Prototyping Options and Techniques for Low Volume PCB Assembly

Not all businesses order high volume PCB assembly. There are situations when circuit boards are needed in low volumes. Therefore, low volume PCB assembly is the right choice in this case. This assembly optimizes the integrity of PCB. Also, it is cost-effective.

Most times, OEMs require PCBAs in large quantities. However, you may need low volume PCB assembly for a limited edition product.

What is Low Volume PCB Assembly?

A low volume PCB assembly is a circuit board assembly in small quantities. Also, it refers to assembling a small quantity of PCB with DFM and DFT checking. Board design, component accumulation, and assembly are the basic procedures for PCB fabrication. Irrespective of the PCB assembly type, design for manufacturing and design for testing are very important.

Your application or preference determines the assembly of a PCB. Low volume PCB assembly compiles an insignificant PCB that entails both DFT and DFM checking. A low volume PCB assembly helps to prove the design for all PCB development.

Also, this assembly refers to mounting components on a small number of bare circuit boards. These components may range from a few to 250. A low-volume PCB assembly can enhance the efficiency of your board development. This assembly is also known as small batch PCB assembly.

Small batch PCB assembly is widely required in various applications. Also, this assembly isn’t limited to low volume PCB prototypes. Low volume assembly is also suitable for PCBs where there are various production processes.

Advantages of Low Volume PCB Assembly

This PCB assembly features several advantages.

Stringent examination

There is nothing as good as examining your board precisely. Low volume PCB assembly examines circuit boards properly. Through several tests, clients can get high quality boards. You can test components and identify if there is any need for replacement or repair.

Cost-effective

When lesser number of boards are together, this increases the trustworthiness of the PCBs. Low volume PCB service produces more boards after testing the efficiency of one. Cost is one of the considerations for PCB manufacturers and clients in low volume PCB assembly.

Small quantity assemblies

Low volume PCB assemblies are suitable for OEMs who are designing new products. Therefore, these small quantities help to identify issues that may impact their products. Also, low volume board assembly helps to test the efficacy of your product.

Opens to change

There is an opportunity to make changes on the PCB before you begin with mass production. If there is any defect, you can detect it early enough.

High yield rate

High yield rate helps to prevent any common PCB assembly defects. Also, it helps to identify potential problems in small volume PCB assembly. Low volume PCB assembly services can reduce manufacturing costs through DFM checks.

Types of Low Volume PCB Assembly Services

Design for manufacturing (DFM) service

DFM is an important aspect of low volume board assembly. These services check if there are any potential engineering concerns in your documents. Documents like diagrams, Gerber files, and BOMs are well examined. DFM services prevent any form of delay in the engineering process. Also, these services check out the components list before ordering them.

Also, this service recommends appropriate solder mask opening. This will help to prevent some soldering faults. Also, DFM service helps to reduce errors. In addition, this service keeps PCB fabrication costs to a minimum.

Design for testing (DFT) service

DFT is an important aspect of low volume PCB assembly service. Also, DFT is a concept that develops a consistent product for the lowest production cost. DFT is important at the beginning of your PCB design. Also, DFT is crucial for detecting component failures and manufacturing defects. DFT includes diagnostic pedagogy and functionality of checking regulations.

Also, DFT is ideal when designing for profitability. Therefore, it is important for all boards to go through design for testing. DFT identifies diagnostic instructions and problems.

High mix assembly

Low volume board assembly services focus on managing high-mix assembly operations. Therefore, this service integrates the new platforms and tools for manufacturing high mix assembly operations. Also, assemblers quickly modify low volume PCB assembly processes.  

Prototyping Options for Low Volume PCB Assembly

Prototyping is another crucial step in PCB assembly. After your PCB design, you need to prototype your board. Also, prototyping involves designing a dummy PCB to test its functionality. There are two major prototyping options for low volume PCB assembly.

Parallel prototyping

Parallel prototyping minimizes the number of manufacturing runs needed to perform on a PCB. Therefore, you will need to integrate several design changes on the low volume PCBs. Also, this prototyping helps to reduce the possibilities of manufacturing dashes. Parallel prototyping is ideal for analyzing several structures of DFA.

Sequential prototyping

This type of prototyping comprises a low volume of layout changes. To create a solid conformation, it is ideal to examine every adopted strategy. For this prototyping option, you will need to attach several components on the PCB. There are several steps in this prototyping.

Below are assembly configurations needed when using these parallel and sequential techniques:

  • Use several components on the circuit board. This is common in low volume PCB assembly.
  • Prototyping requires re-working or re-programming properties. Therefore, leaded soldering replaces lead-free solder to make the task easy.
  • Also, ensure the surface end is re-workable. Re-work is important during prototyping. Therefore, the surface finishing should be in line with the strategy. This will prevent you from facing problems while prototyping.

Verifications Tests for Low Volume PCB Assembly

Testing and inspection is an important aspect of the entire PCB assembly. They are crucial in detecting certain errors in PCBs. Therefore, it is important to ensure all details are in place. Below are the main tests performed on low volume PCBs.

In-circuit testing

In-circuit testing is ideal for evaluating the integrity of the low volume PCBA. Also, this test will check for the integrity of the electric connections within the circuit board. In-circuit testing integrates points or pins that pierce into the board. Also, this test evaluates each circuitry aspect and provides information when there are errors.

Automatic optical inspection

AOI helps to check for any errors throughout the assembly process. Also, it incorporates communication equipment and cameras to identify any error and communicate problems. AOI integrates 2D and 3D cameras to capture images of the PCB. After that, it compares these images with the PCB design schematics.  Also, AOI ensures greater accuracy.

Visual inspection

Visual inspection test helps to detect errors before and after the assembly process. Also, this involves using the human eyes and cameras to detect problems. Here, the assembler uses his bare eyes to detect solder defects. Also, it identifies other visible defects like missing components. However, this testing method is prone to error.

Functional testing

This is an ideal test for low volume PCB assembly. Also, functional testing helps to determine the performance of a PCB. It identifies errors that might impact the overall functioning of the board. This testing is usually performed in the last stage of assembly. Also, it serves as the final quality control process. Functional testing is often used for low volume PCBA.

Low Volume PCB Assembly Techniques

There are different technologies used for the small volume PCB assembly process. The technologies used for assembling circuit boards depend on the applications.

Surface mount technology

SMT is a widely used technology for assembling low volume printed circuit boards. Also, this mounting technology enhances the quality of a circuit board. It involves the use of an automated machine to mount components on a bare circuit board. Also, SMT reduces time and cost for low volume assembly.

Here, the assembler applies solder paste on bare boards using a solder paste printer. Also, a pick and place machine mounts components on bare boards. This mounting technology uses reflow soldering.

Through hole technology

THT is ideal for low volume PCB production. This technology mounts components on bare printed circuit boards manually. The through hole assembly process involves drilling of holes. Therefore, the THT components go through the holes in the printed circuit boards.

Through hole technology makes use of wave soldering or manual soldering. This soldering fixes leads to pads on the opposite side of the board.

Mixed technology

This technology involves the combination of SMT and THT. Mixed technology is suitable for low volume PCB production. It is commonly used in PCB fabrication. Boards fabricated with this technology contain both SMD and THT components.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you handle small batch PCB fabrication orders?

Yes, we handle small batch PCB fabrication orders. This is one of the services we offer our clients. Also, we offer quality PCBs.

Can you offer low volume PCB production with mixed technology?

Yes, we can provide low volume production with mixed technology for our customers. We offer several types of PCB using different assembly techniques.

Are there any rigorous testing procedures for low cost PCBs?

Yes, there are rigorous testing procedures for our low cost circuit boards.

Conclusion

We offer several additional programs and services to ensure high quality low volume assembly. Also, we have multiple assembly lines. Testing and inspection for all circuit boards is essential for us. Small batch PCB assembly helps to detect problems early. We are a reliable assembler with a vast customer base.