Complying with the right standards

IPC-A-610 vs J-STD-001: Which Inspection Do You Need?

Anything worth doing is worth doing right. Truly heeding these age-old words of wisdom can help separate your company from its competitors. However, you'll need to quantify this aphorism to put it into practice. Fortunately, regulations and standards that reflect the principle of doing things the right way exist to define the minimal requirements for industrial processes and manufacturing.

The current and projected global reliance on PCBAs necessitates that industry standards ensure the quality of manufacturing processes and produced boards. A good quality management general standard that all CMs should comply with is ISO 9001. Which of the many regulations, standards and guidelines that target PCBA manufacturing are most important, though? Two standards that fall within this group, which to developers and OEMs may seem somewhat rhetorical, provide specific process and inspection criteria for CMs. By comparing IPC-A-610 vs J-STD-001, their importance as the principle standards for the quality of your board build process will become apparent.

Why Is IPC-A-610 Important?

According to IPC International, Inc., the premier standards organization for the design, manufacturing and testing of printed circuit boards, IPC-A-610H Acceptability of Electronic Assemblies is the “most widely used electronics assembly acceptance standard in the electronics industry.” This assertion speaks to the industry-wide acceptance of IPC-A-610 as the authority on PCBA inspection. As the “most widely used acceptance standard,” the document is relied on to demonstrate the quality of assembled boards.

The IPC-A-610 standard includes requirements and guidelines to help PCBA assembly manufacturers ensure that their manufacturing process meets acceptable quality levels. To help facilitate compliance, several IPC classifications are defined with different acceptance criteria.

IPC-A-610 PCBA Classification Levels
Class 1: General Electronic ProductsMost PCBAs used in commercial electronics products fall under this classification. Although boards must function, they are not required to last long, and service interruption is far from critical. 
Class 2: Dedicated Service Electronic ProductsBoards should be highly reliable, long-lasting and provide continuous operation, although failing to meet these criteria will not threaten personal health or safety. 
Class 3: High-Reliability Electronic ProductsBoards should operate on demand and provide uninterrupted service over the operational lifecycle. Failure in applications such as invasive medical devices could be dangerous or even fatal. 

Although not originally defined in IPC-A-610, IPC Class 3A, created for the critical area of space applications, is the most restrictive IPC classification. For more information on this classification, see IPC-6012DS Space and Military Avionics Applications Addendum to IPC-6012D, Qualification and Performance Specification for Rigid Printed Boards.

In addition to defining the operational classifications above, the IPC-A-610 standard also provides in-depth information and imagery to assist board inspections for compliance. Specific focus areas include terminals, connectors, wiring, insulation and all aspects of the soldering process for both SMDs and through hole components. Soldering is also the primary focus of IPC-J-STD-001H Requirements for Soldered Electrical and Electronic Assemblies.

How Does J-STD-001 Impact PCBA Manufacturing?

Similar to IPC-A-610H, the latest version of the IPC-J-STD-001 includes contributions from experts worldwide. These two standards also share an in-depth focus on the soldering process, including industry-standard terminology for PCB assembly and what constitutes board acceptability. J-STD-001, however, is generally considered more comprehensive in terms of defining materials, processes and methods to ensure that the soldering process results in good quality solder joints and an acceptable assembled board.

In comparing IPC-A-610 and J-STD-001, the question may arise: Which standard should my CM comply with for the best assembly of my PCBAs? The table below may help answer this question.

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IPC-A-610 vs J-STD-001
Included IPC-A-610 J-STD-001
Material requirements Not defined. Included.
Equipment requirements Not defined. Included.
Component placement/pad-footprint alignment Included. Included.
Connectors and terminations Included. Included.
Spacing and clearance requirements Included. Included.
SMD and THT component soldering requirements Included. Included. 
Soldering problems Included. Limited.
PCBA Cleaning Included. Defines board cleaning requirements.
PCBA Protection Includes guidelines for solder mask and conformal coating. Covers conformal coating, encapsulation and staking.
Rework Limited. Included.
PCBA Inspection Criteria Included. Included.
PCBA Performance Classifications Defines the classifications for PCBA performance.  Incorporates the classifications defined in IPC-A-610.

As the above comparison indicates, both standards cover the entire PCB assembly process. The degree to which these topics are discussed and whether specific requirements are defined varies, though. For example, IPC-A-610 specifies mandated criteria that should be used daily by board inspectors. The J-STD-001, on the other hand, provides the best practices that process engineers, supervisors and technicians should follow to achieve acceptable boards.

Therefore, if the objective is to ensure that your CM employs an assembly process that is dedicated to producing the high-quality boards you require, the best answer to the question of which standard your CM should target for compliance is probably both IPC-A-610 and J-STD-001.

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Tempo Automation leads the PCBA industry in producing high-quality PCBAs the fastest for prototyping and low-volume production. Our commitment to quality is evidenced by our quality manufacturer certifications for IPC-A-610, J-STD-001 and other important industry standards. As a partner with Tempo, your board build will satisfy industry standards for quality regardless of board complexity.

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 IPC-A-610 vs J-STD-00, contact us.

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