4 Key Factors to Help Achieve Quick Turnaround PCB Assembly

Article By : Suresh Patel, Mer-Mar Electronics

The latest PCB fabrication technologies and processes are now reducing the design-to-market time for a PCB product.

The fast development in the electronics industry has influenced the need for quick product development strategies. The latest PCB fabrication technologies and processes are now reducing the design-to-market time for a PCB product. A quick turnaround PCB assembly ensures that the customer’s wait time is reduced substantially.

Opting for this service is beneficial for all PCB designers and manufacturers as it offers:

  • Speedy delivery as compared to other conventional methods
  • Lower production cost due to reduced fabrication time
  • Simplifies the logistics overhead in the production process
  • Provides a broad range of PCBs to serve customers with different requirements
  • Profitable choice with reduced rework

Consistent communication with the contract manufacturer is the key to achieving a quick turnaround for your PCB assembly. Knowing the assembly process will assist you in anticipating the potential problems that might arise during the process.

The quick turn PCB assembly provider usually reviews the bill of materials (BOM) and the design output like Gerber files before sending the quote for assembly. Once the quote is approved, prototype boards are fabricated and the parts are assembled. These prototype boards are tested for functional validation. After finalizing the prototype, the bulk production begins.

The turnaround time can be starting from 24Hrs to 5 days typically. To choose the best contract manufacturer, you have to consider certain pointers like the speed of delivery, the efficiency of the assembly provider, the quality of the products delivered, and the pricing quoted for the job. Several factors are contributing to the cost quoted by your contract manufacturer for a quick turnaround assembly service. They can be as follows:

  • Quick turn assembly processes like surface mount and through-hole assembly are chosen based on your design. There will be a change in the pricing accordingly.
  • The complexity of your design like the number of PCB layers, component placement on top layer alone or bottom layer included, etc., shall impact the quoted value.
  • Shipping charges can vary based on the PCB size and chosen packing options. There are standard guidelines available for packing and storing PCBs that are to be followed.
  • Expected Turnaround time impacts the assembly cost to a big extent. There will be an extra cost of labor and machine used for shorter turnaround orders adding to the total cost of PCB assembly.

These aspects help us in understanding the importance of Quick turnaround PCB assembly services. There are four key factors to be considered while achieving a quick turnaround PCB Assembly.

1. Following the effective design process

It is highly recommended to follow the design guidelines optimized for the simple and efficient performance of the product. Avoid unnecessary requirements and verify component availability before including it in your design. Work on the layout strategies to reduce the PCB layers required. Ensure that the DFT and DFM guidelines are incorporated appropriately to achieve the best production yield.

2. Consistent communication with the contract manufacturer

When the turnaround time is critical, it is essential to have early and consistent communication with all the associated teams including the contract manufacturer. The steady collaboration will provide close monitoring of the project status. Any possible issues with component lead time, design not meeting DFM requirements, board finish inspection, etc., can be identified quickly and corrected. Overlooking any such issue can lead to redesign or an increase in lead time for assembly.

3. Understanding your CM’s competence

Before signing the contract for a quick turnaround assembly service, evaluating the CMs’ capabilities is a mandatory task for any designer or product manufacturer. There will be quality issues if the assembler directly puts your design on the production line without identifying low-yield design strategies that are implemented. Also, the Assembly providers should be capable of including your design preferences like via spacing, solder mask thickness, etc., without degrading the PCB quality. They should have enough bandwidth to handle your manufacturing volume efficiently. Opting for a local CM can be an advantage in the quick-turn assembly services.

4. Providing clear test requirements

It is recommended to provide your design files like netlist, Gerber data to the CM for establishing a clear testing protocol. All the assembled boards are tested by the CM post assembly. Fault detection during later stages can become costly and time-consuming. Hence it is suggested to provide all the necessary test requirements in advance to achieve a quick turnaround of your product.

The quick turnaround method should not compromise the quality of your PCB in any way. So, prioritizing the design guidelines shall ensure the board’s quality which can further lead to a rapid turnaround of your PCB assembly. We can find wide applications of the quick turn PCB assembly in the market now. It may be a start-up company building a minimum-cost product to win an investor or a bulk product manufacturer aiming for swift market delivery, quick turnaround assembly is the best possible solution.

Manufacturers use prototype PCBs for various reasons like proof-of-concept, functional validation, manufacturing feasibility, or as visual models. This is critical before going ahead with the full load production. It avoids any speculations and reduces both time and money spent on redesign or modifications. Therefore, quick turn PCB assembly is of great help in such applications.

Once the design and data are finalized, any experienced PCB assembly provider will be capable of meeting your targets. Choose a CM who has demonstrated high-quality production within a set delivery schedule. A quick turn PCB assembly service will surely help in establishing your competitive edge in the market.


About the Author

Suresh Patel has worked as a Sales Engineer and other management roles at Mer-Mar Electronics. He brings 25 years of experience in printed-circuit-board sales and technical client service and managing business. You can connect with him on Twitter.


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