Electronic Manufacturing Services for PCBAs

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After simulations have run and an initial electronic designer prepares for translation to a physical printed circuit board assembly, several manufacturing processes can be overwhelming for design teams with little to no experience. Engaging with a contract manufacturer (CM) can alleviate any worries related to electronics manufacturing. A CM like VSE can process all electronic manufacturing services design teams may or may not need to see their files and documents transform into a physical device.

Electronic Manufacturing Services: Questions to Ask

Questions Reason
Do I need high-speed/specialty materials for the stackup? High-speed boards encounter more signal loss during transmission as frequency increases; specialty materials like PTFE are more suitable.
What class does the board require? For safety purposes, specific high-risk industries like medical and aerospace require higher manufacturer quality (and, therefore, reduced yield/higher costs).
Does my design need a quicker turnaround? Most manufacturers can offer faster PCBA turnaround times at a premium, depending on current shop production capacity.
What is the end goal of my production? Do I need a board for testing purposes or a user-ready product? Relaxing particular manufacturing and component tolerances for an evaluation-only board is possible, which reduces costs.
What are my enclosure needs? A board may only require simple environmental protection, while more robust boards may require passive and active cooling solutions, chassis grounding, vibration damping, shock absorption, etc.

PCBAs Are Continuous Design Refinements

Electronic manufacturing services focus on all processes that bridge the gap from an electronic design to a realized electronic device. It’s necessary first to understand the stages of electronic development that occur during design refinement:

Proof of Concept

At this point, the product may be little more than rough functionality exhibited by breadboard connections, single-board computers, and other electronic lab standbys where performance is less of a concern. It’s rare for a proof of concept to utilize electronic manufacturing services beyond acting as a springboard for design documents.


Compared to the proof of concept, the prototype places a much larger emphasis on manufacturability. However, prototype manufacturing usually occurs in small lot sizes (e.g., a run of ten boards), so issues like manual component installation are smaller concerns than for higher-volume productions.

Mass Production

Production lot sizes can vary from hundreds to millions; the core idea here is that design and manufacturing processes should be as autonomous as possible to reduce labor costs and ensure quality among a larger population of boards. Per-board cost should be minimal, while quality and performance must remain high relative to design intent.

Moving through the different iterations and revisions of a design sequentially hones the design for manufacturability (DFM), ensuring that the final design is (at least at the time of production) the leanest, most cost-effective possible implementation.

An In-Depth View of DFM Procedures

Zooming in on the electronic manufacturing services that propel a proof of concept through final production, it’s essential to understand that a manufacturer dramatically influences the design process. By applying their industry experience, they can guide the design process while avoiding common pitfalls that first-time product development teams may miss. Consider an overview of a general manufacturing process after receiving design documents with the following list:

BOM Review

The BOM will be the most critical design document pre-layout alongside the schematic. These components will drive the assembly’s functionality, but it is worthwhile to examine the market to avoid supply issues hindering production budgets and deadlines. When components pose a problem for procurement, the team can identify and source replacement components (whether equivalent, alternative, or identical “drop-ins”) that maintain production deadlines without overrunning costs.

Design Rules

At the outset of the layout, manufacturers will want to set the design rules that flag manufacturing violations during board design to minimize rework time and instill DFM. These rules encompass all board elements, such as traces, vias, and copper pours.

Manufacturing Documentation

The documentation must concisely capture the entirety of the design’s details while also summarizing the most vital processes to communicate design intent to the various departments involved in manufacturing.


Creating the bare board (i.e., the unassembled PCB) provides the electrical, thermal, and mechanical parameters for the in-circuit performance. Fabricators will utilize various material substrates to realize the board thickness and conductor/dielectric properties, as specified in the stackup.


Populating a fabricated board with the component locations and orientations indicated in the layout requires exact and fast equipment. A pick-and-place machine will properly orient and place component packages in preparation for soldering. Then, depending on the integration method of the packages (SMT or through-hole), the PCBA will have to pass through a solder wave or reflow process (and sometimes both). Technicians may need to perform manual soldering for larger or irregularly shaped components.


Every board must undergo rigorous testing throughout manufacturing to ensure board quality meets industry standards. These test methods also check net continuity post-fabrication to verify that the physical design matches the documentation through a bed-of-nails or flying probe machine. Additional analytic evaluations of the board, i.e., optical inspection, x-ray inspection, etc., evaluate the product layer-by-layer.

Enclosure Design

Electronics are susceptible to dirt, debris, moisture, and other environmental factors that can reduce the service life of the board. For safe handling and protection, a mechanical enclosure will provide the desired ruggedness for the end-use environment and applications.

System Assembly

While some devices may rely on a single board for operation, more complex or constrained devices may require multiple smaller boards joined by flexible printed circuit materials or wiring. Managing the installation and interconnection of these systems can be time-consuming, but manufacturing engineers can oversee the process and produce wiring diagrams for future reference.

Your Contract Manufacturer for All Electronic Manufacturing Services

Electronic manufacturing services combine many disciplines to realize a design with a physical product set for mass production quantities (if desired). Not all CMs provide a turnkey solution to manufacturing, which introduces additional parties to the manufacturing process where inter-coordination can extend production schedules. Here at VSE, we’re a team of engineers committed to building electronics for our customers, and we cover every aspect of electronics manufacturing to simplify new product introductions (NPIs) or design revisions. We’ve been realizing life-changing and life-saving devices with our manufacturing partners for over forty years.

If you are looking for a CM that prides itself on its care and attention to detail to ensure that each PCB assembly is built to the highest standards, look no further than VSE. Contact us today to learn more about partnering with us for your next project.

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