Essentials for PCBA quality assurance in manufacturing

PCBA Quality Assurance In Manufacturing: A Guide For Critical Industries

When choosing a PCBA fabrication and assembly service provider, there are many important factors to consider. For example, should you go with a single turnkey contract manufacturer (CM), or opt for working with multiple companies and manage those services yourself? Quote delays and long turnaround times are also major considerations that may affect your ability to meet delivery deadlines. But nothing is more important than the level of quality your CM delivers.

Quality may be an abstract concept, but it has definitive meaning for you and your clients. And if you develop boards for the aerospace, defense, medical device, or emerging advanced automotives industries, substandard quality PCBAs can have severe consequences, including injury or worse. Therefore, quality assurance in manufacturing of circuit boards for critical applications in these industries is of the highest priority.

Importance of Quality Assurance in PCBA Manufacturing

Although the construction of circuit boards includes well-defined steps, building boards that meet the regulatory requirements for critical industries can be daunting. It’s common and necessary for these PCBAs to meet IPC class 2 or 3 standards—the latter of which mandates continuous service and on-demand operation.

Unlike most PCBAs built for commercial applications, critical industries like aerospace, defense, and medical devices have other specific standards. The primary reason for these industry regulations and guidelines is to protect people and (in some cases) the environment from the consequences of system failures. To meet this mandate, CMs institute quality assurance programs to verify that boards meet the standards set forth by critical industry applications.

Quality Assurance vs. Quality Control Manufacturing

Executing a quality assurance program typically involves the specification of PCBA quality control options. Quality assurance and quality control are often used interchangeably, but though they are intricately related, the two differ by definition.

Definitions:

Quality assurance manufacturing is the term used to describe the implementation of a quality management system (QMS) put in place to ensure that manufactured boards meet established expectations or standards.

Quality control manufacturing refers to the actual modifiable processes or steps performed to achieve the level of quality desired.

A helpful perspective for differentiating between the two is that quality assurance manufacturing is a process and quality control manufacturing defines the procedures that implement the process.

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PCBA Inspection and Quality Control In Manufacturing

The most effective quality control implementation for PCBA development consists of three focus areas: components, data, and process. For components, it’s important to source them from reputable suppliers that can provide performance validation data. All data created and/or utilized throughout development should be accurate and traceable. Process QC includes the board build and other actions needed to measure or improve quality, such as PCBA testing, inspection, and rework.

Board build and PCBA quality control activity

PCBA assembly and post assembly quality control stages

As shown above, quality control consists of rigorous PCBA inspections and testing both during and after the board is built as well as the capability to perform any necessary rework to meet quality assurance criteria. For many testing regimens, design specifications are necessary. Manual inspection remains an important part of PCBA inspection; however, critical system precision demands the utilization of automated visual techniques such as automated optical inspection (AOI).

The Future of Quality Assurance in Manufacturing Circuit Boards

The ever-increasing demand for more functionality, expanded capabilities, and improved reliability will undoubtedly translate to higher quality expectations for electronic systems and the PCBAs that drive them. As components and boards continue to get smaller, inspection equipment will need to improve its precision. These and other catalysts are pointing to the increasing importance of automation, robotics, and software-driven quality assurance in manufacturing.

Tempo's Custom PCB Manufacturing Service
  • ISO-9001, IPC-600, and IPC-610 commitment to quality certifications.
  • Execute your full development cycle from proto to validation, NPI, and low volume production.
  • Accurate quote in less than a day.
  • Performs entire turnkey process in as fast as 4 days.
  • DFX support, including DFM, DFA, and DFT from Day 1 of design.
  • Sources components from the most reputable suppliers in the industry. to reduce procurement time.
  • Software-driven smart factory with monitoring and control throughout the manufacturing process.
  • Performs multiple automated inspections during PCB assembly to ensure PCB quality for prototyping.
  • Smooth transition from prototyping to production.

The future of PCBA quality assurance in manufacturing is already here at Tempo Automation. An emphasis on automation and the utilization of a software-driven digital thread process not only enable us to build boards faster than anyone else in the industry, but also ensure that we achieve the highest levels of quality as mandated by critical industry applications.

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 CAD files or how to incorporate your design into a CAD format, contact us.

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