Once upon a time, there was this guy named Rip who decided to take a nap. Well, when he awoke it was twenty years later and the world had undergone major changes. One of these was the birth of the United States. Today, change occurs even faster and at times multiple changes happen concurrently. An example of rapid change is the evolution of data and information acquisition, transfer and storage. It is becoming commonplace for people, devices and even structures that are located remotely from each other to communicate and interact with each other seamlessly. This type of architecture is known as the Internet of Things (IoT).
A central and defining attribute of IoT systems is the ability to communicate at all levels in whatever format is necessary for accurate data and information exchange. To accomplish this, IoT system electronics must include boards that not only acquire and process various data types but also interconnect with other PCBs and devices over wireless and wired channels. Concurrently with the evolution of IoT are the innovations in industrial manufacturing production. When IoT is Integrated with current industrial innovation it is nothing less than a revolution.
Industry 4.0, the fourth industrial revolution, which some refer to as the Industrial Internet of Things or IIoT, describes the evolution of industrial production facilities into smart factories where communication and control within the plant and between remotely located facilities is automated. These communication networks may include devices, equipment, robots, computers and people. Aside from the latter, all of these IIoT elements include electronics and PCBs. Let’s see how these PCBs for industrial applications are developed after we take a closer look at what those applications are.
What Are IoT PCBs for Industrial Applications?
Factory applications for industrial IoT PCBs
In the figure above, the concept of IIoT is illustrated; including the internal operations of a smart factory  and interconnection with a remotely located automated plant. The smart factory floor is divided into four stages. The first stage is comprised machinery and manual processes; therefore, electronics and PCB usage is minimal, if at all. The other three stages provide a convenient way to define IoT PCBs in terms of their industrial application, as is done below.
PCBA Manufacturing for Extreme Environments - Part 1
- Applications: hard automated processes
- Equipment: assembly lines, industrial robots
- IIoT PCBs: high current power supplies, sensors
- Applications: soft automated processes
- Equipment: autonomous robotics, remote control systems
- IIoT PCBs: high and/or low current power supplies, sensors, controllers, high-speed communications
- Applications: integrated automated processes
- Equipment: advanced autonomous robots, high-performance computers
- IIoT PCBs: low current power supplies, high-speed communications
Obviously, each organization has complete autonomy and will organize its operations such that its objectives and automated product manufacturing are best served. However, the listing above is representational of how a smart factory may be set up and what equipment and IIoT PCBs may be utilized.
Guidelines for Developing IIoT PCBs
The types of PCBs that may be utilized in industry 4.0 facilities are quite broad. This, coupled with the focused factory layout required for industrial production based on product and equipment, make the stipulation of specific guidelines for IIoT PCB development difficult. However, from an individual PCB perspective, it is possible to put forth a set of guideline areas that must be considered irrespective of industry, equipment or product. These are listed below:
Industrial environments can be dangerous. Therefore, regulatory control and safety requirements should be followed and in place. An important guideline for industry 4.0 facilities is IEC 61508 which defines safety integrity levels (SILs) and requirements to guide the development of boards for factory safety systems.
The factory in which your PCB is deployed may be a clean room or your board may be embedded in automation equipment, such as an assembly line. In any case, you need to consider the industrial environment and incorporate the conditions into your development process.
One of the most important factors for low-volume and on-demand manufacturing is to ensure good solder joint quality. Otherwise, your board may succumb to extreme temperatures, constant motion or vibration all of which are common in industrial systems.
Testing should be utilized during development to ensure that your PCBs are structurally sound and will be reliable once deployed.
|Tempo‘s Industry 4.0 Custom PCB Manufacturing Services
Following these guidelines will help you to develop IoT PCBs for the intended industrial applications. However, it is imperative that you partner with a qualified contract manufacturer (CM) for your board build. Tempo Automation, is the industry leader for fast, high quality PCB prototyping and low volume production. We excel at building boards for IIoT applications and will work with you to ensure that your design intent is met and you have the best PCB manufacturing experience.
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 CAD files or how to incorporate your design into a CAD format, contact us.
 The factory representation is conceptual and only shows the range of operation types that may be included in a smart factory and does not represent any particular industrial facility, its equipment or operations.