Result of a small batch PCB assembly

The Keys to Small Batch PCB Assembly

Perhaps the most renowned artisan in human history is Leonardo da Vinci, whose interests and talents spanned many fields, including architecture, aeronautics and other sciences. As an artisan, he excelled at drawing and crafting things by hand. Before the industrial revolution, when everything was hand-made, skilled artisans were in high demand. Of course, this also meant that everything was noticeably unique—a characteristic that may be great for collectors but not so much for manufacturing.

Building circuit boards, while highly imaginative in its own right, is also a manufacturing operation where consistency and repeatability are essential qualities, even for small-batch PCB assembly.

What Is the Difference Between Large and Small Batch PCB Assembly?

Today, new electronics products are designed and built constantly. And PCB assembly is an integral process during prototyping and production. PCBA production, which follows prototyping, can be separated into two types. The first type is large batch or high volume production, where hundreds or thousands of boards are produced. The objective is to ensure the highest yield rate at the lowest manufacturing cost. The second type of PCBA production is small batch or low-volume production, and its benefits are described below.

Small Batch PCB Assembly Attributes

  • May be high mix, low volume (HMLV)
    HMLV refers to building a wide range of board designs at low volume. The likelihood that your design will be built by a CM in this environment increases tremendously for small-batch orders.
  • Higher performance classification
    Small batch PCB assembly orders are more likely to target critical applications such as medical devices, aerospace or automotive systems, which typically must meet IPC classification 2 or 3.
  • Complex designs
    Often, these designs are highly complex and may require special manufacturing considerations and/or processing.
  • Must meet higher quality and reliability standards
    Boards for critical system applications require higher quality than for other electronics systems. Therefore, a high level of quality and reliability is required since these boards are irreplaceable, and failure can lead to catastrophic results.

As the list above illustrates, small-batch PCB assemblies typically apply to specialized applications with higher manufacturing standards. Therefore, you must be deliberate in your choice of a CM for PCB assembly services.

How to Ensure the Best Small Batch Board Builds

Although the process for building circuit boards is essentially the same, there can be significant variance between CMs. For example, many CMs may rely on skilled technicians for various stages of the process. While experienced professionals do create good work, all technicians do not have the same level of expertise. Sometimes relying on just a few individuals can backfire.

Today, the leading CMs are making their PCBA manufacturing operations smarter. This is accomplished by leveraging automation and robotics to make sure that board assemblies are repeatable and meet the quality level required for the design. Additionally, software control can eliminate human error and provide monitoring and traceability capabilities often required to meet quality management system standards (e.g., AS9100 for aerospace systems). By following the guidelines listed below, you can ensure your CM’s small-batch PCB assembly process meets or exceeds your design requirements.

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Guidelines to Optimize Your Small Batch PCBA Process

  • Choose a CM that is committed to high-quality.
  • Ensure your CM is experienced in building boards to meet the highest IPC classification standards. 
  • Choose a CM that is experienced at HMLV manufacturing.
  • Choose a CM that leverages software and robotics to ensure repeatable high-quality results.
  • Make sure your CM’s process is documented and traceable.  
Tempo’s Software-Driven Smart Factory Delivers the Industry’s Leading Custom Turnkey PCBA Manufacturing Services
  • Virtual PCBA Contract manufacturing.
  • Rapid, accurate quotes.
  • DFM support from Day 1 of design.
  • Digital Thread Processing with real-time monitoring.
  • Fastest turnaround times in the industry to maximize ROI.
  • QC certified Agile Manufacturing process to support risk management.
  • Standard and Advanced QC testing.
  • Worry-free supply chain continuity.
  • Specialization in rapid prototyping and low-volume production.
  • PCBA development optimization for complex critical system industries like Aerospace, Medical Devices, Automotive, and Industrial.

Tempo Automation leads the industry in building high-quality PCBAs fast. This is accomplished by leveraging the speed and reliability of software-driven equipment and robotics at our smart-factory in Silicon Valley. Critical industry leaders rely on us to build boards that meet the highest standards for quality and reliability. And we will do the same for your design.

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 small batch PCB assembly, contact us.

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