB Assembly project today.

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pcb assembly

Implementing Effective PCB Manufacturing Processes for 2020

There are four crucial stages for creating and implementing printed circuit boards, including design, manufacturing, testing, and, of course, PCB assembly. Traditional processes do not always incorporate all independent stages from the start; neither do they require the input of the contract manufacturer from the onset. Over the years, this practice has led to unnecessary hold-ups due to modifications in fabrication and design that expand the time to market. When we look at the future impacts of PCB, a more effective PCB manufacturing process must be implemented.

The Need for Change

In 2014, the market for bare PCBs surpassed $60.2 billion. By 2024, the PCB market is expected to exceed $79 billion. The demand explosion in the electronic market augments the growth witnessed in demand for PCBs. Therefore, PCB manufacturing industries must seize the opportunity by boosting productivity which is only possible with a more effective PCB manufacturing. 

Factors Impacting the Effectiveness of Your PCB Manufacturing Process

Every PCB manufacturing process needs an objective. Usually, the aim is to transform the PCB design into a quality, assembled product that can be reliably used for its intended purpose. While different PCB projects have their own costs and deadlines, the practices you implement can significantly improve your processes:

1. Select the Right BOM Materials

Making available crucial materials on your BOM can augment the PCB manufacturing process and prevent long lead-time or shortages. Therefore, it is essential to create a comprehensive list of suppliers that can deliver genuine components.

2. Using DFM Guidelines

Every PCB product has specific regulatory standards that must be met. Therefore, it is essential to consult with the contract manufacturer’s DFM (Design For Manufacturability) guidelines at the start. This ensures that the PCB layout meets standard industry specifications and tolerances and avoids wasting time and money in designing.

3. Consulting for PCB Assembly

It is recommended to consult with your EMS (Electronic Manufacturing Services) supplier or, contract manufacturer (CM), which provides access to valuable insights on how to maximize assembly efficiency and reduce assembly costs. The design files should also be made available to the CM in the preferred format to avoid errors.

4. Testing

Collaborating with the CM during testing ensures that an objective and independent assessment is made on your prototypes. This way, you can effectively locate and deal with all types of faults.

The bottom line is that with strategic CM and PCB assembly partners, you can effectively improve all stages of production. Finding the right partners will help you control costs and leverage current trends without sacrificing quality. BESTProto offers electronic assembly services for single or multi-layer flexible or rigid circuit boards. Contact us today to request a quote for your PCB project.

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pcb layout services

5 Common Mistakes for Printed Circuit Board Layouts

Printed circuit boards require keen attention to detail and meticulous design planning. One small mistake and the board won’t work properly. In our years of providing PCB layout services, we have seen similar mistakes made time and time again. Here are some of the most common PCB board layout errors.

1. Incorrect Landing Patterns

Many projects require you to work with electronic components above and beyond what is included in the libraries. On their own, the libraries have pre-designed schematic symbols, but when you add more components you have to manually draw schematic symbols and landing patterns. Being off by even a fraction of a millimeter can bring your project to a halt. 

2. Wireless Antenna Placement

The world has gone wireless and many PCBs require a wireless antenna, but it can’t just be placed anywhere. For best results, use a microstrip calculator to ensure that the antenna and transceiver are properly connected. This typically requires a 50-ohm microstrip transmission line, but use a calculator to be sure. You will also need an LC matching circuit to ensure maximum power transfer. 

3. Placement of Decoupling Capacitors

Decoupling capacitors can’t do their job unless they are placed as close as possible to the pin that requires power and voltage. You need power to transfer to the decoupling capacitor before going to the pin needle, otherwise voltage will not be stable. Power must then be transferred to the output capacitor, which means it must be placed close to the output pin.

4. PCB Trace Width

It is easy to miscalculate PCB trace width. For proper calculation you must factor in whether it is an internal or external layer and the thickness/weight of the trace copper. To be safe, aim for a 10C rise—but never more than 20C. To minimize error, use a trace width calculator. 

5. Improper Use of Vias

You must understand the difference between through, blind, and buried vias to connect the layers of your PCB. If you select the incorrect via, your board won’t be manufacturable. 

All the errors above are costly and time-consuming. To eliminate these common PCB mistakes, outsource your layout and design to BESTProto. This is one of the many PCB layout services we provide!

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