Optimal High Reliability PCB Process Development for Aerospace Applications

November 26, 2019 , in Aerospace, Blog

Today, virtually all PCB development is based on automation, the tenets of which include repeatability and reliability. All PCB development processes, however, are NOT equal. When developing boards for commercial applications, it is desired that circuit boards are well-built, meet their functional and operational objectives, and last for a reasonable amount of time. Failure to meet these expectations will likely result in an exodus of customers to a competitor with a more reliable development process. Although this may seem tragic, it pales in comparison to the consequences of unreliability when building boards for aerospace applications.

Successful automation process tenets

Factors of optimal PCB development

When developing boards for the aerospace industry, high reliability is not only desirable but mandated. Regulatory standards such as AS9100D are in place to ensure that your development process meets minimum quality standards that include monitoring, record-keeping and all facets of quality control. In contrast to most commercial development, failures on space platforms are not repairable. And lost aerospace vehicles, such as satellites and rockets can cost millions of dollars, not to mention the potential for loss of life on spaceships. Let’s define high reliability PCB development and establish procedures that will help guard against these truly tragic outcomes.

What is High Reliability PCB Development?

Without a doubt, one measure of the reliability of a PCB development process is the ability of the boards produced to meet their objectives in terms of performance and life-cycle. However, a highly reliable PCB development process should extend beyond a single design. Instead, it should be applicable to varied designs and across many applications and embody the attributes listed below.

High Reliability PCB Development Attributes

  • Repeatability

First and foremost, a high reliability PCB development process must be well-defined and duplicatable. This means that once the best design is obtained and errors eliminated, a consistently high yield rate should be achievable.

  • Technology-driven

It is also extremely important that your development process makes the best use of technology; otherwise, you will be unable to compete in the PCB development industry. This includes your utilization of PCB design software and your contract manufacturer’s (CM’s) implementation of advanced equipment for board fabrication and printed circuit board assembly (PCBA).

  • Flexibility

Your board development should reliably produce the same quality PCBs for a design. However, it should also incorporate agile manufacturing and be able to implement changes such that the same quality level is obtainable for various designs.

  • Innovative

To ensure that your PCB development process remains highly reliable you should embrace innovation and implement enhancements that improve reliability, quality, and efficiency.

Now, that we know the major attributes for a high reliability PCB development process, let’s see how to incorporate these into development for aerospace applications.

High Reliability PCB Process Development for Aerospace Applications

Whether you are developing PCBs for government, military or commercial aerospace applications high quality is critical. To ensure this, the aerospace industry has instituted a number of regulations and standards that govern how PCBs are manufactured. In addition to these mandates, there are several guidelines that should govern board design. Incorporating these standards and guidelines should ensure that you meet regulatory standards for quality. However, making sure that your PCB development process is optimized for high reliability is best achieved by doing the following:

Optimal High Reliability PCB Development for Aerospace Applications

  • Institute a comprehensive risk management plan

The best way to evaluate the reliability of your PCB development process is to develop a formal structure or management plan that allows you to monitor, analyze and improve the process. This can be done by employing an aerospace-focused risk analysis strategy that includes:

    • Risk Assessment or the identification and categorization of all pertinent risks to development.
    • Risk Analysis or the review of the impacts of each risk and the development of corrective actions or controls.
    • Controls Implementation or the application of appropriate corrective actions to mitigate or eliminate the risks, when necessary.
  • Ensure your manufacturing process is agile

To be considered highly reliable, your PCB development must be able to adapt to changes in design quickly and with minimal additional time or cost. This can only be achieved if your CM has employed an agile manufacturing process for aerospace applications.

Aerospace systems are unique in that it is often necessary for multiple development processes to proceed simultaneously. For these systems, your development will need to incorporate concurrent engineering practices that may include other internal teams or even other organizations.

Tempo‘s Custom Avionics for PCB Manufacturing Service
  • CM for 2 of the industries top 10 aerospace and defense manufacturers and 2 of the 10 satellite producers.
  • AS9100D and IPC J-STD-001E with Space Addendum certified manufacturing processes.
  • ISO-9001, IPC-600 and IPC-610 commitment to quality certifications.
  • Accurate quote in less than a day.
  • DFM support from Day 1 of design.
  • Entire turnkey PCB manufacturing in as fast as 3 days.
  • Sources components from the most reputable suppliers in the industry to reduce procurement time and help with component security.
  • Performs multiple automated inspections during PCB assembly to ensure PCB quality for prototyping.
  • Standard quality testing, including X-ray and inline AOI.

For aerospace applications, high reliability PCB development is not a goal, but a requirement. Adhering to this requirement means that your development process must be consistent, yet flexible enough to incorporate changes in design specifications and process innovation. At Tempo Automation, we employ a software-accelerated,  quality-controlled, and reliable manufacturing process to ensure your boards meets the high standards of the aerospace industry.

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 high reliability PCB development, contact us.

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