3 Key Quality Control Methods in Electronics Manufacturing

Most people, if they are honest with themselves, would probably admit they do not like rules. Perhaps, this opinion is bred into us shortly after birth. From the perspective of a child, teenager, or even young adult, rules seem to exist to prevent us from engaging in activities that we would otherwise like to participate in. For example, is there any person that has ever driven a car who did not want to (or has) exceeded the speed limit? Fortunately for us and everyone else, we eventually come to the realization that most rules are in place for our benefit.

The usefulness of rules is easy to see when it comes to electronics manufacturing. This perspective is not lost in the process of building PCBAs, which comprise all electronic products. The fact that these devices are increasingly becoming indispensable for virtually all aspects of life only escalates the need for broad rules or standards to ensure their efficacy. And meeting this objective requires the institution of quality control methods in electronics manufacturing. In this article, we discuss three essential methods and standards that indicate the electronics manufacturing process is solidly based on quality control.

When and Why Is Quality Control Important?

When developing an electronic product there is always consideration given to the operational lifecycle or the projected time period during which the product should function without fail, if used properly. This estimated term of operation is used as a basis for extending protection to end-users, typically in the form of a warranty. Delivering too many products that fail to meet this reliability criterion will result in lost revenue and most likely redesigns and additional manufacturing costs. These undesirable results are avoided by instituting quality control measures during development, specifically for PCBA manufacturing.

Besides lost revenue and additional, unnecessary development time and costs, delivering substandard products may adversely affect the company's reputation, which can translate into reduced market share. The implications of this can be grave and affect the organization’s continued viability. If you are an OEM or provide boards and electronics to a critical industry, such as aerospace, automotive, or medical devices, having an effective quality control process is required and mandated by standards and regulations. The reason for this is that board or device failure could have fatal results.

Thus, quality control is important for all circuit boards and electronic device manufacturing. And the methods used to implement these controls can be categorized as either component, data or process focused.

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Essential Quality Control Methods in Electronics Manufacturing

Quality control should be applied to all aspects of electronics manufacturing. Probably, the most effective means of instituting this comprehensive strategy is a three-point approach that targets components, data, and the manufacturing process, as described below.

Quality Control Method #1: Components Management

The application of quality control to components begins during design with selection, and the accurate coordination of component packages with board layout footprints and the BOM. Also important is de-risking the procurement of components, which is most challenging during times of uncertainty, such as shortages. However, there is always the threat of counterfeit components winding up on your boards. The best way to avoid these contingencies is to institute quality control that includes the following:

  • Component availability verification
  • Sourcing from reputable vendors
  • Ensuring your CM institutes component supply chain management
  • Following procurement rules and guidelines, if required

Quality Control Method #2: Data Management

For today’s automated PCBA manufacturing processes, accurate data that is readable and precise is essential for board fabrication and assembly equipment. It is also important that data be traceable throughout the entire development process. For critical industries, this is typically required. However, it is also necessary to perform risk analysis and track down errors. It is a good idea to follow the guidelines provided by ISO 9001 Quality Management Systems standard if no other regulatory requirements are in place for your specific project development.

Quality Control Method #3: Process Management

The other key area where it is essential to apply quality control is the manufacturing process. In addition to following the generic quality management rules put forth in ISO 9001, there are requirements for circuit board manufacturing based upon performance classification as stipulated in IPC-6011 Generic Performance Specification for Printed Boards. This standard provides specifications and limitations on errors that are acceptable for three classes of board manufacturing based upon how long the board should reliably function. Other important standards are J-STD-001 and IPC 610-A, Requirements for Soldered Electrical and Electronic Assemblies and Acceptability of Electronic Assemblies, respectively. Collectively, these documents provide guidelines for the assembly process and acceptable PCBAs.

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Irrespective of the project, the PCBA or electronics manufacturing of your boards should include the essential control methods described above. The best implementation of these is comprehensive as is done for digital thread manufacturing as it institutes management and control for all aspects of PCBA manufacturing. Tempo Automation, the industry leader in fast, precise custom PCBA prototyping and low-volume manufacturing, employs this software-based process for all of its custom board builds.

And to help you get started on the best path, we furnish information for your DFM checks and enable you to easily view and download DRC files. If you’re an Altium Designer or Cadence Allegro user, you can simply add these files to your PCB design software. For Mentor Pads or other design packages, we furnish DRC information in other CAD formats and Excel.

If you are ready to have your design manufactured, try our quote tool to upload your CAD and BOM files. If you want more information on quality control methods in electronics manufacturing, contact us.

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