Starting a new job can be one of the most exciting experiences that you will ever have. Embarking on a new path always conjures hopes of forging new relationships and learning new things. This is often accompanied by some apprehension as to whether you will be able to conquer the challenges that await. However, this mix of emotions is what makes life worth living. Before experiencing this thrill, however, you typically have to endure an interview process.
Just as an employer interviews you to ascertain your skills and match for their needs, you should institute a similar method for choosing an assembly manufacturer for your boards. As the levels and types of assembly service are not consistent among different contract manufacturers (CMs), this evaluation is necessary to ensure that you select the best PCB assembly manufacturer for your design. For this process to be the most effective, a well-defined criterion should be established that can be applied to compare and contrast service providers. Let’s first develop that criterion and then see how we can utilize it to select the best matched PCB assembly manufacturer for our design objectives.
Defining a Criterion for PCB Assembly Service
In order to adequately assess the PCB assembly services of a potential CM, it is necessary to define a set of criteria that reflects your objectives and expectations. Including among these should be the following:
The most important consideration is what capabilities the CM possesses. Most CMs are capable of assembling your PCBs, provided the components are accurate and the boards are fabricated to meet your design requirements. However, for assembly-only CMs, the responsibility for component procurement and fabrication lies with you. On the other hand, turnkey PCB manufacturing is typically faster and the CM manages the entire process for you. You should also be aware of the types of soldering techniques, board and component sizes, inspections, depanelization and other process capabilities that your CM is able to provide.
The quality of your boards depends on the design. Specifically, your utilization of design for manufacturing (DFM) and design for assembly (DFA). Even more significant may be the quality management of the development process, which depends upon your CM’s commitment to quality control and significantly affects the reliability of your boards.
If you are in the development stage, you will likely need several design/build/test prototype iterations to achieve the design quality desired. Therefore, the turnaround is at a premium as it directly impacts your final product and ability to meet delivery schedule requirements.
- Customer Service
The availability of your CM should also be important to you. In fact, this may be critical if you experience design changes or need to respond to new client requests quickly.
Cost is obviously an important factor. It must, however, be weighed against the CM’s capabilities, product quality, speed, and service provided. After all, if these criteria do not meet your needs, then you have not achieved an acceptable return on [your] investment (ROI).
It may be necessary for you to expand the above list. For example, if you are designing critical systems, such as for the military or aerospace, medical devices, or automotive industries, regulatory requirements that exceed most commercial applications must be met.
How to Choose Your PCB Assembly Manufacturer
After establishing the criteria for your decision, an assessment of the CM’s services is conducted. This should include the normal research methods you employ; however, direct evaluation is probably the most effective tool to implement. Your questions should cover the criteria that you have created, similar to those below.
Questions to Ask a PCB Assembly Manufacturer
- Do you perform assembly, fabrication or both in-house?
- Do you provide full turnkey manufacturing?
- What type of design file package do you accept?
- Do you have an agile manufacturing process that can respond quickly to design changes?
- What type of quality control measures are standard for your manufacturing process?
- What standards and regulatory guidelines does your process adhere to?
- Do you have any quality certifications?
- How long does it usually take to get a quote?
- What is the typical turnaround time for your assembly process?
- If provided, what is the turnaround time for full turnkey manufacturing?
About Customer Service
- Do you provide DRC files for upload?
- Do you provide a DFM report?
- How long does it typically take to receive a response if I have questions or need to make changes?
- What type of post-production support do you offer?
- Is manufacturing cost dependent upon turnaround time?
- Is there an additional cost for a DFM report cost?
- Are non-recurring engineering (NRE) costs controllable?
The specific questions asked of your CM can obviously vary. The important factor is that it provides you with enough information to assess whether the CM is the best PCB assembly manufacturer for your design.
|Tempo‘s Custom PCB Manufacturing Service
Tempo Automation is the industry leader in fast, high-quality PCB prototype manufacturing. We employ advanced equipment and apply a software-driven process for your board’s assembly. Every stage of the manufacturing process is designed to be fast and accurate. We will also work with you throughout development, beginning on day one of design, to ensure that your design intent is incorporated and your boards are built in compliance with our capabilities.
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 user, you can simply add these files to your PCB design software.
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 choose the best PCB assembly manufacturer for your design, contact us.