5 Tips for Your Industrial PCB Manufacturing Process for Integrated Automation

A couple of centuries ago, it was not only common but also necessary that youngsters learn to shoot. In order to eat, families relied on being able to hunt and kill rabbits, squirrels, and such. We now have grocery stores, but a good number of kids still learn to shoot. I am no exception. I was a pretty good shot with a rifle in my teens, but what I really enjoyed was shooting the bow. Finding the perfect trajectory so that the bow would find the bullseye was challenging, but the reward was great. Over time I learned that if I targeted the process of shooting the bow, my chances of hitting the bullseye rose significantly.

Industrial production environment

Industrial production environment

The paradigm for building PCBs is well-known: design is first, followed by board fabrication and finally PCB assembly. The steps for PCB manufacturing are somewhat systematic, yet the quality of the results depend, to a great degree, on design decisions that focus your board build based on where your PCB will be deployed and utilized. Targeting the manufacturing process like this is necessary when developing industrial PCBs, as the intended factory environment can present challenges to your board’s operation and reliability. First, let’s define the industrial PCB manufacturing process and then take a look at the issues presented by integrated automation production. Finally, we will see how to target the building of industrial PCBs that will be embedded in integrated automation systems.

What is the Industrial PCB Manufacturing Process?

Before defining the manufacturing process for making industrial boards, let’s explain what is meant by an industrial PCB.

Definition: An industrial PCB is a circuit board that is embedded within a larger industrial production system. Typically, this type of board is customized or has special requirements as opposed to commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) or a pre-built module.

Now, we can define the industrial PCB manufacturing process which creates these boards.

Definition: An industrial PCB manufacturing process is the fabrication and assembly of an industrial PCB or circuit board that has been designed for and will be installed within an electronics system that is a part of a larger industrial production system. This includes assembly lines, factory robotics, additive manufacturing, or any other automated production equipment.

What is Integrated Automation?

Industrial automation production systems are categorized by the type of control used to oversee operations. The most common types are fixed automation, where the process is controlled by the equipment configuration, and soft or programmable automation, where a computer program defines process operation. Soft automation systems where multiple processes with different product types can be made is referred to as flex automation.

Integrated automation refers to processes where the entire system at all levels is automated and computer-controlled. Integrated automation systems typically employ robotics, which may be controlled by other robots. The lack of human control requires that these systems be highly reliable, especially considering the other factory environment challenges for industrial automation systems.

Targeted PCB Manufacturing for Integrated Automation

Integrated automation production presents several changes that are experienced at the board level. These include high power requirements that translate into power distribution network (PDN) issues, such as high currents and temperatures for industrial PCBs. Another common issue is constant motion or vibration of process equipment that could cause board fatigue or tombstoning. As machines drive assembly lines, robot arms and other movement systems, oil leakages, or other debris may be present that could cause erratic behavior or even board failure. Integrated automation systems are completely software controlled; therefore, stable and reliable communication among system elements is essential to keep operations on track and institute control corrections or changes, as required. This may also include high-speed communications with other systems within the factory or for remote human oversight.

These challenges can be addressed via targeted PCB manufacturing, which can be instituted by following the tips below.

Tips for Industrial PCB Manufacturing for Integrated Automation

Tip #1: Material selection

Utilize electrical, mechanical, and thermal properties when selecting materials to ensure manufacturability and confirm that your board type will withstand the thermal, structural, or high-speed challenges of the industrial environment.

Tip #2: Trace routing

Determine proper impedances, copper weights and lengths to ensure your board has good signal integrity and can carry the required currents.

Tip #3: Design Review

Use simulations and DFM checks to analyze your board’s PDN and thermal resistance for manufacturing and online operation. Incorporate the results into your thermal management design plan.

Tip #4: Choose a good conformal coating

For an industrial environment, it is a good idea to protect your boards from debris and moisture by choosing an appropriate conformal coating that meets IPC-CC-830 standards.

Tip #5: Have necessary testing done

Board failure in an integrated automation system can be very problematic and will likely cause delays and additional costs. This can be mostly prevented by circuit board manufacturing testing. Tests you may want to have performed are automated optical inspection (AOI) to check solder joints and component placements, peel test for adhesion, and Resistivity of Solvent Extract (ROSE) test to check for debris.

Building industrial PCBs for integrated automation systems presents a number of challenges. To successfully address these, you should target the manufacturing of your boards. Therefore, the contract manufacturer (CM) that your choice for fabrication and assembly services is important.

Tempo‘s Industry 4.0 Custom PCB Manufacturing Services
  • ISO-9001, IPC-600 and IPC-610 commitment to quality certifications.
  • Agile manufacturing process to support risk management.
  • Accurate quote in less than a day.
  • DFM support from Day 1 of design.
  • Entire turnkey PCB manufacturing in as fast as 3 days.
  • High precision, complex PCB fabrication and assembly capabilities.
  • Sources components from the most reputable suppliers in the industry to reduce procurement time and help with component security.
  • Specialization in fast prototyping and low-volume production.
  • Standard quality testing; including X-ray and inline AOI.
  • Advanced QC testing; including flying probe, time domain reflectometry and ROSE.

At Tempo Automation, we specialize in custom turnkey PCB prototyping and low volume production. Not only do we build high-quality boards fast, but we also have the capabilities to help you address the challenges of providing PCBs for integrated automation systems.

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 how to target your industrial PCB manufacturing process, contact us.

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