What is Virtual PCBA Contract Manufacturing, And Why is it Necessary?

June 30, 2020 , in Blog

The formula for success in the film industry seems to be to develop a story around a virtual world and then make serials. This was certainly true for one of the most well-known trilogies, The Matrix, which has grossed north of 1.5 Billion dollars worldwide and is still attracting new fans as it is shown regularly. One of the most captivating aspects of the story is the creation of an alternative or virtual reality that was indiscernible by most people. As far as they were concerned, it was just as good as the real thing.

Computer-generated virtual reality

Virtual reality represented in computer code

Building circuit boards is a real undertaking and the result is a physical, tangible PCBA. Under most conditions, the process by which your boards are made is also physically accessible for the developer. Yet, there are other times when physically viewing operations and equipment is not possible. The lack of presence of this key factor in the forging of a symbiotic developer-contract manufacturer (CM) relationship can have a negative impact on the board development process due to ineffective communication, lack of knowledge and understanding of the design intent and the manufacturing process steps. Yet, this outcome can be avoided by utilizing virtual PCBA contract manufacturing, which is described below.

What is Virtual PCBA Contract Manufacturing?

Developer visiting PCB assembly plant.

PCBA CM-Developer relationship building

Technical conferences, trade shows, and in-person visits to a CM’s facility can be invaluable as they provide the opportunity to meet and formulate a relationship with a potential CM for your PCBA development. And not many things are as reassuring as being able to see your CM’s facilities and operation in motion, as shown below.

CM manufacturing operations

PCBA manufacturing process in action

Unfortunately, making these personal contacts is not always possible, and unforeseen or uncontrollable events can threaten to suspend or prematurely end projects that must be completed. In these circumstances, you need to be able to rely on a CM that can provide circuit board manufacturing-on-demand (MOD) and replace physical interaction with an equally if not more effective virtual contract manufacturing process, as defined below.

Virtual PCBA contract manufacturing may be defined as the ability to carry on PCB development when physical access is limited or not possible and all data, information and design changes, communication and interactions, etc., must be done reliably and securely in cyberspace without any degradation in the process of building the circuit boards or their quality.

In order to provide an effective virtual PCBA contract manufacturing service, your CM must be equipped with certain capabilities beyond what is typically necessary when in-person interaction is an option. These include the following:

Virtual PCBA Contract Manufacturing Requirements

  • Open, free-flowing data and communication

Access to data during development and the ability to submit new data that impacts the building of your boards should be open throughout development. This allows the developer to quickly and easily communicate changes, when necessary.

  • Transparent view of board development status

The developer should be able to track their board build order at all times to accurately plan and schedule workflow on the project in-house and/or accurately estimate delivery for customers.

  • Secure communications protocol

As PCBA development often involves proprietary information, which if breached could compromise the developer’s project, communications and data exchanges must be secure.

Now, let’s see how this process, if available from your CM, can make your operations more robust and stable.

Why Is a Virtual Manufacturing Process Necessary?

Having a virtual PCBA contract manufacturing process means that your operations are effectively impervious to roadblocks that could otherwise severely limit your ability to meet the needs of your clients. Although, this is a highly desirable capability in itself that would be great to have for all projects, there are times and applications for which it is essential that you do, as listed below.

  • When supplying a critical board or electronics product

Although there has been a recent push toward using COTS components, subassemblies, and PCBAs, customized designs are still required for many critical industries; such as aerospace, automotive, and medical devices. And in many cases, the production of the circuit boards and electronics cannot be interrupted without substantial negative impact and heavy cost consequences.

  • When the delivery schedule is inflexible

For large, integrated systems, many OEMs may be involved in supplying all of the elements needed for system assembly. If one of these essential parts is not available, the fallout spreads out and affects many suppliers, effectively multiplying the impact to unacceptable levels.

  • When the design is exceptionally complex

The increased use of the more modern SMT technology and board miniaturization have resulted in more complex PCBA designs, which some CMs find challenging to manufacture. Moreover, there are exceptionally complex designs that may require a great deal of interaction between developer and CM, which are impractical or impossible to do in-person, to address manufacturing nuances and/or design modifications to arrive at the best board design for production.

As illustrated, a virtual process is critical to ensure that essential electronics production continues irrespective of any threat. However, it requires that your CM’s process does include the most important PCBA manufacturing capabilities, which include open, transparent, and secure communications and remote access to design data and status, as well as a secure, reliable supply chain.

In order to best serve your customers with high-quality products with on-time delivery of PCBAs and electronics, you need to be able to rely on your CM’s capabilities and process to provide on-demand manufacturing irrespective of whether you are able to physically interact with them or not.

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.

At Tempo Automation’s smart factory in San Francisco, we build high-quality, mechanically well-constructed boards faster than anyone in the 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 virtual PCBA contract manufacturing, our custom order tracker or fabrication simulation prior to board build, contact us.

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