I’m a car guy. I’ve replaced brakes, tuned engines, rebuilt carburetors, and even pulled a transmission once and rebuilt the clutch. I am just as fascinated by the old cars we ran around in as teenagers as the latest automotive innovations being developed today. But these new automotive developments require a whole new set of tools and skills to work with than ever before. The days of tuning your car with a timing light and a dwell meter are being replaced with advanced electronics based on intricate printed circuit board designs.
As automotive companies develop new technology to enhance vehicle safety, performance, and navigation, there is a greater need for the skills of prototype contract manufactures to build their PCBs for them. These CMs need to have specific capabilities as well as experience in the automotive industry to do the job that automotive innovators require. Fortunately, there are CMs that have these attributes, you just need to know who to look for. Here are some attributes that you should keep in mind as you choose an automotive prototype manufacturer to build your PCBs.
Capabilities You Need in Your Automotive Prototype Manufacturer
One thing is certain about the automotive business—it is very fast paced. This isn’t surprising when you consider that historically, the automotive industry has been competitive based on who can win the next great race. And while it might be tempting to think that the more modern requirements of fuel economy, comfort, and safety are removed from this type of competition, the exact opposite is true instead.
Automotive technology innovators are always looking for the edge that will keep at the front of the pack. That means they need specific capabilities from their contract manufacturers:
- Well-defined manufacturing processes: It is essential that the contract manufacturer you choose already has a well-defined assembly process in place. This will help to streamline the assembly of your printed circuit boards, resulting in quality products being produced in the least amount of time.
- Modern facilities: You just can’t build the latest technology in circuit boards if you don’t have up-to-date facilities and equipment. It is important to choose a CM that has the equipment necessary to reliably build the level of technology that you need.
- Engineering capabilities: Not only does the presence of a skilled engineering staff show the commitment to quality and excellence that a CM has, but they can provide an invaluable service to you as well. The engineering staff at a contract manufacturer will verify your board for manufacturability, and make recommendations to correct design errors that could slow down or delay assembly.
- Component vendor partnerships: One of the most overlooked yet critical aspects of PCB manufacturing is the supply chain. Without good relationships with component vendors, your circuit board builds could be delayed or significantly more expensive than what they should be. You need to use a CM that has long-standing and solid relationships with these part suppliers to ensure that you get the best price and delivery schedule for your printed circuit boards.
Partnering with a contract manufacturer that has attributes like these will better position you to lead the technology development race. Yet, there is another key attribute to look for in an automotive prototype manufacturer that will yield many benefits for you.
It’s All About Location, Location, Location
No, we didn’t suddenly switch topics to real estate. The location of the contract manufacturer that you choose actually has an enormous influence on how successful you are in the design and manufacturing of your PCBAs.
As we have already mentioned, the race to develop automotive technology in prototype circuit boards is very tight and speed is extremely important. In some cases, getting a 48-hour turnaround can be the determining factor in getting a prototype built and delivered or failing to meet your objective.
The key to success in this race is quick and easy access to your CM. When you are trying to get a quality board built in minimal time, you don’t want to spend great portions of that time trying to communicate with manufacturing personnel located halfway around the world. Additionally, you don’t want to spend even more time waiting for your finished PCBAs to be shipped to you.
The best solution is to choose a CM that is positioned closer to where you and your design staff are located. This will allow more time for your design team and the production engineers at the CM to work together to resolve any problems prior to the manufacturing of your circuit boards. It will also reduce or eliminate the time it takes to ship the finished product to your staff for the continuation of your development process.
Another big advantage is that, with a local CM, you can partner with them right away from the very beginning of the design. This will allow your staff to design the board with rapid prototyping techniques in mind according to the recommendations of the design and manufacturing engineers of the CM.
The Value Your CM Brings to Your Automotive PCB Prototypes
Remember, you want to look for a contract manufacturer that will be an asset rather than a liability. You need to get your circuit boards built quickly and with the highest level of quality, and that takes a CM that has experience building the technology that you are looking for. With the proper choice of a CM to partner with, you can trust them to do the job that you are paying them for, which will free you up to focus on the design and development of your product.