Keys to Efficient Industrial PCBA Prototyping

There is an old Russian proverb about trust: Доверяй, но проверяй. You may be familiar with this saying’s translation: trust, but verify; as it was used by President Ronald Reagan to describe the need for testing to ensure that the terms of a nuclear disarmament treaty between the two countries were not violated. The profoundness of this proverb is that it can be applied to virtually every situation and should always be employed when designing and building electronic devices and systems.

The most common functional testing device for PCBAs is the multimeter, which can either measure or aid in the calculation of voltage, current, resistance, and power for electrical circuitry. Of the three stages of circuit board development or prototyping, which includes design and manufacturing, testing is the stage that determines when the board has met its design criteria and is ready to move to production. Functional testing is obviously important; however, for deployment in extreme environments; such as industrial production facilities, testing takes on an even more significant role and broader considerations must be addressed. Let’s take a look at the industrial PCBA prototyping process and how it can be made most efficient.

The Industrial PCBA Prototyping Process

PCBA development is a three-stage process that consists of designing, manufacturing and then testing your board. When this process requires multiple iterations, which is typical before a final manifestation is achieved that meets the design objectives, can be well-built and passes functional testing it is known as prototyping. This is the basic process for all circuit board development; however, for industrial PCBA prototyping, it must be expanded to include the environmental conditions found in factories.

Obviously, all factories are not the same and the equipment used is fundamentally determined by the type of products being built. Nevertheless, today’s industrial environments do have commonality. For example, virtually all factories employ automated processes to build their products faster and more consistently reliable than can be done manually. This automation is made possible by embedded PCBA design and development or the prototyping of industrial PCBAs.

Developing Industrial PCBAs Efficiently

The development cycle for industrial PCBAs must adhere to all of the regulations and standards for high-performance circuit boards. However, increased voltages and currents, high temperatures, and mechanical stresses that these boards may be subjected to require that you design to aid the industrial PCB manufacturing process, and greater emphasis is placed on the installation environment, especially for testing, as shown below.

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Industrial PCBA Prototyping Keys to Efficiency

  • Use proper copper weights

High voltages and currents, either from power supplies or regulators are common on industrial PCBAs. This requires you to incorporate good high voltage and high current design tips and guidelines.

  • Design for electromagnetic compatibility

One of the most significant threats to your PCBA in an industrial production environment is EMI, either onboard or from nearby electronic devices. Thus, you should design for electromagnetic compatibility within the deployment environment.

  • Ensure good thermal dissipation and distribution

Understanding the difference between thermal dissipation and distribution and employing techniques to optimize both is important. This is especially true for industrial boards where larger copper weights and wider traces are used that make managing temperature during assembly more challenging.

  • Employ adequate testing
    • Safety testing

Due to the high voltages and currents used on industrial boards, the possibility of surface tracking that can damage the board and its elements and the possibility of harm to personnel exists. Therefore, the comparative tracking index (CTI), the high voltage tracking rate (HVTR) and other testing regimens should be performed, if warranted.

    • Structural testing

Industrial PCBAs should be tested for structural integrity as most are likely to be embedded in equipment or machinery that may place mechanical stresses on the board.

  • Institute board protection

Factory environments are more likely than others to expose your board to contamination; therefore, moisture protection methods and other techniques should be employed.

Developing boards for use in factory environments can be a challenge, which makes choosing the right CM a necessity to ensure your industrial PCBA prototyping process is ready to successfully meet it.

Tempo's Industry 4.0 Custom PCB Manufacturing Services
  • ISO-9001, IPC-600 and IPC-610 commitment to quality certifications.
  • Agile manufacturing process to support risk management.
  • Accurate quote in less than a day.
  • DFM support from Day 1 of design.
  • Entire turnkey PCB manufacturing in as fast as 3 days.
  • High precision, complex PCB fabrication and assembly capabilities.
  • Sources components from the most reputable suppliers in the industry to reduce procurement time and help with component security.
  • Specialization in fast prototyping and low-volume production.
  • Standard quality testing; including X-ray and inline AOI.
  • Advanced QC testing; including flying probe, time domain reflectometry and ROSE.

Tempo Automation is the industry leader for producing high-quality PCBAs fast and we will work with you beginning with design to help you ensure that your development results in boards ready for deployment in the intended industrial production environment.

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 industrial PCBA prototyping, contact us.

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