You probably have heard or maybe used the phrase “what a beauty” to describe someone or something that captivated you or exceeded your expectations. You have probably also heard many companies or organizations use the term “quality” to describe their product or services. Quality, just like beauty, is dependent on the eyes of the beholder. This means that rather than being defined by you, the quality of your product or service is quantified by whether the requirements of your customers or clients are met.
If you currently are or plan to be a PCB or electronics supplier to aerospace industry organizations, you should be aware of the premium placed on quality. Obviously, the objective is to ensure the quality of products and services provided. However, the emphasis on quality extends far beyond the deliverable. In fact, as a supplier, you must not only implement a verifiable quality control process but also establish a management system that spans the entire supply chain. By following good practices and guidelines, you can develop and institute a quality control process that meets the requirements of the aerospace industry and results in an aerospace-ready product. To set the stage for presenting these guidelines, let’s first review what constitutes a quality control process.
Quality Control Process Basics
For PCBs, a quality control process can be generally described as a system of procedures performed to test or verify the quality of board design at strategic points during its development and production. Using this definition, a number of quality control processes can be defined. For example, the basic aspects of ensuring PCB quality can be defined as follows:
- Design Rule Checking (DRC)
- PCB Design Testing
- Manufacturing - These are tests to verify that your design specifications adhere to your CM’s manufacturability requirements for board fabrication, component acquisition, and PCB assembly. These tests are performed by your CM.
- Functionality - This is the testing of your board’s electrical functionality. This is performed as part of the PCB prototype iteration cycle. Although the designer typically performs these tests, some CMs have the capability to assist by testing for some parameters during manufacturing.
- Regulatory - For some boards, regulatory testing is required to ensure that your PCB meets the requirements of particular standards based on where and how it will be used. Typical regulatory tests include FCC RF device testing, UL safety testing and IPC bend testing for flex and rigid-flex boards.
- PCB Production Testing
Your board quality is also checked at the production manufacturing level. These tests may be on samples or all boards, depending on specific client requirements. These circuit board tests may be destructive or non-destructive and may require that design for testing (DFT) specifications be included as part of your design.
The design, development, and production of your boards may require you to institute one or all of the above quality control processes. However, if your PCB is intended for deployment in an aerospace system, simply performing quality control (QC) testing is not sufficient. Instead, your entire supply line must meet regulatory requirements.
Aerospace-Ready Quality Control Process Guidelines
Like other critical system industries like medical systems and automotive, the aerospace industry has stringent regulatory requirements for managing the quality of PCBs and electronics used in their platforms. For the aerospace industry, AS9100 is the prevailing standard. This standard specifies requirements for a quality management system (QMS) that encompasses all aspects of product design, development, manufacturing and post-deployment monitoring of devices and systems used in aerospace vehicles or platforms.
The standard, initially issued in 1999, has been revised four times. The latest revision, AS9100D, includes directives that emphasize the importance of your CM in assuring that the quality control process for your products meets aerospace industry quality standards. The key sections for your QC control are 8.3 and 8.4., which focus on the internal factors of PCB design and development that you perform and the external factors that are typically performed by your CM, respectively. The set of guidelines presented below will, if followed, assist you in ensuring that the quality control process aspect of your QMS complies with aerospace industry standards.
QC Process Guidelines
👌 Know the applicable Standards and Regulations
The most important factor for supplying the aerospace industry is to know and follow all applicable standards and regulations.
👌 Ensure your CM’s QC meets your requirements
Although you as the vendor are responsible for your device’s reliability to your customers, the quality of your boards depends greatly on the expertise and equipment of your CM.
👌 Utilize appropriate circuit board testing
Testing should be liberally applied as it provides the best evidence of the quality of your boards and products.
👌 Document accurately and thoroughly
Your documentation is critical to demonstrate your compliance with regulatory requirements. This includes methodologies, testing, results, issues, and resolutions.
Your quality control process is the centerpiece of your QMS. As such, it is imperative that you partner with a CM that is capable of meeting the high-quality bar that the aerospace industry sets for products it accepts.
|Tempo‘s Custom Avionics for PCB Manufacturing Service|
Tempo Automation is AS9100 certified and experienced in building PCBs for the most challenging aerospace applications. We lead the PCB industry in fast, precise prototyping and low-volume manufacturing turnkey solutions and will support you throughout your board development process.
And to help you get started on the best path, we furnish information for your DFM 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 the quality control process for aerospace or how to incorporate the requirements into your PCB development process, contact us.