My next-door neighbor, who normally works from home, had a dentist appointment today. Since his wife was also at work, he was scrambling to find some child care. Should he pay for a babysitter, or take his children across town to their grandparents? Fortunately, I was able to help him out with a very simple solution when I offered to host his kids for the hour that he was out.
When trying to coordinate several things at once it can be easy to miss the better solution that is right in front of you, or in the case of my neighbor, just next door. The same thing applies during the design and building of an electronic device. Circuit boards have to be manufactured, wire harnesses and cables have to be built, and finally, all of these different sub-assemblies have to be built together into one complete system. Design groups often get overwhelmed trying to juggle all of these pieces without realizing that there is a better way.
Fortunately, there are local PCB contract manufacturers that are set up to build these systems in a process known as “box builds.” This can relieve a lot of coordination duties from the design group as well as offering many other benefits. Let’s take a closer look here at how box build manufacturing by your PCB CM can be that better solution that you have been looking for.
Reducing the Vendor Count Reduces the Chance for Error
Usually, the manufacturing of a complete electronics system is contracted out to multiple vendors. Here is a sampling of some of the sub-assemblies that are required to build a complete system:
- Printed circuit boards
- Cable assemblies
- Wire harnesses
- Control panels
- Power supplies
Once all of these sub-assemblies are completed they will then be ready for the final assembly of the system. If the original design team isn’t set up for this, yet another vendor will be called in to complete the job.
The problem with using all of these different vendors is that this work has to be all managed by the original design group. It is up to them to ensure that the circuit board that is built will fit in the system enclosure and that all of the interconnecting wires and cables will work together with the other system components. Any errors in documentation can set the entire project back both in time and expense. This requires extreme diligence in document creation as well as managerial coordination between vendors, which not all design groups are equipped to do.
The advantage of using the PCB contract manufacturer for the box build is that they are already equipped to handle this level of project management and documentation support. Not only are they used to working with multiple outside resources for parts and materials acquisition, but they also have the engineering and manufacturing staff to handle the mechanical design and build as well. This gives them another advantage over using multiple vendors, which is that all aspects of the box build will be controlled in one location.
It’s All About Form, Fit, and Function
When it comes time to assemble the final product, it is critical that all the parts fit and work together correctly:
- Form:The different system components all have to be designed to work together. Putting a connector on the PCB for the wire harness doesn’t do any good if the connector can’t be reached once the other system components are in place. All of these features have to be planned out with the final completed product in mind, which is difficult to do if the individual sub-assemblies are farmed out to different vendors.
- Fit: All of the different system pieces have to fit together. Mounting holes have to match up, and the printed circuit board has to fit within its enclosure. Any dimensional mistakes on the manufacturing documentation can result in a bad part being created. With all of the system components being built by multiple vendors, the entire project may end up going on hold while the error is found and corrected sub-assemblies are re-built.
- Function: One of the most frustrating things that can happen with multiple vendors involved is to find out that the part connectivity is incorrect. Take connectors for example. You may be able to plug the connector in, and the wire harness may fit in the box correctly, but if one of the plugs is pinned out opposite from the mating connector, it isn’t going to work. Errors like this are common when you aren’t able to compare the two sub-assemblies to each other during their design and manufacturing.
The best way to avoid these problems is to bring the entire box build under one roof. Each sub-assembly is designed, built, and compared to the other sub-assemblies for form, fit, and function. Dimensional and connectivity errors in the documentation are found before time and materials are wasted during manufacturing, and each piece can be custom tested to the entire system as it is being built. This makes the local PCB contract manufacturer that you are working with to build your printed circuit boards an ideal candidate for the entire box build.
Partnering with a Manufacturer Who Knows Your Box Build Manufacturing Requirements
At VSE we have been partnering with electronics innovators like you for over 30 years. We have a very skilled and experienced team of mechanical engineers that have worked on many different system designs for our customers during our tenure. Not only will our manufacturing experts build your PCBAs, wire harnesses, cable assemblies, and box builds, but we will manufacture them together so that your final product works the way you designed it to.