After raising my children, I can confidently say that they grow up quicker than you expect. At times you’ll buy them one article of clothing only to discover it doesn’t fit the following week. And very quickly, their cute love of puppies turns into a desperate need for the latest video games. Parents must promptly learn to anticipate the growing needs of their children and plan accordingly.
A printed circuit board does not grow as a child does, but its manufacturing requirements change during the board’s life-cycle. Boards planned for long-term production will increase from their initial low-volume prototyping manufacturing requirements to high-volume builds. PCB designers need to prepare for this growth and work with an assembly vendor with scalable PCB manufacturing services. Here are some more details on what that means.
The Importance of Manufacturing a PCB Prototype Quickly and Correctly
The PCB life-cycle starts with prototyping and new product introduction (NPI), followed by full-scale production until the circuit board reaches the end of its service. For this manufacturing life-cycle to be successful, the board must be skillfully transitioned from prototype to production. A smooth transition includes ensuring that the board is designed correctly for manufacturability and that good long-term component choices have been made. To be prepared, it’s essential to work with a PCB contract manufacturer experienced with building PCB prototypes. Not only will they build the prototype quickly and correctly, but they will help you with the design aspects of your circuit board for long-term production.
A PCB CM that understands the prototyping process will help you finalize the design for NPI. They will review the design for its manufacturability and make recommendations on part placements and locations to better serve PCB assembly and test needs. They may also suggest sockets and other design changes, enhancing the prototype board’s testing and debugging to get it ready for production.
Another service that a good PCB prototype CM will do is prepare your circuit board fabrication and assembly documentation for long-term production. There is much that the CM will do, but it is still dependent on starting with a design that is complete and ready to build.
PCB designers need to understand that the more proof of concept has been developed in the initial design, the quicker the prototyping process can complete. Design concept changes can have a considerable impact on the circuit board if they require alterations to the circuitry after the board is prototyped. These changes could require different parts, adjustments to the board’s size, shape, layer configuration, and re-designing the component placement and trace routing. The design should have already gone through circuitry testing on a breadboard and simulation in CAD tools before submitting a prototype build to avoid setbacks.
Once the design is ready for a prototype, the NPI process can begin. But to completely transition over to full-scale production requires more work, especially in selecting components to use on the board.
BOM Control is Essential for Scalable PCB Manufacturing Services
While a wide variety of components can be used on a prototype board, these parts are not necessarily the best long-term production choices. Many component issues can impact PCB manufacturing long-term, and a good PCB contract manufacturer will work together with you during NPI to resolve potential problems. Here are some of the issues that they will be looking for as they examine your design’s bill of materials:
|Price||PCB components will vary in price, and to keep production costs down, you will want the best prices possible. A PCB CM’s component procurement team will identify the best prices and sometimes make recommendations to change parts or circuitry to lower your costs further.|
|Availability||Parts that are readily available for a quick prototype board may not be as plentiful for the full production run. Again, the CM’s procurement team will identify those parts with long lead times and find the best part solutions for you.|
|Life-cycle||Designers will often use parts in their circuit boards that they are familiar with or have CAD models for, but those parts may no longer be available. Parts are routinely updated or replaced by their manufacturers, and the CM will review your parts list for components that aren’t recommended for new designs (NRND), obsolete (OBS), or at their end of life (EOL). These parts will be marked with recommendations for replacement upon your approval.|
|Counterfeits||Unfortunately, some part suppliers will refurbish old or used parts and sell them as new or with inaccurate functionality. At your local PCB CM, the procurement team is trained to spot suspicious components and weed out the vendors that supply them. They will closely review your design for parts that could potentially be counterfeit, ensuring the board is built with only the highest quality components.|
The Key to Transitioning Your Circuit Board Design from Low to High Volume Production
As we have seen, the local PCB contract manufacturer with prototyping and NPI experience is essential in transitioning your PCB design from prototype to full-scale production. They will help you with the following:
|Engineering||The PCB contract manufacturer’s engineering team will identify DFM and other issues with your design to enhance the prototype build and assist in the long-term transition to full production.|
|Procurement||The CMs component engineers and buyers will help you to make sound part choices based on price, availability, and life-cycle, or recommend circuitry changes as required.|
|Manufacturing||The manufacturing team will guide your design through prototype assembly and test, ensuring the board is built to the highest levels of quality in preparation for long-term production.|
|Professional partners||With the CM’s network of PCB fabricators, component vendors, and manufacturing subcontractors, your project will have everything it needs for a successful new product introduction.|
At VSE, we’ve been providing prototyping and NPI services to our customers for over 30 years. Our goal is to ensure that your circuit board is built at the highest quality level and prepared to scale from low volume to high-volume production seamlessly.