Does time really exist? Some notable thinkers—Albert Einstein and Abhijit Naskar, for example—consider time an illusion that gives order and sequentiality to the infinity of now. This is certainly a far-reaching topic that deserves contemplation. However, if it is too early in the morning or if deadlines need to be met, then time seems far from an illusion.
And those very real deadlines represent some of the most important aspects of running a business—especially in the competitive landscape of developing and delivering PCBs and electronics. Many factors contribute to the time it takes to design, build, and verify circuit boards before they can be delivered to a customer, and your CM exerts a significant influence over the length of your PCB manufacturing lead time.
What Is Standard PCB Manufacturing Lead Time?
Just how long should it take to receive fully assembled boards from your CM? Like our introductory remarks on time, this question has no single answer. To understand PCB manufacturing lead time, you’ll need to consider several factors.
Factors that Impact PCB Manufacturing Lead Time
Creating PCBAs for development is an iterative process and consists of three stages: design⇒build⇒test (DBT). The developer typically controls design and test time. However, build time depends primarily on supply chains and your CM’s fabrication and PCB assembly[Link to "The Automated PCB Assembly Process Flow Chart] processes.
PCB Manufacturing Lead Time Factors
- ★ Component lead time
Component shortages persist, affecting common components, such as capacitors and resistors, as well as specialized ICs—for automotive systems, for example. Consequently, designers should be aware of the component availability and lifecycles.
- ★ Material lead time
It is always important to optimize material selection for your board, which should be based on PCBA design type. However, due to supply chain delays, this does include recognizing when a standard material such as FR-4, which is more readily available, can suffice. Here, IPC classification standards are probably your best guide.
- ★ Process lead timeLastly, your CM’s process can influence how long it takes to manufactureyour boards. For example, if you use a separate fabricator and assembler instead of a turnkey provider, you are responsible for not only sourcing and procuring components but also managing the logistics of the manufacturing stage. Most developers agree that this course of action will add significantly to your PCBA development costs. Additionally, the speed of your CM’s iterative process will play asubstantial role in how many DBT cycles are required to get your boards ready for production and shipment..
Fortunately, several actions are available that can help you achieve the best PCB manufacturing lead time for your EMS projects.
How to Ensure Board Lead Time Meets Your Expectations
There is not a single magical number for how long your PCBA development should take that applies to all designs. To minimize PCB manufacturing lead time, though, follow the actions described below.
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Actions to Optimize PCB Manufacturing Lead Time
- ★ Employ a comprehensive component selection process
In terms of operation and performance, component choice is a crucial design decision. However, the selection process must be comprehensive and include considerations that can impact manufacturing lead time, such as the global electronic component shortage.
- ★ Choose the best material
The best material is not always the most expensive. Your board’s operational, performance, and reliability requirements should guide material selection, as stipulated by IPC standards for manufacturing.
- ★ Design for simplicity
Many designs are complex. However, some design choices can increase or decrease board build complexity and manufacturing costs. For example, the number of sequential lamination cycles affects costs and the board’s operational lifecycle. Similarly, unnecessary testing will add time and cost to the manufacturing process.
- ★ Choose a qualified CM
The quality and turnaround time for your boards rests primarily with your CM. Therefore, choosing a PCBA manufacturing service provider that efficiently manages cost drivers without sacrificing quality should be your objective.
- ★ Collaborate
Your CM should minimize your PCB manufacturing lead time by implementing a board-building process prioritizing quality and efficiency. A collaborative relationship can help ensure that design intent and manufacturability are incorporated.
At Tempo Automation, not only do we have the fastest turnaround time in the industry, but we will work with you to ensure that you receive high-quality boards with the best lead time based on your design requirements and choices.
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.
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