What is a Prototype PCB Assembly?
Prototype PCB Assembly is a fast prototype PCBA or Assembly of PCB. Manufacturers utilize it for testing the function of the latest electronic designs. With a PCB assembly, you can easily detect whether your design requires any changes or whether it will function properly.
Prototype PCB Assembly has many benefits. It helps you assess and evaluate the errors in your PCB design quickly and therefore offers you the highest chance of producing the best and most high-quality printed circuit boards. The manufacturing costs are kept to a minimum since errors are detected before the manufacturing process begins.
Process of Prototype PCB Assembly
To estimate costs and other related essential factors, the comprehension of the prototype PCB assembly process is vital. It is crucial to learn about the procedures before approaching a company for their prototype PCB assembly. The process involves specific steps, which we discuss below:
The initial step begins with allocating a 2D barcode for every printed circuit board. The 2D barcode is unique for every circuit board and highly vital. It becomes influential when any trace-back is required and allows it. To receive consent, manufacturers scan the barcode throughout the entire assembly process. The trace-back permits you to find out information about the supplier, the timing of the steps and who carried them out, delivery documentation for every component, and linking to the BOM revision and bare PCB specification.
In the second step, manufacturers apply a greyish substance that contains tiny balls of metals mixed with flux to the board. The greyish substance is solder paste. They use it in the areas where they will place the components of the PCB in the future.
A mechanical fixture clasps the PCB and the solder stencil in a particular place for the application. Then the solder paste is applied to the required areas, and the machine smears the paste all over the stencil. After the removal of the stencil, the paste remains in its position.
The third step consists of picking and placing the SMD components on an arranged PCB. Previously, this step was performed manually with a pair of tweezers, but now a robotic device is used to make the process accurate and neat. Manufacturers mainly do the shift to achieve good accuracy and consistency since machines work precisely and effectively.
While humans can work fast, they often feel exhausted and strained and can’t give their best. Whereas, with machines, no such weaknesses exist. The robotic device picks up the PCB board with its vacuum grasp and moves it to the pick and place station.
After the solder paste and SMD is in their position, the solder paste needs to solidify. That is the fourth step and is known as the reflow of soldering. Manufacturers insert the PCB prototype board into the conveyor belt in this step. The belt passes through a large reflow oven which has heaters present. The heaters heat the board at 250 degrees and melt the solder.
After melting, the belt passes through a series of coolers which cools and hardens the solder paste creating a permanent connection between the PCB and SMD.
This step comprises another inspection round after the solidification of the solder. Through the inspection, manufacturers sense defects of the solder joints or any misalignments and errors, and procedures to resolve them also begin. The examination is either completed by a machine or by humans manually, and some of the most common methods include X-ray inspection, manual checks, and automatic optical inspection.
The addition of through-hole components takes place after the inspection round. It is plated on the PCB board and allows the PCB components to pass a signal from one side to another through them. Instead of the regular soldering paste, manufacturers use a specialized soldering method for this process. The technique is of two types: manual soldering and wave soldering.
After the soldering method, manufacturers cut off the technical edges of the PCB board after the assembly process. They cut off the edges in clean pre-cut- break-out tabs or pre-cut-V-cuts. Following the cutting off, another round of inspection occurs. In this round, manufacturers verify the placement of the components and check the solder beside the edges. They also do the testing of the PCB in this inspection method.
Finally, manufacturers place the prototype PCB assembly in ESD safe packaging in this step. They put every Assembly in a separate ESD packaging and ship them. However, if the prototype PCB dimensions surpass the standard packaging, anti-static foam is used to pack them.
The last and final step includes checking the PCBs for quality. Manufacturers do it before closing the packaging and shipping them off. They take a sample of the prototype PCB assembly and check it thoroughly in this step.
Prototype PCB Assembly
It is a customizable prototype PCB assembly that provides services in prototype quantities. The term refers to fast prototype PCBAs that manufacturers utilize for assessing the function of new electronic designs. Usually, you need to perform the test or assessment at least 2-3 times to ensure that everything is perfect. To make the assembly process manageable, you can even use a PCB prototype board to check the function of your PCB design.
The prototype PCB assembly checks the quality of PCBs and provides assurance. It searches for errors or bugs in the test PCB, updates the PCB, and verifies that no errors or bugs exist in the design. It includes all the processes associated with assembling a PCB’s preliminary sample. The prototype PCB assembly is an integral part since it decides the plans and specifications of a printed circuit board.