Turnkey PCB Assembly Why Manufacturers Prefer Machines Over Assembly By Hand

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The market for printed circuit boards, or PCBs, is large and growing. In 2014 alone, the revenue for circuit board and electronic component manufacturing in the U.S. ranged around about $44 billion. Just 50 years after the introduction of PCBs, they became a $7.1 billion industry for the first time. That was in 1995. In 2000, PCBs became a $10 billion industry — since 2012, they have reached $60 billion worldwide. There is a lot of money to made in creating turnkey PCBs, with the average engineer’s salary ranging from $50,000 to $150,000. Turnkey PCBs make it easier for the client, as they don’t have to handle the prototype assembly process themselves. Many people seek out PCB assembly services because they don’t understand the process at all — and indeed, it can be complicated. Below, we’ll look into what goes into turnkey PCB assembly, and why it’s such a major industry today.

Turnkey PCBs: The Basic Types

Firstly it’s important to understand the different types of multilayer boards. The most common types are four layers, six layers, eight layers, and 10 layers. With that being said, the total amount of layers that can be manufactured can exceed 42 layers. These are usually only used for extremely complex electronic circuits. The manners in which they are made vary, and when it comes to double-sided circuit boards there are two different methods used to connect the circuits on each side. They are through-hole technology and surface mount technology.

Creating Printed Circuit Boards: The Process

Usually, board designers use design systems aided by computers, which use special software to lay out the circuit pattern on the board. This is a precise system — the spaces between electrical conducting paths are often just .04 inches or smaller. Circuit boards will be soldered by designers, relying upon particular temperature curves. Before reaching 160 degrees Celsius, the temperature has to be controlled at one to two degrees per second. If the temperature rises too quickly, the PCB can be destroyed, or at least experience quality issues. The solder paste is applied with a solder paste applier, high-speed chip shooter, pick-and-place machine, or infrared oven placed in a conveyor configuration. They can also place and solder 50,000 parts or more per hour. In fact, a single automatic line can place and solder more components than 50 hand solder operators. It can also do it with better more consistent quality. This is why machine-assembly has been adopted for turnkey PCBs.

Assembling PCBs By Machine: The Efficiency

While PCBs were once assembled by hand, as previously mentioned, machines are now favored for the process. This is particularly true in the case of batch orders. Now that machine assembly can handle any size orders, shops can assembly PCBs in a fraction of the time that hand placement would take. Some PCB assemblers have a standard run time of just five days or less. This is 75% shorter than the industry average.

Whether you’re a client looking to have PCBs assembled or a manufacturer looking for a more efficient to assemble PCBs, it’s clear that machine assembly is the most efficient option. It saves time without sacrificing quality.

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