How Does Turnkey PCB Assembly Reduce Turn Times?

You’ve probably heard of turnkey PCB assembly, an all-in-one solution design and specifications are sent to the PCB manufacturer and they return the assembled PCBs to you (or your client) ready to use. It sounds convenient compared to doing all the legwork yourself, or having one of your engineers do it, but did you know that turnkey assembly also offers the shortest possible lead times for PCBs?

Let’s take a look at some of the ways that turnkey PCB assembly can shave time off of the design process and reduce turnaround time.

It Saves Engineers Time

Turnkey assembly saves engineers time in a couple of important ways. First, time spent hunting for components and availability is eliminated. Manufacturers that offer turnkey assembly have teams dedicated to component sourcing. This also extends to component substitution and BoM management. If something isn’t available, your turnkey team will be able to deal with substitutions for you and check that all substitutions are compatible with the overall design.

Second, and maybe an even bigger time savings, is the reduced communication load. When an engineer is organizing multiple component suppliers, a PCB fabricator, an assembler, and shipping among all of them, keeping everything sailing smoothly can eat a lot of time. Keep your PCB designers focused on their main job—designing and revising PCBs.

That will mean that prototypes are designed, tested, and redesigned faster. No time spent following developments with assembly; no logistics work organizing the movement of boards or components between vendors.

With turnkey assembly, engineers have a single point of contact to deal with any and all questions related to the development of the product. They will keep you up-to-date on the process, and any changes that need to be made can be addressed quickly.

It Reduces Transportation Time (and Costs)

When dealing with multiple companies for every aspect of the production process, the time that goods spend moving from one stage to the next can really add up. Compare that with a turnkey assembly solution:

  • The PCB manufacturer already has ties with component suppliers and knows which parts to find from each one.
  • They have a store of common components already on hand and can handle component inventory storage for you.
  • The assembler is either in-house or nearby.

Instead of orchestrating businesses across borders and possibly continents, the entire process is localized, moving quickly from one stage to the next. That leaves shipping the final product as the only major shipping time.

There Are Fewer Quality Concerns

With a turnkey assembly solution, there are fewer quality concerns to deal with, especially when shipping between vendors.

In a multi-vendor scenario, if you instruct your PCB fabricator to ship your bare boards to an assembly house and they arrive with an error or a large percentage of damaged boards, your only option is to make a new order and wait. With turnkey assembly, this situation is impossible.

The company you deal with is responsible for your project from PCB creation to final testing, if they make a mistake with one step, they catch it and fix it in the next. As we mentioned before, you have a single contact or team within the manufacturer overseeing the progress of your order and checking for quality at each stage.

Not to mention, you’re dealing with a single organization. Internal teams are familiar with each other and have experience working together. Miscommunications and mix-ups are reduced and it’s in the manufacturer’s best interest to make sure that each stage supports the next and products move through the process as efficiently as possible.

Of course, it’s possible to run into a bad manufacturer, which could cause you even bigger problems than one bad vendor might. So, it’s important to vet your potential manufacturer carefully, and find reviews or references if possible.

Scale Up Quickly

The benefits go beyond the turnaround time for your initial prototype. Once you’re satisfied with your PCBs, the manufacturer can immediately start to produce them in quantity.

Think about it. Instead of juggling multiple suppliers and manufacturers to finish the prototypes and then searching for a manufacturer for production, you could finish prototyping quickly and move forward immediately with a company with which you have already developed a relationship.

Not all PCB manufacturers that offer turnkey assembly offer large-scale production, but if your needs fit with the manufacturer’s capacity, turnkey assembly could offer a truly seamless production process. Some manufacturers can even ship to clients for you or offer drop-shipping services.

With turnkey PCB assembly, you get a single, devoted team backing you up as you take a design from PCBs to working products. With less time spent on logistics and organization, you can expect much faster results. It could turn the design process around by reducing product turnaround.

Contributed by Chris Dickey, vice president of sales and marketing at SVTronics

Building Boards for the Intel Edison

I’ve recently spent some time getting familiar with the Intel Edison. The Edison has a dual-core 500MHZ Intel Atom processor, with built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. It comes with 1GB of RAM, 4GB of eMMC internal storage, and a USB 2.0 OTG controller. It doesn’t bring any of the connectors (power or signal) out in a usable form. Rather, it’s designed to be plugged onto another board through a 70-pin high density connector from Hirose.

I designed a small board with I2C (both 5V and 3V connectors) and a micro-SD card slot. My board still doesn’t have the power or console connectors. For that, I’m using a base board from Sparkfun.

Figure 1

Figure 1

Step one of the assembly process, is, of course, to design and layout the board. Using the Sparkfun open source designs as a jumping off point, I ended up with the nice, compact layout (1.2″ x 1.75″) shown below in Figure 2.

Figure 2

Figure 2

After getting the files ready and placing a turnkey order on our website, I followed the board through with my camera. Here it is after offline setup, with the parts ready for robot pick-and-place:

Figure 3

Figure 3

In one of our Mydata My500 solder paste printers:

Figure 4

Figure 4

On the pick-and-place machine, with solder paste, but before any components are placed:

Figure 5

Figure 5

The parts plate in the machine:

Figure 6

Figure 6

 

With most of the components placed:

Figure 7

Figure 7

Through the reflow oven, prior to final inspection:

Figure 8

Figure 8

The final product, top view:

Figure 9

Figure 9

I abbreviated the process a bit, but those are the major process steps along the way.

Duane Benson
Happy birthday (month) Nikola Tesla