Applying Right First Time Manufacturing to PCBA Prototyping

Around the world, there are many awe-inspiring structures from antiquity. For example, Machu Picchu in Peru, Stonehenge in Great Britain, and the Moai on Easter Island are fascinating testaments to the human ability to erect monuments that would not easily succumb to the ravages of time. But as impressive as these are, no archaeological achievement equals the Great Pyramid of the Giza Plateau in Egypt. Not only is this pyramid large at 481 ft (146.7 m) in height with a base of 756 ft (≅ 230.3 m), but its construction seems to indicate a sophisticated understanding of mathematics not attributed to contemporaries during the time of its construction.

Although there have been countless excavations of the Great Pyramid, it remains one of the most intriguing and mysterious objects of any era. What is known is that it was not the first, nor the last, pyramid built by the Egyptians. And examinations of the other pyramids in what is sometimes called “The Valley of the Kings” suggests that expertise was an evolutionary process. In other words, despite the advanced engineering exhibited by these undertakings that continues to astonish scholars to this day, the builders were apparently still in the process of trying to get it right.

In many ways, the building of small structures can be more challenging than large ones. This is exemplified by the PCBA construction process, especially for complex custom designs during the design ⇒ build ⇒ test or DBT cycle of effective circuit board development. During this critical prototyping stage, the objective is to continually modify the design until the highest quality board embodiment is achieved. When, how, and even if this goal is reached depends upon the contractor manufacturer (CM) and whether they are capable of right first time manufacturing. Prior to defining the requirements for attaining this milestone, let’s clearly define what the CM should be able to provide and when it is needed.

When is Right First Time Manufacturing Important?

During low or high volume production, the yield rate or ratio of usable PCBAs compared with the actual number made is expected to be high, if not 100%. For some, developers and CMs alike, this right first time (RFT) manufacturing standard does not apply for prototyping or during board development. One argument is that building prototype PCBAs is an iterative process that seeks to optimize quality through redesign evolution and is not intended for delivery to customers.

It is indeed true that in some cases aspects of the design may be relaxed during manufacturing until the final prototype is reached. In some cases, flexibility in PCBA prototype assembly can be used to improve development process efficiency by lowering the costs for components or reducing the number of steps required to mount them to the board. Even so, for each prototype cycle, the accuracy or fidelity of the board build with the current state of the design must be accurate. Failure to meet this requirement may compromise the purpose of the DBT cycle, which is to be able to test the PCBA for operational functionality, and result in unnecessary board spins, extended turnaround time, additional development costs and reduced ROI.

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How to Achieve PCBA First Time Right Manufacturing During Development

As shown above, RFT, which is also referred to as first time right (FTR), manufacturing is as important to PCBA development as it is to production. And the implementation of this lean manufacturing strategy by the CM can serve as the basis for optimal board building, providing it is supported by the following:

Design Requirements for Right First Time Manufacturing

👍    Acquire and incorporate the CM’s DFM rules and guidelines.

👍    Make sure the BOM component data is synchronized with the design data file.   

👍    Provide accurate and complete design data and BOM to the CM.

👍    Utilize digital twin technology to review projected board prior to manufacturing.

👍    Collaborate with the CM to ensure any manufacturing adjustments do not adversely affect the design intent.

By employing the list of requirements above and maintaining an open, transparent relationship with your CM you are providing the invaluable support needed for the best building of your boards. However, RFT manufacturing is only possible if your CM is committed to this high standard of quality.


Tempo’s Software-Driven Smart Factory Delivers the Industry’s Leading Custom Turnkey PCBA Manufacturing Services
  • Virtual PCBA Contract manufacturing.
  • Rapid, accurate quotes.
  • DFM support from Day 1 of design.
  • Digital Thread Processing with real-time monitoring.
  • Fastest turnaround times in the industry to maximize ROI.
  • QC certified Agile Manufacturing process to support risk management.
  • Standard and Advanced QC testing.
  • Worry-free supply chain continuity.
  • Specialization in rapid prototyping and low-volume production.
  • PCBA development optimization for complex critical system industries like Aerospace, Medical Devices, Automotive, and Industrial.

At Tempo Automation, the leading manufacturer of accurate, fast PCBA prototypes in the industry, we build boards that meet the stringent quality standards of critical industries, such as aerospace, medical devices, and automotive systems. And we will work with you to ensure your boards are of the highest quality and build efficiency at our smart factory in San Francisco.

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 achieving first time right manufacturing for your PCBA development, contact us.

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