What to Look for in Your CM’s PCB Manufacturing Equipment List

November 24, 2020 , in Blog

The process of creating an electronic circuit board has evolved astronomically from Albert Hanson’s invention well over a century ago. Today, the generation of PCBAs is a multistage process that involves several professionals at different locations coordinating and collaborating on design and manufacture.  The proving ground for the board’s construction includes the developer or designer’s organization, at least one component vendor, a fabrication house and the assembly company. PCB assembly includes more than just securely mounting the components. The best assembly—such as in the flying probe machine—will include detailed QC, packaging and testing equipment.

The best board results are obtained when the principals and their operations are integrated and digitally interconnected as is done with digital thread manufacturing, enabling software-based and optimized PCBA development that maximizes board quality and reliability. To institute this process there are capabilities and functionality that an assembly CM’s PCB manufacturing equipment list should exhibit, as discussed in this article.

PCBA pick and place machine

PCB Manufacturing Equipment List Essentials for Optimized Assembly 

The assembly of PCBs or PCBAs requires specialized equipment to guarantee that the boards produced reflect the design intent and satisfy manufacturing standard classifications based on the board’s intended application. For the most advanced PCBAs, additional equipment and capabilities are necessary to ensure the boards meet higher quality and reliability objectives. This is especially true for those mandated for aerospace, medical devices, automotive and some industrial applications. The equipment that your CM should possess to meet the highest standards for PCBA can be broadly classified for either component mounting, QC, testing or packaging. The required functionality for those equipment types is listed below.

Component Mounting Equipment


  • SMT soldering

Without a doubt, the trend for the design and manufacturing of PCBAs is toward smaller, more complex units. Precision surface mount technology (SMT) soldering capability is critical and to achieve optimal surface mount device (SMD) mounting the designer must follow good design guidelines for SMD components.

  • THT soldering

Although not as prevalent as it once was, through-hole technology (THT) is still implemented often, which means that your CM capably performs wave soldering or a similar process that allows for taking advantage of connections that can withstand higher temperatures than SMD soldering.

QC Equipment


  • Visual inspection

The manual inspection will always be a QC necessity. A trained eye to spot errors is practically irreplaceable.

  • Automation Optical inspection

Although the manual inspection is essential, it doesn’t compare with the high-fidelity imagery and 3D viewing capabilities of an automated optical inspection (AOI) machine for in-process evaluation viewable at a graphical display terminal.

  • X-ray inspection

For optimal inspection of the board’s internal connections, x-ray inspection is a requirement. This capability allows your CM to verify the quality of vias and interlayer traces.

Testing Equipment


  • Functionality

Most QC inspection, evaluation and testing are performed at least in part to check solder joint quality. Additional functional testing equipment can be utilized to check your boards during manufacturing. This includes in-circuit tests (ICTs)—such as the flying probe—which can be coupled with DFT during design to check voltages, currents and other circuit parameters.

Packaging Equipment


  • Depanelization

An often overlooked aspect of the PCBA process is depanelization, where board panels are separated into individual boards. Failing to consider panelization during design can lead to layout changes to accommodate scoring or routing to separate your boards.

  • Cleaning and Protection

The assembly process creates debris that if left on the board could affect the operation and/or lead to early failure once installed. The best assembly processes include board cleaning. A board may be contaminated once installed. If this is likely, for example, in harsh environments like industrial facilities, conformal coating should be used. To avoid similar results, insist on storage.

  • Storage

The final step of the process for an assembly CM is preparing boards for shipping and storage. Another aspect of the board manufacturing process that is prone to oversight, there are several storage guidelines to know to adequately inform your CM if special packaging is required.

With a PCB manufacturing equipment list that includes machines able to perform the processes listed above, your CM is capable to provide you with the best board assembly service available, provided the manufacturing process includes efficient and effective software-based monitoring and control.

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, the industry leader for fast, turnkey PCBA manufacturing, employs a smart digital thread process, which includes mostly automated board assembly for building boards fast and to the highest quality. This is accomplished by utilizing the best equipment, including flying probe testing equipment to ensure your boards meet your structural requirements.

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 what your CM’s PCB manufacturing list should include, contact us.

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