You know your rabbit’s foot is working when you walk past the bakery and notice a table of free samples. Resistance is futile. Providing samples has long been an effective way to introduce new offerings to potential customers. Not only does it alert people to the new item, but it also provides valuable feedback on the item’s reception by the larger market.
Often, sample components and circuit boards introduce novel and innovative electronics technology to OEMs, other companies and target industries. Engaging potential clients and analyzing their responses can provide critical insights for PCBA prototyping—especially for application or industry targeted boards. Let’s take a look at the reasons why sample boards are so important and how to best develop them.
Why Are PCB Sample Boards Important?
There is no shortage of terms that describe circuit boards. Many of these classify different types of PCBAs based on physical structure, attachment styles or the primary board function. Some completely assembled PCBs, known as sample boards, are grouped according to how they are used in the product development and introduction process, as listed below.
How PCB Sample Boards are Used
Most electronic circuit boards go through an iterative Design⇨Build⇨Test (DBT) process, where quality is proportional to cycle speed. This iterative process can facilitate a future transition to high-volume production. For some critical industry applications—as well as PCB sample board development—the objective is low-volume production.
PCB sample boards can be defined as completely fabricated and assembled PCBs that are built to demonstrate a board’s functionality and potential application(s). Typically, these PCBAs are evaluation or development boards and are often intended to introduce a new component or board application within a larger system.
Since sample boards allow customer engineers to demonstrate a new component’s functionality with no EE design overhead, they can effectively lower the barriers to new production introduction (NPI).
Sample Boards are Essential for NPI
PCBA development for NPI is a cornerstone of electronics technology innovation. Unfortunately, this process is not linear. Many iterations are required to refine a design into a final product. Additionally, the board has to prove its effectiveness for the intended application(s). Sample boards can be used at this critical stage to convince potential OEMs and others of the new product’s merit. The adoption of the board or the component under evaluation depends on the board’s quality and its ability to reliably perform its intended function(s).
How to Efficiently Develop Sample Boards
The motivation for introducing a new component or PCBA is to improve the performance or usefulness of an existing system or to support a new system’s development. And the developer’s ability to cover design and development costs and maximize ROI is contingent on the success of the PCB sample board; the board must exhibit the intended functionality and performance. To achieve these objectives, a high-quality board manufacturing process is critical. Therefore, sample board development should be based on the following keys for success.
Keys to Optimizing Your PCB Sample Board Development
- Design for the board’s intended usage
In order to iterate and ensure the highest quality board design, some design choices remain modifiable during the assembly of prototypes and sample boards. Likewise, teams can target their design and board build for function evaluation and cost management.
- Choose a CM that specializes in prototyping
When developing sample boards, customers are uncertain if the design will result in an adopted product. For this reason, you should work with a turnkey PCB manufacturer that specializes in building prototypes. Doing so will not only allow you to refine your design but also enable the manufacture of small numbers of boards—neither of which is typically possible with a high-volume production manufacturer.
- Work with your CM to achieve Right First Time manufacturing
Maximizing the yield rate by applying Right First Time (RFT) manufacturing principles should also be a priority. Doing so makes 100-percent yield achievable for low volume production, provided design selections are guided by your CM’s DFM, DFA and PCB tolerances.
PCB sample boards are one of the most effective tools to introduce new electronics components and boards. However, if your board is not optimized for its intended evaluation purposes, it may be difficult to achieve a reasonable ROI or even recoup development costs.
|Tempo‘s Custom Demo and Evaluation Board PCBA Manufacturing Service
At Tempo Automation, we specialize in building high-quality prototypes, and our turnaround time leads the industry. Working with us you can rest assured that your design intent is fully incorporated to help you demonstrate the viability of your sample boards.
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.