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Printed circuit boards (PCBs) are fundamental components of almost every electronically powered industry. Earlier, PCB manufacturing was a slow and conventional method. With the advancement of technology, this process has become faster, more creative, and even more complex. Each customer demands specific variations in PCBs, that too under certain time restrictions. In certain cases, custom PCB production becomes a need of an hour. However, if a custom-manufactured PCB is tested for functionality at the end of the process, and if it fails, then the loss might be unbearable to the manufacturer and the customer. This is where PCB prototyping comes into play. PCB prototypes serve as the foundation step of a PCB production but what makes it so important? This post discusses exactly what prototypes have to offer and why they are important.
PCB prototyping is an iterative process in which the PCB designer and engineer try several techniques of PCB design and assembly. The purpose of these iterations is to identify an optimum PCB design. In PCB manufacturing, the board material, substrate material, components, component mounting layouts, stencils, number of layers, etc are the factors that are iterated by an engineer. By mixing and matching the design and manufacturing aspects of these factors, the most efficient method of PCB design and manufacturing is identified. Many times, PCB prototyping is performed on virtual platforms. However, for robust applications, physical PCB prototypes are manufactured to test functionality. The PCB prototypes can be digital models, dummy prototypes, or fully-functioning (look-alike-work-alike) prototypes. As prototyping is an early-stage adoption of design for manufacturing and assembly (DFMA), it serves several benefits, in the long run, PCB assembly process. Now let us discuss why PCB prototyping is an essential step in PCB manufacturing.
Although several PCB manufacturers skip prototyping to save production time, it often works contrary. The following are some benefits offered by prototyping that makes this step work or rather essential to perform.
Prototyping defines the flow of design for manufacturing and assembly. This means all the factors related to manufacturing and assembly are taken into consideration during PCB design only. This minimizes the hurdles during production.
In PCB manufacturing, the suitable material for a specific type of PCB is chosen during prototyping. In this step, engineers test and try multiple materials and select a correct one. Therefore, material properties like chemical resistance, rust-resistance, durability, etc are tested in the earlier stage only. This rules out the possibilities of failure due to material incompatibility in later phases.
PCBs are often manufactured in bulk. A single design of PCB is used for bulk production. If the design is customized, then the chances of design errors are high. If the error in design occurs, the same error replicates in thousands of PCBs manufactured under bulk production. This can cause a major loss as a material investment, production cost, equipment utilization cost, labor cost, and time. PCB prototyping helps in the identification and rectification of design errors in an early pre-production stage.
Generally, if errors are identified in PCB design during production or assembly or even during operation, designers have to restart design from the scratch. Mostly, reverse engineering is required to check for errors in a manufactured PCB. This re-design and repeated production consume too much time. As prototyping resolves the errors at the design stage only, the time for repetition is saved.
They are tested for look-alike-work-alike design and manufacturing in comparison to final product requirements. Therefore, product feasibility increases due to prototyping.
Now that importance of prototypes in PCB production is discussed, it is also important to know the quality of prototype impact on PCB design and manufacturing processes. Therefore, to know the efficiency of the PCB manufacturing process and get an idea about your final product, you must source prototyping services from prominent manufacturers like Creative Hi-Tech. The company offers customized PCB prototyping services to its clients in industries like consumer electronics, aerospace, aircraft, etc.
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