Circuit boards usually have the production process ranging from the development of the design, the fabrication of the bare board and the assembly or placement of the components on the board. It is only after these three have been completed that the board can be tested and shipped if there are no defects.
Using an Electronics Manufacturing Service (EMS) could be a faster way to make your Printed Circuit Board Assembly (PCBA). But what is the extent the company would be willing to go? Does the manufacturer even support PCBA? Find out in this article.
What is EMS?
The full name is Electronics Manufacturing Service. It stands for the offering of a suite of full-scale electronics production service, including aftersales services. It is common for manufacturers in this category to also offer Printed Circuit Board Assembly (PCBA) and a variety of other value-added services.
What is PCBA?
It stands for Printed Circuit Board Assembly. It refers to the completion of a bare board (the PCB), via the placement of the components/parts, as well as the optimization of these parts to make the circuit board function as required.
Without the PCBA, it is quite impossible for the components to be placed or mounted. When this happens, there is no way the board can function optimally, because it is still “bare”, i.e., lacking the necessary components.
EMS & PCBA Service: What You Need to Know
One recurring question is whether the “EMS company also offers PCBA services.” The answer is yes – most of the Electronics Manufacturing Service (EMS) providers also offer circuit board assemblies.
Here is a list of the services to expect from the company:
The company, in this case, only helps you to source for the components or parts needed to assemble the PCB.
Although parts are sourced here, the extent of the coverage is broader. An EMS company that offers turnkey services tends to handle the following:
- Parts procurement
- Supply chain management
- Circuit board assembly and;
- PCB testing
In this case, all the Electronics Manufacturing Service (EMS) provider does is to assemble or place the needed components atop the circuit board.
Depending on the specifications, the company could also make prototypes of the board and clean the same.
The EMS company can solely focus on offering a wide range of automated testing capabilities for both cable assemblies and Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs).
EMS companies mostly work with the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) in a Business-to-Business (B2B) model.
Thus, the company is able to take-on a range of medium and large contracts for the manufacturing, assembling, testing and distributing of Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs), in particular and electronics, in general.
The EMS PCBA Process Technology
Here is a breakdown of how each of them works:
Surface Mount Technology
This has become a popular choice for PCBA and for valid reasons. One of the reasons being the flexibility that allows for the connection of more densities. Another unique attribute is the automated process, which, when combined with the flexibility, allows for the placement of complex circuitries into small components.
The THT process technology can also be used for PCBA, but it is not as versatile as the SMT process is. It works by drilling holes in the direction through which the electronic components/parts are to be attached to the circuit board.
A significant advantage of the THT over the SMT is the stronger connection it creates between the components and the PCB. This way, a reliable and more durable PCBA can be derived.
Differences between Surface Mount and Through-Hole Technologies for PCBA
While both process technologies have significant upsides, they also have some attributes making them different. These are some of the differences:
- Surface Mount Technology (SMT) requires mounting or placing the electronic components on the PCB’s surface, while the components are to be placed in the drilled holes, in the form of leads via the Through-Hole Technology (THT).
- While the SMT process is fully-automated, one may be able to use semi-automation or full-scale automation, when using the THT process technology.
- You can facilitate the Printed Circuit Board Assembly (PCBA) with SMT than THT, because the former often relies on state-of-the-art, automated machinery, unlike the latter that often requires manual inputs.
The Advantages of Using EMS PCBA
You are in for a great deal of savings if you are combining Electronics Manufacturing Service (EMS) with Printed Circuit Board Assembly (PCBA).
These reasons confirm that to be true:
Fast Turnaround Time
Due to the state-of-the-art machinery and the manufacturer’s expertise, you can expect your EMS PCBA service provider to process your order in the shortest time possible.
Note: although faster deliveries are expected, there might be some delays. Depending on the complexity of the assembly and the number of boards to be assembled, you can expect a little delay. You can check with your EMS PCBA company to be sure of the exact delivery timeframe.
Supply Chain Management
Taking a care for ensuring the timely delivery of the assembled boards is one benefit to using an EMS PCBA service.
At Hillman Curtis, we want to help you break through the bottlenecks that come with supplying the PCBAs. Hence, we source the components for you, use the same to assemble the boards and have them shipped to you in good time.
Increased Board Performance
Considering that the EMS PCBA company has just one job (to mount the components), you can expect better precision. Our capabilities at Hillman Curtis help us transition from prototyping to assembly and then into full-size PCB production.
You can also rely on our precision, excellent machinery and experienced designers to manage your circuits effectively.
EMS PCBA 101: How to Choose the EMS Company
Now that you are convinced of the role the EMS provider plays towards your PCBA, how about looking at some factors to consider before picking one of them?
Do you want just the circuit boards to be produced or have the components upon them? Or, are you looking for a place to manage all the solutions?
If the latter is the case, choosing an EMS company that offers anything from PCBA, prototyping, final production and testing is a good idea. This way, you can be confident of managing all your needs under one roof – component sourcing, circuit board assembly and shipping.
The PCBA Capabilities
The capabilities of the EMS provider are directly proportional to the classes or categories of the Printed Circuit Board Assembly (PCBA).
These classes or categorizations underscore the different specifications and requirements expected of the boards.
The three (3) major classes are thus:
PCBAs under this category are made with inexpensive components, are considered “disposable,” and can mostly be used for non-critical electronics.
This is a step-up to the Class 1 PCBAs. Here, we are looking at the assembled boards that use expensive materials/components, are meant for robust applications and are subjected to testing before PCBA components’ installation.
In addition to be subjected to a variety of individual testing, the Class 3 PCBAs must also pass the specified UL Tests. They must also maintain the highest qualities, as ideal for use with the mission-critical applications in the defense, medical and aerospace industries.
The number of Printed Circuit Board Assembly (PCBA) you are ordering for can help you sift through the EMS PCBA providers.
There are certain factors that come to play here and these include:
- Low-to-Medium Orders: if you are looking for a few hundred or a thousand of PCBAs, you can expect to find them in your home country. Most EMS PCBA companies in China, including Hillman Curtis can take your orders and fulfill them in good time.
- Large-Volume Orders: it has become common practice to seek the services or EMS PCBA companies overseas to help fulfill larger volumes of orders, typically inching close to 5,000. Nevertheless, we at Hillman Curtis are capable to taking larger orders and through the combined efforts of our state-of-the-art machinery and experienced staff, we deliver in good time.
The Extent of the EMS PCBA Service
Some manufacturers focus on assembling the boards with the components provided. We help further by going to the market for you to source the components needed. This does not only save you time, but also guarantees our getting the best components and at affordable prices.
Our EMS PCBA Services
Hillman Curtis takes a pride in delivering exceptional PCBA service to the customers. We have in the last couple of years, helped our clients source the components, break through the supply chain barriers, while offering competitive costs.
By choosing us as your preferred EMS PCBA manufacturer, you can be sure of getting faster turnaround time, decreased costs and circuit board testing. We also have the capabilities to optimize the boards for a wide range of applications, including industrial, consumer and telecommunication electronics.