The difference between Production and Prototype quality and how to bridge the gap?


Historically electronic designs have a clear evolution. A design is made and created on breadboard to check functionality and then a board layout is created and put to production.

We have obviously made light year leaps since those days of single and 2 layer boards and now 4 and 6 layer boards are the norm with greater and greater density and smaller and smaller components being used to constantly stay competitive in this micro world.

Once the design is proven and goes to mass production then hundreds of thousands of these circuits can be produced at high speed and precise accuracy, which is perfect.

But… when you want to prove your concept and design before mass production, what then? This first stage of designing and manufacturing these concept prototypes, who will build your boards? Most production companies cannot offer cost effective solutions for producing 1 -10 prototypes. The work alone to break down and setup for a quantity of 1 or 1000 is the same and very labour intensive.

The solution is to build up your prototype in-house, in your lab where build up is cost effective and timely and if design changes should be required, they can be made “on the fly”.

This seems logical, but we still have the problem of the size of the components and the density of the board layout being prohibitive for manual assembly. In the past, accurate and controlled equipment has been reserved for EMS/OEM companies with expensive solder paste printers, costly paste stencils, automatic Pick and Place machines, chip shooters, reflow ovens, etc…

So how do you manufacture your prototypes without the space or budget for this large production equipment and the skills to setup all these different machines? This is where a huge gap appears keeping the designer in the dark ages limiting construction to the basic tools like a soldering iron, magnifying glass and tweezers.

But there is hope for these engineering superheroes! Eurocircuits noticed that nobody considered the difficulties faced by engineers and specifically designed and developed equipment to allow prototype designers manufacture to high end specification of accuracy and quality of production equipment.

Desktop solder paste printer (eC-stencil-mate) offering a small machine footprint, a high accuracy and a simple set-up – no more need for expensive paste stencils:

Manual pick and place machine (eC-placer) providing high accuracy placement of small SMD and fine pitch components – no more eye strain, employing camera assisted placement.

Benchtop reflow oven (eC-reflow-mate) with precise temperature profile control and surface temperature monitoring – ensuring that components are no longer destroyed with thermal shock.

So to conclude, there is equipment available for engineers so even prototypes can look and perform like a professional production board.

eC-test-mateeC-reflow-mate V4 3 is a handheld test system for functional testing of assembled PCBs without the need for complex tooling. Simply integrate eC-test-mate footprints into your PCB-layout, write your test programs, place the eC-test-mate test head(s) on your board and run the tests. No connectors, no test jigs, just easy footprints. eC-test-mate is a cost-effective solution for testing small series of assembled PCBs.

Como é que a Eurocircuits pode oferecer um serviço de protótipos competitivo?

Os engenheiros europeus são um grupo muito inovador e empreendedor, isso levou a uma enorme indústria de inovação e de protótipos.

O fabrico destes protótipos para os clientes pode ser caro e trabalhoso e citando é impeditiva por causa dos custos de instalação e de materiais. A configuração de uma linha de produção de uma placa ou 10.000 placas custa o mesmo,  como podemos então poupar sem comprometer a qualidade?

PCBs

O seu fornecedor de PCB oferece grandes descontos em encomendas de grandes quantidades de lotes de placas, isto  porque é fácil, em seguida, de diluir os custos de produção numa encomenda de 1000 PCBs, mas não pode oferecer um bom preço para pequenas quantidades, porque os encargos de produção são uma constante.

A resposta é as encomendas com “pooling”, compartilhando o custo de produção de vários trabalhos de clientes, onde uma placa custa significativamente menos do que apenas os custos de produção de um fabricante PCB convencional. A Eurocircuits criou um sistema onde processamos mais de 400 pedidos por dia, de modo a partilhar o espaço do painel de produção.

Stencils

Stencils (telas serigraficas) constituem um custo grande e inevitável para a fabricação de um PCB, isto porque stencils para grandes impressoras de estêncil industrial o tamanho é uma constante para ajustar as estruturas de máquinas, com um custo típico de € 200 a € 300, mais uma vez isto faz  com que a produção de protótipos seja  impraticável, mas mais uma vez a solução é um sistema em que a matriz está baseado no tamanho da placa individual e não numa constante fixa. A Eurocircuits desenvolveu um sistema de registro – EC-registro – para a placa e o estêncil com perfeito alinhamento e utiliza os mesmos princípios de Pooling para oferecer stencils a um preço tão pouco como € 35.


Registro de placa e stencil

How to setup these stencils to the PCB is now a matter of minutes without any expertise needed, the answer is to use the eC-registration together with the Eurocircuits desktop stencil printer (eC-stencil-mate) offering small machine footprint, high accuracy and simple set-up – no more expensive paste stencils.

Como configurar os stencils para o PCB é agora uma questão de minutos sem qualquer conhecimento necessário, a resposta é usar a EC-registo junto com a impressora Eurocircuits (CE-stencil-mate), oferecendo, alta precisão e set-up simples..

Nota

Leia o nosso BLOG sobremontagem de Pcb manual.

Cómo puede Eurocircuits ofrecer un servicio de prototipos competitivos?

Los ingenieros europeos son un grupo muy innovador y emprendedor, lo que condujo a una enorme industria de la innovación y la creación de prototipos.

La fabricación de estos prototipos puede ser costosa y laboriosa y puede ser inhibidor debido a los costes y materiales de instalación. La creación de una línea de producción de una placa o de 10.000 placas cuesta lo mismo, por lo que puede ser caro, así que ¿cómo podemos ahorrar sin comprometer la calidad final?

PCB’s

Su proveedor de PCB ofrece grandes descuentos en pedidos de grandes cantidades de un montón de placas, esto porque es fácil entonces de diluir los costes de producción para 1000 PCBs, pero no puede ofrecer un buen precio para pequeñas cantidades, debido a que los costes de producción son una constante.

La respuesta de Eurocircuits es el proceso de “pooling”, compartiendo el coste de producción de varios trabajos de los clientes, donde una placa tiene costes significativamente menores que sólo los costes de producción de un fabricante de PCB convencional. Eurocircuits ha creado un sistema en el que procesamos más de 400 pedidos al día, con el fin de compartir el espacio en la producción de paneles.

Stencils

Los stencils (pantallas serigráficas) son un gran y inevitable coste para la fabricación de un PCB, esto es debido a que las plantillas para las impresoras de gran formato de la plantilla industrial son una constante para ajustar los bastidores de las máquinas, con un valor típico de 200 a 300 €. Otra vez, esto hace la producción de prototipos poco prácticas, pero de nuevo la solución está en un sistema en el que la matriz se basa en el tamaño de la placa individual y no una constante fija. Eurocircuits desarrolló un sistema de registro – EC-registro – para la placa y la plantilla con una alineación perfecta y utiliza los mismos principios de la agrupación de plantillas para ofrecer a un precio tan económico como 35 €.

Registro de placa y stencil

Cómo preparar estas plantillas a el PCB es ahora una cuestión de minutos sin ninguna experiencia necesaria, la respuesta es utilizar el ec-registro, junto con la impresora Eurocircuits (ec stencil-mate) ofreciendo alta precisión y sencilla puesta en marcha.

Nota

Lea nuestro BLOG sobre montaje de  Pcb manual.

How can Eurocircuits offer a competitive prototype service?

The European engineers are a very inventive and enterprising group, this has led to a huge industry of innovation and prototypes.

Manufacturing of these prototypes for customers can be costly and labour intensive and quoting is inhibitive because of the setup and material costs. Setup of a production line for 1 board or 10,000 boards costs the same, so where can cost saving be made without compromising on quality?

PCB’s

Your PCB supplier offers a great deal on large batch quantities of boards, this is because it is easy then to dilute the tooling charges across 1,000’s of PCBs but cannot offer a good price for a small quantity because the tooling charges are a constant.

The answer is order pooling, sharing the cost of tooling with multiple customers where 1 board costs significantly less than just the tooling charges from a conventional PCB fabricator. Eurocircuits have created a system where we process over 400 orders per day, so sharing the production panel space is never a problem.

Stencils

Stencils are a large and unavoidable cost for manufacturing PCB’s, this is because stencils for large industrial stencil printers are licenced to manufacture and the size is a constant to fit the machine frames, with a typical cost of €200 to €300, again this makes Prototypes impractical, but again the solution is a system whereby the stencil is based on the size of the individual board and not a fixed constant. Eurocircuits have developed a registration system – eC-registration – for perfect board and stencil alignment and utilise the same principles of Pooling to offer stencil from as little as €35.

Board and stencil registration

How to setup these stencils to the PCB is now a matter of minutes without any expertise needed, the answer is to use the eC-registration together with the Eurocircuits desktop stencil printer (eC-stencil-mate) offering small machine footprint, high accuracy and simple set-up – no more expensive paste stencils.

Note

Read our BLOG on inhouse PCB assembly

Why you should supply us with Gerber X2 files.

The benefits of the Gerber X2 format

Perfectly understanding customer data and not losing any PCB design information in data transfer, are key issues to seemlessly produce and deliver quick turn around PCB prototypes.

In our BLOG section we already explained the history of the Gerber Format. We have written a white paper on which actions we need to perform once we have received your data to check them and make them production ready. And we have informed you that UCAMCO is no longer supporting the old Gerber RS-274D format.

Gerber X2 is todays” standard. Why should you use it?

X2 adds intelligence to the Gerber format by its use of attributes. When PCB Vislualizer processes your new job, attributes allow the software to put the layers directly in the correct position in the stack-up. Other attributes identify the via pads, the SMD pads and so on. This avoids manual interaction and offers extra info for DRC and DFM checks. UCAMCO”s Gerber X2 intro movie offers a sneak preview in the CAM-engineers environment where he uses a UCAM system reading in X2 and experiencing its benefits.

CAD systems – KiCAD, Pulsonix, Easy-PC, DipTrace and Altium – can all generate Gerber X2 files. UCAMCO cooperated with the CAD and other software vendors to validate their X2 output. We like the efficiency of X2, please use it as It will improve data transfer from you to us in a safe and practical way. 

All about the Gerber format on the UCAMCO website