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Understanding the Different Levels of Prototype PCB Assembly

Aug 18th 2015 at 4:51 AM

Until the arrival and rapid growth of surface mount technology the job of prototype PCB assembly was rather traditional. But presently PCB assembly is taking on new technology, complexity and service requirements on completely different levels. On level one there is PCB assembly with standard defined processes and in this level original equipment manufacturers can expect 100% or close to 100% yields. The second level obviously involves more challenges – but the technology and expectations of the OEMs are still defined and the yield is also relatively high. In this level the expectations of the original equipment manufacturers are conveyed in terms of functionality, performance and latest IPC revision.

Presently a new third level is being recognized in the prototype PCB assembly industry and customer’s expectations for this level are also not well defined. Under typical circumstances a design can be hardly considered as successful until there is a working prototype for it. For all contract PCB manufacturers, understanding the original OEM expectations is really important for determining the best way of handling the project and also for using a package implementation approach instead of package installation approach for complying with specific requirements. The third level of PCB assembly is characteristically changing and evolving and at the same time is extremely complex in terms of used packages, high frequency, customer expectation and other assembly requirements. Any third level assembled digital board will have an extremely populated high density landscape and at this level fully populated and highly integrated double-sided boards with digital wafer-level packages are also assembled.

As long as the similarity of challenges is concerned, third level assembly of printed circuit boards closely resembles high frequency digital RF assembles. Another commonality between the two is the fact that a comprehensive approach to fabrication and design for manufacturing, assembling and testing of the produced prototypes must be adopted both by the EMS providers and original equipment manufacturers. Moreover in all third level assembly, the PWB assembly services must have greater depth for various PCB assembly projects. For all third party prototype PCB manufacturers factors like design verification, optimization of performance, noise and EMI issues are found to play crucial roles. This is primarily because in these cases the OEM is dealing with an unconfirmed design that is still not verified. This particularly demands a comprehensive approach for dealing with various designing experiments in both assembly process development and package implementation.

For high speed assembly the circuit card assembly services must confirm that the PCBs are developed in compliance with the original OEM requirements and are also capable of performing the required tests for determining signal integrity and other performance issues. They must also be able to address a number of other issues like both independent and point-to-point pre-assembly PCB testing, compare the various requirements of the assembly process and also choice of solder paste. Third level prototype PCB assembly is being widely used in manufacturing most complex and sophisticated electronic devices and a lot more information on this type of PCBs is available online at

About The Author

David Fischer is an Engineer and has a special interest in the world of circuit board. He is also a part of the lab testing teams in various companies. He loves to write and share his extensive knowledge & experience in this field. He highly recommends BESTProto for building electromechanical and PCB prototypes.

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