How to Evaluate A PCB Manufacturer or A PCB Assembler

It's a tough job for OEMs to settle on a long-term PCB fabricator or assembler (we'll call them PCB Houses in the following paragraphs) since the globe is flooded with too many PCB services providers. This article brings some guidelines on how to picking up the perfect fit PCB Houses from your long waiting list. In addition, a FREE template investigation list will be supplied so that you can directly make use of it as a standard when you evaluate a PCB House to build long-term cooperation.


Though PCB manufacturing and assembly contain so many links that should be carefully inspected one by one, the process mainly centers on Products, Capabilities and Service. As a result, this article follows the same route.

Products

The quality of printed circuit boards will directly affect your final products' application and performance. Hence, the priority principle of evaluating PCB Houses is to check their products situation, which can be expanded in three aspects: Quality, Industries and Cost.


1). Quality


Everyone is eager for high quality deriving from the following aspects:
• Whether SPC such as Cpk control of components or manufacturing administration diagram has been applied during PCB manufacturing process;
• Whether constant quality administration improvement such as QCC or TQM has been implemented;
• Whether Administration of ECO (Engineering Change Order) is applied;
• Whether there's component waive control principles published in their terms and conditions;
• Do they conform to stringent quality control evaluations including Material inspection record and administration, SMT yield rate, AQL level, File administration, BOM preservation, ESD implementation, Equipment calibration;


2). Industries


Printed circuit boards are applied in so many different industries, specific industry has strict and special requirements on its manufacturing standards. It's almost impossible for one PCB House to cover all industries evenly. Generally, they tend to be more proficient in serving certain industries while not so excellent for other industries. For example, PCB Houses proficient in processing PCBs for mobile phones surely have sufficient experience to constrain space in end products, PCB Houses mainly serving for space industries perform definitely better in high density.


Under this condition, you have to be fully aware of industries your investigated PCB Houses good at dealing with so that you'll cooperate with a professional partner instead of a cure-all partner.


3). Cost


In spite of tips leading to cost reduction in PCB assembly, prices are sometimes a major element driving our final decision. As a necessary consideration when selecting a PCB House, cost should be analyzed from two aspects:
• Integral quotation - Do not be addicted in the attractive figure alone. Reliable PCB Houses are responsible in each word they claim. You should make sure the price their salesperson gives you is a complete price without any hidden or extra money in the later period of your order;
• Constant cost reduction - It refers to some discounts in your reorders. Although a PCB House will never provide you with always-low prices, you can expect a constant discount in your reorder such as free from tooling cost etc. This strategy is the solid foundation for a long-term cooperation;

Capabilities

As mentioned above, product quality is the soul for a PCB House who depends on its capabilities. PCB manufacturing and assembly capabilities can be displayed in the following aspects:


1). Certificates


Certificates stand for the House's genuine manufacturing capabilities. When cooperating with PCB Houses certificated with ISO9001:2008, UL, RoHS, etc. standards, you can rest assured that they will strictly stick to the regulations of those certificates to obtain a high quality in their products.


2). Technology


Aspects concerning an investigated PCB House's technology can be summarized into the following items:
• Whether technology it applies caters to your requirement and processing capabilities reach your requirement;
• Whether advancing equipment for processing or automation is owned in their house;
• Whether they perform creatively on technologies;
• Whether it is capable of leading in new processing method in the market;
• Processing capability evaluation;
• BGA IC repair capability;
• Soldering capability of 0201 or 01005 and repair capability;
• RoHS implementing capabilities;
• SOP integrity;
• How to set back mistaken material selection and negative polarity;
• Capability of reviewing circuit and providing DFM service;
• Moisture Sensitivity Level (MSL) component control capabilities;
• Solder paste temperature returning, sealing off and storage life administration capabilities;
• De-panel processing capabilities;

Equipment

Advanced technologies can never be fully flourished until they are applied on up-to-date equipment. In terms of PCB fabrication and assembly, leading equipment and their required specifications include:
• Solder paste printing accuracy. Whether it is capable of printing tiny components such as 01005 and CSP and what type of stencils are needed;
• Solder paste thickness inspectors such as SPI (Solder Paste Inspection);
• SMT pick and place machine accuracy that is associated with its capabilities on tiny components registration such as 01005 and CSP;
• X-ray inspector. Generally, X-ray inspection equipment in an SMT factory is 2D that is suitable for short cut inspection and vacancy;
• AOI (Automated Optical Inspection);
• ICT equipment (Agilent 3070, GenRad, TR5000);

Component sourcing

When it comes to the service supplied by PCB assembler, component sourcing accounts for a large part and it's crucial to make a research about component sourcing capabilities including:
• Whether they have good relationship with global leading component distributors;
• Whether components procured by them are qualified;
• Whether they accept components supplied by customers;
• Whether they stock your surplus components for your future projects;

Service

Service is closely associated with customers' real feelings after they complete an order. Compared with Products and Capabilities, this item isn't achieved so hard. When it comes to service supplied by PCB Houses, it mainly contains the following aspects:


1). Lead time


PCB Lead time can be investigated from the following aspects: • Whether it is capable of providing timely delivery;
• Whether the delivery time is compatible with your company's requirement;
• A track service;


Some manufacturers even provide track service for you so that they can be aware where your products have gone. Generally, renowned PCB suppliers or assembly vendors have close cooperation with major Express companies.


2). Responsiveness


Responsiveness stands for a company's reaction to customers' needs and you can make a simple study just from the perspectives below:
• Can they react to new orders quickly?
• Can they reply your emails with full details within 24 hours?
• Can they provide practical solution when emergency occurs?
• Can they expand manufacturing capabilities when you have urgent orders?
• How fast can they react when your project changed before or during the production?


However, responsiveness is not equal to responsive yes. It's understandable that sales know little about company's manufacturing capabilities, especially when you're looking for technical suggestions and confirmations. If you meet a sale telling you that he or she can't tell you until he or she gets a clear reply from technicians from their company, you can directly request to consult those questions with the technicians. Saves time and helps to avoid any unnecessary mistakes during the message transferring.


All in all, the more detailed information you investigate, the clearer the picture of a PCB House will be. Based on the discussions above, you can download the Investigation list for PCB Manufacturer or Assembler Evaluation to make a correct selection as your long-term partner.

If you are looking for the perfect PCB House to manufacture circuit boards for your next project, please consider PCBCart. We have been providing quality guaranteed turnkey PCB Assembly services for worldwide clients since 2005. Our customer satisfaction rate is higher than 99%. Quotation is always welcomed and free. Click corresponding button to get your PCB quotes:

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Helpful Resources
Some Handy Methods in Evaluating SMT Assembler's Capabilities
Design for Manufacture and Assembly of PCBs and General Rules it Conforms to
PCB Design Tips to Better Take Advantage of PCBCart's PCB Fabrication Abilities
PCB Design Tips to Better Take Advantage of PCBCart's Assembly Capabilities And Save Cost

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