PCBs are one of those components that have been around since the mid-’30s, firstly designed and manufactured as a big object with fewer functionalities. Still, they have since then integrated into a much smaller, more functional, and more cost-efficient production process. This is due to the ability to mass produce the boards and components, regarded as high-volume PCB and its alternative; low -volume PCB.
Both low-volume and high-volume PCBs have advantages and disadvantages; these will be discussed in this article. First, let us define a PCB and its manufacturing process to help you better understand what volume PCB assembly is all about.
What Are PCA and PCB: Application and Types?
In most electronics, the printed circuit board (PCB) serves as the base for supporting the wiring mounted on the surface and its socketed components.
In applications requiring fine conductive wiring, such as computer systems, PCBs are created using a photolithographic process, a larger-scale version of how connections in processors are created.
A machine typically fixes electronics onto a finished compatible PCB with solder dabs. The PCB is baked in an industrial microwave to melt the solder that connects the components. Most PCBs are composed of fiberglass or glass-reinforced polymers with copper traces.
PCBs used for simple electronic devices are single-layered. Complex electronic printed circuit boards, such as motherboards and digital graphics cards, can have up to twelve layers. PCBs typically come in green, but they can be custom-made to any color.
PCBs generally link electrical components with copper tracks, unlike regular wires. Drilled holes in the board are used to secure the electrical components. They are soldered into place, and the copper tracks connect them to form a circuit. The PCB and the components fixed together are known as a PCB Assembly or PCA (printed circuit assembly). A PCB is nothing more than a board with no functionality without this assembly process, so its significance is obvious.
What Are the Different Types of PCA Available?
- Single-sided PCA
- Double-sided PCA
- Multi-layer PCA
- Rigid PCA
- Flexible PCA
- Rigid-flex PCA
Applications of Printed Circuit Boards
PCBs can be found in almost every electronic device we see and use daily. They are responsible for many devices we use daily to appear smaller while containing more technology. Its applications include:
- Televisions and Radios
- Alarm Systems
- Coffee Machines
- Washing Machines
- Games Consoles
- Mobile phones
- Other application areas include military, medical and industrial components (bikes, cars, airplanes, etc.)
An Overview of the Manufacturing Process of PCBs
Understanding the distinction between PCB manufacturing and its assembly process is critical. PCB assembly production includes PCB design and prototyping processes, while PCB assembly involves installing components on the printed circuit board.
And now, we will be delving into PCB manufacturing.
The three main procedures of PCB fabrication are board design, component sourcing, and assembly. Design for testing (DFT) and design for manufacturing (DFM) are indispensable operations to guarantee maximum return within your project cost, regardless of whether the PCB assembly and production are low-volume PCB or high-volume PCB. In contrast to manufacturing, the assembly of a specific PCB may vary depending on your preferences or application.
Low-Volume PCB Assembly and Production
Low-volume PCB assembly and production is nothing more than producing and assembling a small amount of printed circuit board (PCB) that requires DFM and DFT checking. In simple terms, the number of PCBs produced and assembled is the most important factor to consider.
Low-Volume PCB Application
Low-volume PCB assembly and production are commonly found in aerospace with bare boards, technical and medical devices, and automated military PCBs with bare boards and multiple assembly lines.
As the name implies, low-volume PCB packaging has limited assembly batches. While some manufacturers require bulk PCBAs for electromechanical components like surface mount technology across a supply chain, low-volume PCB production and assembly may be required for limited products with very distinct specifications. In such a case, the contract manufacturer creating a low-volume prototype PCB understands that board manufacturing is critical to get a sense of the final result and whether any changes are required.
Types of Low-Volume PCB Assembly
While low-volume may appear similar, it is important that you understand the different types of low-volume PCBs available in the market and the contract manufacturer that makes them. Some of the notable PCB fabrication types you will come across in the production process for low volumes include:
Design for manufacturing (DFM)
DFM generally aids in the execution of integrity inspections on engineering diagrams, testing services, circuit diagrams, rigorous quality checks, assembly drawings, and manufacturing processes, including bill of materials, circuit diagram representation, assembly sequence, and so on.
As a result, the authentication is examined, and we avoid further manufacturing complexities. This goes a long way toward eliminating emissions and reducing the backtracking time of low volumes during manufacturing services.
Design for testing (DFT)
As eager clients express their desire to have test points on their PCBs during assembly or manufacturing services, these services assist them in better understanding the process. Typically, DFT includes the functions and features of checking regulations, defining issues, and so on, and they are available at competitive prices.
Options for Low-Volume PCB Assembly Prototyping
Unlike high volumes, you must know your prototyping options for PCB assemblies, especially when it is a low-volume PCBA and the other components that come with it, either in a small quantity or large low-volume orders available for customers at a quick turnaround time with the relevant test conducted.
This prototyping approach involves only a few minor layout changes with the capabilities, equipment, and other benefits customers can enjoy. Sequentially examining each cycle is also a popular strategy for establishing reliable confirmation of the prototype, speed, delivery capabilities, and fabrication. So far, this is the best option for Design For Testing.
Unlike the sequential prototype technique, this one reduces the possibility of production gaps. This procedure is carried out by assigning numerous layout changes to a marginal integer of the low-volume PCBs and evaluating each variant preceding the next production race.
Advantages of Low-Volume PCB Assembly
Here are a few advantages of choosing a low-volume PCB assembly or development if you are considering it but do not know what the development offers.
- Feasible layout modification before going to excess proceeds
- Stringent examination for all small batch pcb assembly for efficiency
- Low-volume PCBs ensure the required standard by undergoing robust testing mechanisms
- Cost-effective with value for cost and a cheap delivery cost
High-Volume PCB Production and Assembly
High-volume PCB production and assembly is a batch manufacturing technique. The smallest amount of PCBs produced in a single batch is 1000. The operation, however, may be as much as a set of 100000.
This Production and assembly method is a powerful volume PCB method due to the large number it can produce at once. This production technique is more popular in electronic testing and design changes due to its qualities, like process consistency, uniformity, and computer-aided automation.
The Benefits of High-Volume PCB Assembly
Some of the numerous and vital advantages of high-volume Printed Circuit Boards include the following:
- High-volume printed circuit board production and assembly necessitate completing prototyping and design functions in a single step for the benefit of customers.
- High-volume PCB assembly services ensure a large production run of printed circuit board products in response to high market demand and a re-work of existing Gerber files or a sub-circuit while ensuring quality testing, as you will get with small batches. A situation like this is ideal for rapidly entering the market and getting ahead of the competition.
- It leads to low production costs compared to low-volume and ray inspection of PCB assemblies.
- Automation is also possible in high-volume printed circuit board production and assembly, resulting in a shortened production cycle and maximum capabilities.
- High-volume PCB production helps maintain feature consistency and uniformity.
Application Areas of High Volume PCBs Assembly Services
- In the mass production of electronic appliances with uniformity needs.
- New or existing geographical areas with large market demands.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Volume PCB
The only distinction between low-volume and high-volume PCB is the number of products produced. In low-volume PCB, the amount of PCB production and assemblies will be 250 or less, whereas, in high-volume production, the number of PCB productions and assemblies will be 10000 or possibly 100,000.
If your goal is to maximize profits return, then the low volume is the best option. At the same time, a high-volume PCB is the better alternative to choose if you produce in larger quantities and have a uniform appearance and functionality.
Printed circuit boards have been and will always be a significant building block for most electronics. Its integration over the last decades leaves us wondering how much it will advance with future technologies. We hope this article gives you enough up-to-date information about PCBs; keep coming back for more updated information on its design and production improvement.