Created: April 2020
Product manufacturing is heavily involve during each design stages. In the prototype stage, manufacturing is focused on PCB design. Later stage involves factory assembly lines testing and quality checks.
Prototype Stage: Emphasis on PCB Design
Concept Validation: Before diving into PCB (Printed Circuit Board) design, the concept must be validated through feasibility studies and initial prototypes, often built with off-the-shelf components or breadboards.
Schematic Design: Electrical engineers create a schematic diagram that maps out the electrical connections between components. This is a critical step before laying out the PCB.
PCB Layout: Using CAD software, engineers design the physical layout of the PCB, determining the optimal placement of components, traces, and layers.
Prototype Manufacturing: The PCB design files are sent to a fabrication house for prototype production. This usually involves a smaller batch for testing and validation.
Assembly: Components are soldered onto the PCB, either manually or through automated processes for more complex boards.
Initial Testing: Engineers will conduct basic electrical tests, often using oscilloscopes, multimeters, and custom testing setups to validate the prototype's functionality.
Later Stages: Factory Assembly Lines, Testing, and Quality Checks
Design for Manufacturability (DFM): Before mass production, the design undergoes revisions to ensure it can be efficiently manufactured at scale.
Component Sourcing: Bulk quantities of components are sourced, often involving negotiations with suppliers for cost-effective and reliable parts.
Pilot Run: A small-scale manufacturing run is conducted to identify any issues before full-scale production. Often it is called the mini-builds.
Mass Production: Assembly lines are set up, often involving automated soldering, pick-and-place machines, and conveyor belts for efficient production.
In-Line Testing: During production, random samples may be tested to ensure they meet the design specifications. Automated test equipment (ATE) is often used for this. Typically these ATE test fixtures is designed specifically for each functionality of the design such as camera, sensor caliberation, software download station etc.
Quality Control: Statistical methods like Six Sigma may be employed to monitor quality. This could involve both automated and manual inspections.
Functional Testing: Final products often undergo a suite of functional tests to ensure they meet all performance criteria.
Quality Assurance: Beyond testing, this involves reviewing the entire manufacturing process to identify potential improvements, often looping back to earlier stages for design revisions.
Shipping and Logistics: Once quality is assured, products are packaged and prepared for shipping to distributors or customers.
By integrating manufacturing considerations at each stage, from prototype to mass production, companies can improve efficiency, reduce costs, and enhance product quality. As an electrical systems engineer understanding this multi-stage, interdisciplinary process will be crucial. The in the following subsections, we will dive deep into PCB manfuacturing, quality control, and typical factory floor layout.
Tips for Success in PCB Manufacturing
1. Choose Experienced Contract Manufacturers
Importance: An experienced manufacturer can be the difference between a successful product and a failed one.
Yield Rate: the yield rate can vary significantly between manufacturers due to their established processes.
Coordinated Activity: Manufacturing is a finely tuned orchestra that requires adherence to stringent rules and processes.
2. Check Manufacturer Capabilities (DFx and Equipment)
DFx Rules: Design for eXcellence (DFx) encompasses various guidelines including design for manufacturability, testability, and reliability. Always consult the manufacturer’s DFx guidelines before finalizing your design.
PCB Stackup: Ask for a set of recommended PCB stackups that align with their manufacturing capabilities.
Advanced Technologies: While it's tempting to go for the latest technology, make sure the manufacturer has a reliable track record with it.
3. Consult Experts
Internal Resources: If available, consult with DFx engineers, Supplier Quality Engineers, and Manufacturing Engineers within your organization.
Request for Information (RFI): If internal experts aren't available, send out RFIs to multiple manufacturers to gather information.
Patience: This is a back-and-forth process that requires careful evaluation.
4. Assess Track Record and Scalability
Industry Adoption: Manufacturers with a strong track record are often a safe bet.
Volume Concerns: Remember that manufacturers are often more interested in high-volume contracts. Ensure your projected volumes align with their business model.
Cost Considerations: While it's crucial to find a manufacturer that can meet your quality requirements, also consider the cost implications. An experienced manufacturer may command a premium price.
Geographical Location: The location of the manufacturer can impact logistics, shipping costs, and lead times.
Certifications: Make sure the manufacturer complies with industry standards and certifications, such as ISO 9001 for quality management.
Prototyping: Before committing to a large order, it may be beneficial to do a small run to validate the quality and capabilities of the manufacturer.
By taking a comprehensive approach that integrates these considerations, one can navigate the complexities of PCB manufacturing more effectively