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Industry Trends

What’s Industrial PCB Assembly & How It's Helpful to Us?



Introduction


People encounter PCBs in their everyday lives. Whether it’s automotive, IT equipment, or any electronics gadget, it uses a PCB assembly to run them. To make these PCBs, manufacturers identify what components will be placed on the circuit board, determine their exact locations, and fabricate the PCB before placing them in a gadget.

This post aims to extend the understanding of industrial PCB assembly, its components, roles, and industries that rely on these microchips. Furthermore, industries, who’re looking for reliable PCB manufacturers will learn how they can find the most reliable ones.


What’s An Industrial PCB Assembly?


Industrial PCB (Printed Circuit Board) assembly is a critical process in the manufacturing of electronic devices, especially within various industrial sectors. This process involves the meticulous assembly of electronic components onto a PCB, a board made from non-conductive materials with conductive paths etched onto it. The components are then soldered in place, forming a functional PCB that can be integrated into larger systems or machinery.


How Are Industrial PCB Assemblies Different From Other PCB Assemblies?


Ideally, an industrial PCB manufacturing process is very different from the other types of PCB assemblies in the following manner:


1. Scale Of Production

The assembly of industrial PCBs is intended for mass production because these are used in the industrial sector. The other types of PCB assemblies are not meant for bulk use. This means that the industrial PCB can be assembled quickly on a large scale.


2. Automation

Manufacturers often choose automation in the assembly of industrial PCBs. It means that the placement of components, soldering, and lamination is done through automatic machinery. The other types of PCBs are usually assembled by hand and tested through manual labor.


Testing & Quality Assurance

Since industrial PCBs are used in the industrial sector, they go through rigorous testing and the manufacturers take extra steps to ensure high in them. They do mechanical testing, chemical testing, etc., to dispatch only top-quality products to the industries. The other types of PCBs go through testing but they’re not tested so rigorously.


Cost Considerations

The industrial PCBs are cost-effective so that the overall cost of the gadget can be brought down. Industrial PCBs need to have a mix of quality and cost so that the quality doesn’t get compromised. Other types of PCBs can be a little expensive because they’re not produced in bulk quantities.


What Industries Rely On PCB Assembly?


Nowadays, almost every industry relies on industrial PCB in some or the other way. Some of these industries are:


  • Electronics/Consumer Electronics: Core circuitry for devices, compact design.
  • Automotive: Control systems, engine management, safety.
  • Aerospace/Defense: Avionics, mission-critical systems, reliability.
  • Telecommunications: Signal processing, network equipment, reliability.
  • Medical Devices: Precision electronics, patient monitoring, diagnostics.
  • Industrial Automation: Control panels, process automation, reliability.
  • Energy/Power: Power distribution, control systems, efficiency.
  • Computer/IT: Motherboards, servers, data processing.
  • Communication Systems: Base stations, RF devices, signal processing.
  • Robotics: Control boards, motor drivers, automation.
  • Home Appliances: Control panels, automation, efficiency.
  • Instrumentation/Measurement: Precision measurement devices, data acquisition.
  • Networking Equipment: Routers, switches, data communication.
  • Audio/Video Equipment: Amplifiers, video processing, signal routing.
  • IoT Devices: Sensors, connectivity, data processing.


What Are The Components Of Industrial PCB Assembly?

Most industrial PCBs have these components on them:


1. Integrated circuits (ICs): They’re similar to the brain of the circuit, which acts like a central processing unit. ICs are meant to handle complex functions, signal processing, amplification of the signals, logical operations, etc.
2. Resistors: They control the flow of voltage, regulate it, and divide it so that the circuit receives the right amount of voltage. Resistors can adjust the signaling levels to keep all the PCB components safe and secure.
3. Capacitors: Capacitors can store a tiny amount of energy and release it smoothly. When we unplug the power source, the capacitors ensure that the circuit board shuts down smoothly by smoothing the flow of power to it rather than shutting down the entire circuit board all of a sudden. This ensures the longevity and high performance of the board.
4. Inductors: They store energy in a magnetic field and are used in filters, transformers, etc.
5. Diodes: Diodes ensure that the current flows in one direction and blocks any current in the reverse direction. They’re used in rectifiers, signal demodulation, etc.
6. Transistors: They amplify the electronic signals and that’s why they’re used in digital logic circuits, amplification, and oscillation.
7. Connectors: Connectors allow the connection of external devices to the circuit board. They’re like a port like a USB port, or an HDMI port, etc.
8. Switch: Switch lets users turn the device on or off.
9. LEDs: These are light-emitting diodes that are usually used to indicate status, and displays, or act as visual indicators.
10. Relays: Relays help in switching high-voltage loads and control them using a low-power input.
11. Crystal Oscillators: They can generate precise and well-timed frequencies that’s why they act like a clocking component in digital circuits.
12. Fuse: The fuse breaks down when excess current passes through it, making sure that the high-voltage never reaches and damages the circuit board.
13. Transformers: They convert voltage from AC to DC, or vice versa.


What Technologies & Techniques Do We Use In Industrial PCB Assembly?

Every top industrial PCB assembly factory now uses these technologies to make the process better and innovative:


Surface Mount Technology

The advancement in this technology helps in better placement of the soldering paste to make finer traces. We can also miniaturize the components and increase the component density on the circuit board through pick-and-place machines.


3D Printing for Prototyping

During the initial stage of PCB fabrication, a prototype of the design idea is created. With the new technologies in hand, we can give a physical shape to these ideas through 3D printing of industrial PCB prototyping. Not only it’s fast but convenient and cost-effective.


Advanced Inspection

  • X-ray inspection helps identify hidden defects between the layers of PCB such as solder bridging, solder breaks, etc.
  • If the PCB assembly is complex, then we use in-line 3D inspection to figure out defects in them.


Advanced Soldering Techniques

  • Now lead-free solders are used to protect the environment.
  • Selective soldering helps in soldering complex circuits and selective components only.


Digital Twining

After fabricating and assembling a PCB, we now create its digital twin and test that twin for any faults and issues. That way, if there are no faults, then the original PCB stays new and unharmed.


How Is AI & Automation Helping With The PCB Assembly?


1. Cobots: Collaborative robots pair up with human operators and work alongside them to handle tasks that require delicate and precise handling. These robots reduce the work burden of humans and keep quality at the topmost levels.
2. Automatic soldering machines: These automatic machines handle the placement of the right amount of solder paste and mask precisely on the circuit board. They create traces with the least distance between each, which is impossible to do manually.
3. Real-time defect detection and correction: With the help of automatic robots, we can identify any faults and defects in real time as the PCB fabrication goes on. The robots can suggest corrective measures to rectify the faults.


What Are The Applications of Industrial PCB Assembly?

The industrial control PCB assembly has endless uses nowadays and some of them are as follows:


1. Power electronics such as inverters, power supply units, converters, and devices that control and regulate the flow of electricity rely on industrial PCBs.
2. Every telecommunication equipment whether it’s a telephone, wireless device, base stations, or devices in the entire communication system needs industrial PCBs.
3. Modern medical devices ranging from simple blood pressure monitors to surgical robots require industrial PCBs to operate.
4. Flying carriers like airplanes, helicopters, etc., and defense devices including radars, war machines, tanks, etc., work with the help of customized industrial PCBs meant specifically for them.
5. Big factories that are capital-intensive use large plants and machinery that have industrial PCBs in them. These PCBs help those plants to help optimize the manufacturing process.
6. Even a car or any automobile now has built-in PCBs, which help control safety systems, electronic features, and engine control units in it.
7. Home automation devices are usually designed under the concept of IoT and we cannot imagine these devices without an industrial PCB in them.


What Does The Future Hold?


While these applications sound futuristic, the industrial PCB still has a lot of potential for the upcoming trends like:


  • The circuit boards are creating a lot of e-waste, which is a global issue. The future of industrial PCBs holds that perhaps we can create biodegradable PCBs.
  • In the future, we may create PCBs specially designed for quantum computers to handle quantum information processing.
  • We can create PCBs with ultra-small components for nanotechnology. Also, maybe the circuits may become so small that we can medically implant them.
  • To cater to the growing demand for flexible devices, there’s a need for flexible and foldable circuit boards in all the gadgets. Right now flexible PCBs have a very limited use.


Different Standards & Compliances For The Industrial PCB Assembly


These are some important standards and certifications in the industry.


1. UL (Underwriters Laboratories) Certification: It ensures that the PCBs meet safety and performance standards. This certification is very important for electronics used in various industries like automotive, medical, and consumer electronics.
2. ISO 9001: It’s a standard applicable to an organization to prove that it meets customer and regulatory requirements. Such organizations have a commitment to quality, continuous improvement, and customer satisfaction.
3. RoHS: This standard came into enforcement to prohibit the use of specific hazardous materials in the manufacturing of electronic products. Sellers need to comply with this standard to sell electronics in the European Union and other regions.


Why Are These Standards So Important?


By complying with these standards, the organizations prove that they’re following the best practices to manufacture and sell electronic products. This gives customers confidence in their products and ultimately helps in gaining elevated control over the market.


Environmental Considerations in PCB Manufacturing


Manufacturing of PCBs can leave an impact on the environment and considering that is very important. Here’s why:


1. When fabricating PCBs, it leaves an impact on the environment that contributes to pollution. Complying with the standards will help us tackle those impacts.
2. By complying with the certifications, the organizations will get a push to adopt sustainable practices in their industrial activities.
3. Consumers are very cautious about choosing a product that doesn’t harm the environment or harms the least. If our products meet their expectations, it’ll help us capture an expanded market and increase sales.


Some Challenges & Innovations

Here are some common challenges that we face during industrial PCB assembly:


Adapting To Rapid Advancements In The Technology

There is so much technological advancement that we see in the market every day and adapting to those changes becomes very difficult. That’s because implementing a new technology means installing a new plant and machinery, which costs hundreds of thousands of dollars. Mere upgradation or alteration of the existing plant to adapt to a new technology costs thousands of dollars, which isn’t economically feasible for every manufacturer.


Cost Pressure

There’s always pressure on the manufacturer to keep the costs low while keeping the quality high. This is called “cost pressure”, which becomes a burden on them.


Using Lead-free Solder

Lead-free solder is more environmentally friendly than lead solder but this adaptation is very complex to handle. Lead-free solder behaves very differently and it can give solder tints, solder bridges, etc., if not handled correctly. This creates a challenge for the manufacturers when fabricating industrial PCBs.


Disruption In The Supply Chain

Due to a global shortage of the supply of raw materials, PCB manufacturers often face contract cancellation, reduced output, loss of clients, and a loss in business turnover. Also, a disrupted supply chain of fabricated PCBs can reduce their life.


How Are We Overcoming These Problems?


We’ve developed these solutions for the problems:


1. By hiring skilled labor, we can manage the fabrication using lead-free solder.
2. To keep the cost low without affecting the PCB quality, we purchase raw materials when they’re cheaper.
3. We try to keep our stock of raw materials filled up depending on how much operating capital we have to meet the global shortage of the supply of raw materials at times of war, recession, pandemic, etc.
4. To make sure that we’re up to date with the latest technological advancements, we can outsource a part of fabrication to a factory that has adopted that technology. If certain new technology is new and        within our budget, we try to implement it in our factory to reduce the dependency on outsourcing factories.


How Can We Find The Right PCB Assembly Partner?

Finding the right PCBA manufacturer will help your business keep going smoothly but how do you know if the manufacturer is actually the best? Here are some ways to know that:


Experience & Expertise Matters A Lot

Always look for the expertise of the manufacturer in the domain and their experience in the industry. Go with those who have a high level of intelligence and have maintained a high position in this industry. Talk to their business representative, ask them about their process, and your gut feeling will tell you if that manufacturer is the correct choice for you.


Quality Control Process

Manufacturers such as PCBasic that follow quality standards and have certifications will be the best for your business. You can ask them about the certifications and standards that they have.


Technological Capabilities

Always ask the manufacturer what technology they use to fabricate the PCBs. Ask if they can handle bulk supply. If you’re a new business that plans big in the upcoming months, make sure that your China industrial PCB assembly supplier can handle your bulk orders without delays.


Some Tips To Make Your Business Relation Healthy & Long-lasting


Keep your business relationship healthy with the PCB fabricators through these tips:


1. Negotiate the contract and get the quotations beforehand.
2. Always tell them in advance that you’re looking for a regular supply and that you’re planning big orders. That way suppliers will get an assurance that you’re a long-term buyer, so they’ll quote the most          effective price from the beginning.
3. Pay a visit to the factory if possible, so you and your supplier can understand each other better.
4. Ask for an expected turnaround time, production capacity, and warranty on the defective products.
5. Get quotations from different suppliers for the same requirement and compare them to see which one is the most cost-efficient.
6. Buy samples from different suppliers, test and compare them, and shortlist some of the best ones you can rely on.
7. Speak to the supplier and see if they’re open to your suggestions, and how they’re taking your questions, and check if they communicate with confidence and passion like they’re actually excited to deal          with you. Suppliers like PCBasic with good customer relationships are the best ones to deal with.

Conclusion


You must have understood the industrial PCB assembly, common challenges that we face during fabrication, applications of these chipsets, and a lot more about them. If you’re from any industry that requires industrial PCBA (Printed Circuit Board Assembly), you can directly contact PCBasic, which is one of the leading and best PCB fabricators in China. We have excellent communication skills to deal with international clients, have the latest technology, can cater to bulk production, and ensure top quality without supply delays.


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