Let’s discuss low vs. high-volume PCB assembly services.
Volume assembly in flexible PCB production is necessary so that the manufacturers can fulfill the high product demand in the electronics industry.
Manufacturers have therefore developed methods to produce in bulk while adhering to the set quality standards.
Our article will discuss these PCB production runs, among other assembly insights. Take a look.
Panelization of PCB Assemblies
Manufacturers have one trick up their sleeves to lower production costs while ensuring they make quality PCB- Panelization.
Hence, manufacturers combine the prints of various circuit boards into one panel and manufacture it as one. And this is the panelization process.
- Among its upsides is that it adapts to the CNC machine’s dimensions. Hence, production commences outright rather than necessitating the modification of the machine settings every time.
- Also, panelization is imperative in lowering production costs which helps manufacturers set up competitive prices for electronic products. The system’s overall number of individual PCBs is significantly low, reducing the expenses during volume PCB production.
- Panelization helps reduce production time. There’s a higher throughput since one panel can have numerous PCBs, and this helps contract manufacturers meet deadlines.
After the production of the panel, the manufacturer performs depanelization of the PCB matrix to obtain the different types of small-size PCBs. It is usually via precisely breaking down the PCB array to separate the individual PCB for use in subsequent assembly works.
What are High and Low-volume PCBs?
Electronics and Circuit Board Manufacturing.
How many numbers of circuit boards does a manufacturer make in a single assembly? It is the logic behind terming assembly technologies as high or low volume.
The manufacturer produces at least 1000 boards in one assembly process in high-volume PCB assembly.
On the other hand, in low-volume PCB assembly, the manufacturer doesn’t meet the 1000 boards threshold.
They produce a lower number which can be anything from as low as 100 boards.
So what are the determinants of whether a manufacturer goes high or low?
Primarily, it is the customer product demands that govern this. However, other factors, such as the board quality and their application, come into play too in this process.
Low-Volume PCB Assembly and Production
As mentioned earlier, this assembly option involves creating a significantly small number of PCB, usually at most 250.
Another remarkable feature of low-volume assembly is that it involves two main steps:
- Design for manufacturing (DFM)
- Design for Testing (DFT)
DFM and DFT checking in the assembly stages ensure quality output.
Hence, the low volumes of manufacturing mean manufacturers can make several changes in the PCB design to improve performance.
While low-volume PCB assembly is synonymous with the prototyping stages, it also has other applications.
For instance, this is often the go-to method in manufacturing complex designs that undergo numerous further development processes.
Benefits of Low-Volume PCB Assembly
Modern electric PCB factory assembly line
Output Quality Control
In the prototyping phase, perfection is necessary to ensure the output PCB doesn’t experience component failure. Low-volume production of PCBs is imperative in realizing this.
The manufacturer conducts numerous tests in this production model, which is easy because they deal with relatively few components.
This rigorous testing means that the output always has excellent quality.
The method is cheaper primarily because although manufacturers perform numerous tests in the prototyping phase, this is usually a one-off.
Also, because the manufacturer is dealing with a relatively small number, there’s buyer confidence in their quality.
The fundamental upside to the extensive testing measures in low-volume assembly is that there’s always room for change during production.
Therefore, any flaw they note will be fixed without the risk of making high losses, as you’d expect in high-volume PCB assembly.
Low-Volume PCB Application
A military watch is a product of low-volume manufacturing.
The primary application of low-volume PCB assembly is in settings whereby there’s a need for intricate details in the components.
For instance, medical devices must be flawless to prevent endangering the patients’ lives.
Therefore, the main areas you’re likely to find low-volume PCB assembly is making medical devices, aerospace, and military applications where attention to detail matters.
Types of Low-Volume PCB Assembly
We primarily have two processes in low-volume PCB assembly:
Design for manufacturing (DFM)
This initial testing stage involves scrutinizing the PCB design’s diagnostic instructions and makeup files for any flaws before manufacturing proceeds.
Here, the manufacturer checks if the Gerber files, assembly drawings, and other manufacturing processes meet the set standards.
Manufacturing complexities are costly to rectify, so the undertone of this testing is to prevent them from the word go before it’s too late.
Design for testing (DFT) service
Unlike DFM, which primarily aims to streamline the subsequent manufacturing by looking into the first-level design phase, DFT is about testing the actual volume of products.
It also involves the automatic optical inspection of the parts during board development.
Hence, this plays a significant role in guaranteeing output quality as it is an extra level of functional testing after the DFM.
Is there a chance of component failure? Will the contract manufacturer get numerous requests for repairs? These are among the queries that the DFT service seeks to solve.
Options for Low-Volume PCB Assembly Prototyping
It is the go-to prototyping phase if the manufacturer is keen on significantly minimizing the overall manufacturing runs.
The production also continues seamlessly with this method without any gap.
As the name suggests, the engineers will change the manufacturing without stopping production.
Here, the manufacturer makes one change after another in a sequence.
It is arguably the most effective method, especially for DFT service, although it results in significant manufacturing gaps.
High-Volume PCB Production and Assembly
Electronics Manufacturing Services, Assembly Of Circuit Board.
It is the ideal manufacturing technology where a high output of PCBs is necessary.
It involves the production of batches exceeding 1000, and it’s popular with OEMs thanks to its suitability for bulk electronics parts assembly.
Benefits of High-Volume PCB Assembly
Design Once for All
In high-volume assembly, the manufacturer only needs to work on the design work for the output PCBs once.
Even the prototyping process is one time, and once they confirm that everything is as per the standards, bulk manufacturing commences.
Attention to detail
Think of a scenario where the manufacturers don’t detect a flaw in the design/prototyping phase.
This problem will translate to massive defects in the entire PCB batch. Therefore, to avoid this, there’s close attention to the details.
High-volume PCB assembly design involves high precision, given that this step of the manufacturing technology happens once.
Quick Turnaround Times
The bulk of work in this assembly process is streamlining the design, ensuring it is perfect for the desired output.
The subsequent operations are so fast as they also involve automation.
Also, here, manufacturers deal with high volumes – all produced within a very short time.
Therefore, the method is ideal when the assembly time is quite an important production factor.
Getting the volume of products to the markets also takes a considerably short duration.
Unlike in low-volume assemblies, where the individual PCBs are often different, everything in a batch is the same here.
So it is easy to perform tests as one PCB is the same.
Therefore, testing just a small sample of the batch serves them all. The testing method is also the same, so it is possible to check all the boards quickly individually.
Bulk production means the manufacturer can leverage economies of scale to reduce costs.
However, there’s the potential risk of high expenses if there’s a design issue in the PCB design phase.
Application Areas of High Volume PCBs Assembly Services
An electronics production room.
- It is a valuable production process that delivers a tremendous yield rate for circuit board assembly.
- Also, the high volume production finds use in settings with a pertinent need to meet increased market product demand for electronic components.
High-Volume PCB vs. Low-Volume PCB
So which is the better method of the two, and what dictates which manufacturing assembly technique manufacturers choose?
The bottom line is that the nature of the output PCB is the utmost consideration.
Where frequent testing and modifications are necessary, low-volume board development is the go-to production method.
But the manufacturer takes the high-volume assembly technique in scenarios where the aim is mass production of identical PCBs.
Manufacturers have set up numerous manufacturing methods to feed the never-ending product demand for electronic components.
We have examined the umbrella manufacturing technologies and highlighted their roles and advantages in PCB manufacturing.
The human efforts in both methods ensure preciseness via rigorous visual inspection, x-ray inspection, etc., to unmask potential issues.
Also, both have high assembly standards, and the choice depends on what’s under manufacturing.