Supply Chain of the PCB

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For many years, PCBs have been an integral part of electronic design and assembly. In fact, almost every electronic device created today contains a printed circuit board. PCBs provide mechanical support to various components including resistors, transistors, and integrated circuits. The board allows these different components to “communicate” with each other.

Essential Business

During these uncertain times, organizations around the world struggle to figure out what it means to be an “essential” or “life sustaining” business. There are roughly 55 million Americans in 12 different industries that are deemed “essential” at this time. While it’s easy to classify first responders and medical personnel, it’s a little harder to classify electronics manufacturing.

For manufacturing companies, the choice to have employees work from home simply isn’t an option. Manufacturing teams must have access to the technology, tools, and equipment needed to consistently produce high quality products.  

While much of the world stays home, manufacturing businesses continue to supply essential products to organizations around the world. Many electronics manufacturers create products for essential industries like medical and defense. These manufacturers provide a much needed service, and essential organizations rely on them to continue producing quality devices even during a pandemic and other global events. 

Without continuous PCB production, OEMs could not produce much of the medical equipment used today. Without this equipment, hospitals and medical staff around the world would struggle to assist an increasing number of patients.

PCB Supply Chain

Often the most technically complex part of electronic assemblies and products, PCBs present a unique challenge for supply chain management. Unlike other, more standard components, each assembly requires a custom made PCB. 

Although some electronics manufacturers produce printed circuit boards in-house, most outsource this complex job. A wide range of manufacturing processes go into PCB creation. These important boards require the use of specialized equipment and extensive knowledge of the PCB manufacturing process. 

The quality of the PCB is essential to the success of the finished product. These boards provide interconnections between various components and the foundation for a wide range of electronic devices. Organizations must have stringent controls in place for PCB supplier selection and management to ensure long-term product quality and reliability. 

System Partitioning

In order to turn ideas into reality, OEMs must break the conceived product down into components or partitions that allow for the design, manufacture, and sale of goods. Mistakes during this phase can lead to problems with cost, time to market, quality, and functionality of the finished product. 

PCB Design

Designing printed circuit boards has become extremely difficult in recent years due to increased density, higher lead-free processing temperatures, and requirements regarding the use of hazardous materials and recycling. As electronic devices shrink and become more complex, PCB designers must take care to ensure the most effective placement of components. While board fabrication often takes place on a very small footprint, PCBs must maintain a high level of functionality.  This can prove challenging for inexperienced PCB manufacturers.

PCB design begins with the selection and planning of the most effective layout of components. Skipping this important step could lead to serious problems with the quality and functionality of the PCB. The design of the PCB begins a value chain of events. 

PCB Fabrication

PCB fabrication takes the printed circuit board from design to production. This process includes several actions or techniques. Although different PCB manufacturers use different processes to create their boards, the final goal remains the same. PCB fabrication creates a physical structure based on the design plans.

PCB fabrication includes many steps:

  • Imaging the PCB layout on copper clad laminates
  • Etching or removing excess copper from the inner layers to reveal the traces and pads
  • Creating the PCB layers
    • Laminating board materials together at high temperatures
  • Etching or removing excess copper from the surface layers
  • Drilling mounting holes, through hole pins, and vias
  • Plating the pin holes and via holes
  • Adding protective coating to the surface or solder masking
  • Printing logos or other markings on the surface
  • Adding an optional finish to the copper areas of the surface

PCB Assembly

During PCB assembly, the manufacturer adds components to layers of the board. Depending on the complexity of the device, components might be extremely close together. Without proper planning, this can impact reflow profiles and repair. As the topside of the board fills up, the PCB manufacturer must add more to the underside, further altering the assembly process and reflow profiles.

Assembly Test

The complexity required can create opportunities for failure. Testing helps identify potential problems which could affect the finished product. This is the final step in the PCB supply chain process. 

Testing is conducted using a bed of nails. As PCBs often contain several components packed in close together, the designer must consider in advance whether test pins will access all areas of the board. As such, testing requires careful planning. PCB manufacturers can benefit from considering design-to-test during system portioning.

ACDi PCB Production

When it comes to PCB production, each process acts as a link in the chain. Each step is equally important and depends on thorough planning and success. Regardless of the type of device, there’s an opportunity to add value to every part of the manufacturing process. This can have a positive impact on the quality and reliability of the device. 

OEMs can benefit significantly from outsourcing the complex process of PCB design and assembly to an experienced electronics manufacturing service provider. PCB manufacturers often have years of experience producing high quality PCBs quickly and within budget.

At ACDi, our PCB assembly experts utilize the best technology and equipment to design, manufacture, and test PCBs for use in electronic devices for a wide range of industries. As an essential business, ACDi’s electronics manufacturing services impact industries across diverse markets and the lives of people around the world. 

ACDi employs a full-time staff of PCB designers and PCB assembly experts. Our team works directly with each of our clients to provide PCB layout and design services based on their specifications and requirements. ACDi’s team considers numerous factors including design for manufacturability (DFM), design for assembly (DFA), and design for testability (DFT) during system portioning and design to ensure the creation of high quality PCBs while preventing production delays.

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