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Low Volume PCB Assembly: Significance in PCB Prototyping and Iterative Design

 May 26, 2020

The printed circuit board (PCB) manufacturing and assembly is a comprehensive process, which involves steps such as design, manufacturing, and testing. Nowadays, much of the manufacturing and assembly process is automated, so these PCBs can be produced in bulk and low volumes, as per the requirement. Low volume PCB assembly basically involves prototype production. Like the regular PCB manufacturing, the low volume PCB assembly process involves three fundamental steps – fabrication, component mounting, and PCB assembly.

What is the Low Volume PCB Assembly?

Low volume PCB assembly is the process of mounting components to the small batch of bare boards. The number of boards in a batch can range to 250 or even lesser than that. Due to small batches, this process is also called a small-volume PCB assembly.

Regardless of the batch size, either small or large, the quality of the board depends upon the synchronization of the DFM and DFA process used by the contract manufacturer and the equipment. This low volume PCB assembly is ideal for complex or customized PCBs.

Use of Low Volume PCB Assembly for PCB Prototyping and Iterative Design

The PCBs used in medical, aerospace, military and defense, telecommunications, and so on, have complex designs. Along with strategic component mounting, the PCB assembly demands a design-assemble-test iterative process. This trial and error or iteration process of PCB assembly is called prototyping. The prototyping is a preliminary step to bulk volume production and it enables electronic OEMs and design managers to experiment with different designs. A low volume PCB assembly process is proven to be a firm foundation for PCB prototyping. It offers parallel and sequential prototyping along with the meticulous consideration of design for manufacturing (DFM), Design for assembly (DFA) and design for testing (DFT).

Let’s discuss both the prototyping options and its compatibility with DFM, DFA, and DFT.

  • Sequential PCB Prototyping: In this type of prototyping, for every cycle, a single change is incorporated on multiple boards and then the whole cycle is tested for efficiency. For example, the component mounting stencil is changed on multiple boards of varying specifications, and the same change is tested for varying results. This method is suitable for effective testing, which is DFT.
  • Parallel PCB Prototyping: In this type of prototyping, different changes are made on different boards. All these changes are tested for efficiency. For example, one board might have a different material whereas the other may have a different component layout. This method is suitable for testing various designs, which is DFA.

Key Factors of Low Volume PCB Assembly Prototyping:

The following are some key factors that make small-volume PCB prototyping even more effective for DFM, DFA, and DFT.
  • During a small-volume PCB assembly process, it is easy to keep a record of suitable material to be used, circuit diagrams, etc. This makes the manufacturing process efficient.
  • Do not place (DNP) technique offered by small volume prototyping is suitable for the efficient design for testing (DFT). DNP restricts the placement of components, which may otherwise make testing or troubleshooting difficult.
  • It offers assembly and testing under various parameters, therefore design iterations are fast in this technique. More number of design iterations gives more scope for an engineer to select an efficient design.

Be it a low volume or high volume PCB design, it is important to get it done from trusted PCB assembly services. This is because PCBs play a key role in the functioning of electrical and electronic devices. A small error in assembly or during manufacturing may severely impact the device. This post ends you by letting you know of Accelerated Assemblies, which offers low volume PCB assembly services. The company has been serving its clients in aerospace, automobile, telecommunication, and military and defense industries for several years now.