Manufacturing a Printed Circuit Board

Computers have risen to become a major aspect of everyday life and work alike, so naturally, their manufacture is also vital to today’s industries and civilian sector. This includes all sorts of hardware and software for computers alike, ranging from mice and keyboards to virus protection software and printed circuit boards, or PCBs. PCBs are delicately made items that are central to a computer’s function, and a PCB assembly house or PCB manufacturer will be hard at work creating these goods. PCB assembly services may be in high demand by certain companies that make or distribute computers and similar electronics, and these PBC assembly houses may send assembly quotes to those customers. What is there to know about the goods being produced at a PCB assembly house?

What a PCB Assembly House Does

There is a pre-set process to creating PCBs, and it’s not as necessarily as complicated and someone might think, given how delicate and important these items are. Often, these PCBs are multi-layer so that they can function with more power, and there are some common configurations for these. Some multi-layer PCBs are a four-layer type, while others may have six or eight, or as many as 10, different layers all working together. In the most advanced and complex circuit boards, as many as 42 different layers may be put together to create a functioning whole for consumers. Computer-aided design systems are typically used in a board designer’s work, and special software is used to lay out how the circuit board will be designed. In between the electrical conducting paths are very narrow spaces, often only 0.04 inches or even smaller.

As expected, these circuit boards are powerful, but delicate, and they are sensitive to temperature. Heat, in particular, is a factor when soldering is done to create these items in a PCB assembly house. During soldering, the temperature should increase one to two degrees Celsius per second until a temperature of 160 degrees Celsius is reached. Conversely, if the temperature during soldering work increases more rapidly and out of control, this can melt delicate components on the PCB and warp the entire assembly. For the most part, meanwhile, a PCB assembly house will use automated systems to rapidly and precisely assemble these devices. Human labor would be either too slow, or too imprecise, to create enough PCBs to meet demand, so these automatic lines are used instead to meet demand. Do these automated systems get the job done? They certainly do. Just a lone automatic line is capable of placing and soldering more components than a team of 50 hand solder operators, and do this work with more consistency and quality control of the product.

Meanwhile, the Aberdeen Group has done some research to find out how much money is invested in these products, and how important it is to create them just right. For example, one of their surveys found that printed circuit boards make up 31% of the cost of nearly any product that contains them, so there’s little room for error or delay in the production, shipment, and installation of these items. Some consumers demand that these PCBs are extremely complex and powerful, and some assembly houses feel the need to meet this demand. About 53% of all respondents surveyed by the Aberdeen Group reported that their top PCB design issue was trying to create more complex products. Simple PCBs have their uses, but with today’s proliferation of, and reliance on, computers, complex PCBs may be in high demand.

Creating those complex PCBs isn’t as simple as welding together several simpler ones. Rather, a new PCB model will need a prototype phase first, and many might be needed. Aberdeen Group’s research found that simpler models require close to 11.6 physical prototypes on average before a final product has been designed. Meanwhile, more complex and multi-layered PCBs may require as many as 16.1 physical prototypes, on average, before a final design has been created and put into production. A PCB prototyping service may be called upon for this, and it can go a long way toward meeting the market’s demand for newer and better PCB models. Those models will probably have more power and reliability when installed in final products such as computers or smart phones.

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