How to Raise the Bottom Line on the Bill of Materials

Lately, we’ve used our blog to discuss an important topic for manufacturers everywhere: cutting costs without going offshore. Previously, we covered how to manufacture a lower cost circuit board assembly through smart design and smart communication. 

Today, we’re talking about how to achieve a low-cost BOM.

It Starts with Supply Chain Expertise
(But there’s more…)

Supply chain expertise is required for a low-cost BOM—but it’s not the only element that requires care and attention. In order to smooth the actual process of assembly, PCBA designers must work closely with contract manufacturers as well as component suppliers.

For a lower-cost bill of materials, try to follow these guidelines.

  • The contract manufacturer and the client company need to be on the exact same page regarding the BOM. Therefore, each component needs to have comprehensive documentation: manufacturer and manufacturers’ part number, a quantity per assembly, a reference designator, and a part description. This last must include general information like commodity type, package size, and a component footprint.
  • Designers should select components for availability first, then unit cost, and then package size (again, with an eye toward minimizing the size of the PCB).
  • Provide multiple sources, or allow for equivalent parts, particularly for passive components such as resistors, capacitors, and diodes.
  • Standard component packages from standard manufacturers will tend to have the highest availability—use these whenever possible. Components that are in production and available through a source such as Digi-key will fit these criteria, with a reasonable lead time.
  • SMT components tend to be smaller and less expensive, and can be mounted to both sides of a board, increasing flexibility in design. For all the most rugged applications, SMT components should be considered before through-hole components. For more guidance as to which components to select for various use-cases, work with a Field Application Engineer from a major distributor.

Have a question about contract manufacturing or assembly? Trust the expertise of New England’s first electronic contract manufacturing company. 


Increase Your Bottom Line With Electronic Manufacturing Services

If you stop and take a look around, you can see that manufacturing plays a major role in our day to day lives. From the keyboard that is being used to type this article to the screen that is used to display it. In addition electronic components in your car, home and cell phone reply on some sort of electronic manufacturing service. Today these manufacturing services are highly specialized to specific product needs and requirements.

One would define electronic manufacturing services as a term used for companies that design, test, manufacture, repair and manage the supply chain for electronic parts and components. In today’s world, electronics are becoming faster and more sophisticated on what seems like a weekly basis. With this we have seen the complexity of operations increase rapidly and the need for electronic manufacturing services increase.

By completing the defined tasks listed above the customer is freed from many responsibilities. The customer then does not need to keep large inventories of products. In case of a rapid spike in demand for a product, the electronic manufacturing services company will be prepared to handle the new demand. They are also more readily equipped to have a faster and more productive turnaround.

This process is a cost efficient way for businesses to streamline their operations on a daily basis. The growth of these electronic manufacturers is increasing year to year as customers bottom lines improve. One of the leading reasons why companies are outsourcing manufacturing services is due to the fact that these business services have many more resources to obtain the raw materials that are needed for electronic components. The cost to obtain the parts themselves can be time consuming and expensive for businesses. When customers commit to outsourcing it is then the manufacturers’ responsibility to be the material handler from start to finish. These outfits already have established connections to obtain the necessary materials that are needed to complete your project on time.

Successful outsourcing programs will help decrease or possibly eliminate the downtimes that electronic companies may have previously experienced. We all know that meeting deadlines is critical for company reputation and profitability. Companies who are not familiar with large runs of a product could be at risk of having their supplier not send parts in time to keep assembly lines in motion. Also when considering a partnership with an outsourcer you might consider asking for the company’s delivery policy to ensure that all product delivery deadlines are met to your satisfactory.

Would you like to know more about Electronic Manufacturing Services at Distron? Please don’t hesitate to contact us today.


What to Look for in an Electronic Contract Manufacturer

Electronic contract manufacturing plays a vital role for businesses and industries around the world. But before getting into what separates the good from the bad, a brief definition of an electronic contract manufacturer might help.

On a very basic level, electronic contract manufacturers like Distron (otherwise known as “ECMs”) use advanced manufacturing technology and machinery to produce the intricate components many of our electronics rely on.

A number of industries take advantage of electronic contract manufacturing when they need a fast, effective, and reliable source for complex assembly. These industries often include the aerospace, defense, computer, semiconductor, energy, medical, food manufacturing, personal care, and automotive fields.

One of the most common fallacies these days is that all of the electronic contract manufacturing businesses have moved overseas in search of greater cost savings. Apart from being living proof that this isn’t true, Distron is proud to be proof that this fallacy isn’t exactly true — especially for high precision applications in the aerospace, defense, and medical industries.

But what makes a good electronic manufacturer? When looking for the right contract manufacturer for your project, you must make a few considerations. At Distron, we take all of the following into mind when optimizing our processes, services, and customer support.

Relationships:

Will another contract manufacturer push you to the bottom of the queue when a high-volume project comes along and demands next-day delivery?

At Distron, when we’re working on your project — you are number one. For any contract manufacturer, relationships are important. As a business, you have to be confident that your manufacturing will be completed in a timely fashion — not pushed back because something else came along.

What is best, is what Distron offers. A real relationship from as early as the prototype stage to full production. This gives us a full understanding of your product and the ability to identify any ways to improve it, while avoiding costly pitfalls and delays. This dedication to an actual relationship ensures that you get the patience, time, and resources necessary when it comes to developing a product that has been designed and optimized for quality and cost efficiency.

Staying Competitive:

Any good electronic contract manufacturer should be focused on helping you stay competitive. This is particularly true at Distron, where our specialty is working with small to medium sized companies. This involves a variety of processes ranging from helping you stay up to date with industry trends to helping you prepare for various regulations pertinent to your products or components.

Flexibility:

Because of the variety of different products and components that rely on effective ECM, a good provider should be able to demonstrate a high degree of flexibility in terms of its structure, processes, and equipment. Flexibility is absolutely necessary when it comes to accommodating various customers, products, and timelines. At Distron, we accomplish this flexibility by offering a wide variety of services ranging from PCB assembly, supply chain management and BGA repair to comprehensive inspection and testing services. At the same time, remaining flexible also means having strong distributor relationships for greater cost efficiency and reliability.

When all of these factors come together, businesses get a contract manufacturing resource that offers the many benefits of manufacturing in America with a level of cost efficiency comparable to off-shore manufacturing.

Would you like to know more about contract manufacturing at Distron? Please don’t hesitate to contact us today.


The Balls that Keep Your Electronics Rolling: BGA Assembly and Repair

You constantly rely on BGA assemblies. Chances are you may realize that. We deal with the technical side of BGA repair and assembly every day. So sometimes its nice to talk about how the technologies are used and why they matter. No matter how familiar you are with the oh-so-important ball grid array, read on to learn more. Or contact us today if you’re looking for a quote for BGA repair or BGA assembly.

The  golden specks are actually the "ball" part of a ball grid array.
The golden specks are actually the “ball” part of a ball grid array.

There are thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of technological advancements and innovations that make the things we take for granted every day possible. From the microchip to flexible circuits, there are tiny things inside the things inside your pocket, your briefcase, and your backpack that you don’t even realize are there, and they have all undeniably changed your life. Ball grid arrays are one of those things.

A ball grid array, or BGA is a direct descendent of the pin grid array (PGA) and used to conduct electrical signals from the integrated circuit to the printed circuit board of an electronic component. Virtually all electronics contain printed circuit boards. While a PGA is comprised of pins, the BGA is made up of ball of solder – stuck to what is known to the “package”.

While pin grid arrays were effective, they did present a few disadvantages. For example, if you were to empty the contents of your pockets, chances are you would be left with your keys, some change, maybe some lint, and your cell phone. Years ago, cellular phones were the large artifacts you’ll now only see in a re-run of Miami Vice. Today, they’re small, compact, and ultra-portable. Ball grid arrays help make this possible by being the ideal solution for producing a miniature package more efficiently and effectively. With a PGA, as more and more pins were being soldered to a package, the unacceptable risk of bridging them was growing. BGA’s factory soldered to the package solved this problem, allowing for high density and reduced heat conduction.

However, there are disadvantages. One key disadvantage of BGA’s is the fact that solder balls on a ball grid array can not flex.  This can lead to fracturing, but can also be alleviated by more effective design and compatibility between the substrate of the circuit board and the BGA. Many times, BGA’s require inspection and repair. This is done with special X-ray machines, microscopes, and industrial CT scanning machines.

After inspection, if a BGA is badly soldered or in need of repairs it can be removed at a rework station with an infrared lamp, a thermocouple, and a vacuum for lifting the package. This allows technicians to replace, refurbish, reball, and reinstall the BGA to return it to working order. Many times, because X-ray and CT Scan testing is cost prohibitive, the go-to solution for inspection and repair begins with electrical testing and boundary scanning – a method for testing the interconnects on a printed circuit board or integrated circuit.

Regardless, ball grid arrays are responsible for many of the compact electronics you use today. Chances are, if you were to violently throw your laptop into oncoming traffic, one of the pieces you would recover would be a ball grid array. While it’s not a recommended course of action, it simply goes to show how widespread BGA assembly and repair is.


Electronic Contract Manufacturing Flex Circuit Assembly

Flex circuit assemblies are important. If you’ve found us, you probably know what they are already. But if you’re just stumbling in (or looking for a quick read) feel free to learn a little more about the flexible circuits you frequently rely on. Or, for more info on how we work with flex circuit assemblies, you can always contact us today.

Have you ever heard of a flex circuit assembly? If not, chances are you used one recently – in fact, you could be using one right now.

Flexible circuits, otherwise known as flexible electronics, use mounted electronic devices on flexible plastics such as PEEK, conductive polyester, and polyimides. But why? By mounting electronic parts on durable and flexible plastics, manufacturers benefit in a number of ways.

First, flex circuit assemblies allow manufacturers to tightly assemble electronic packages where connections are being made on every face of the product. Also, when it comes to products like a cell phone that flips open, flexible circuits make that motion possible. Additionally, in products or components where space and weight is a concern, flexible circuit assemblies help cut back on the requirements for both.

But how does a flex circuit work? A basic flexible circuit is constructed of a flexible polymer which is then laminated to a sheet of copper. This thin sheet of copper is then etched to product a circuit pattern on one or both sides. Interconnections are made adding plated-through holes to the piece – allowing for compatibility with almost any part. Sometimes, an overcoat is added to give insulation and protection to the circuit for products subject to a wide range of operating conditions. Once the flex circuit is created, it can bend as need while still conducting the necessary electricity to power the device.

Flexible circuit assembly can also accommodate single or double sides circuits, surface mountings, shielding, and multi-layer designs for flexible and rigid circuits when devices need it.

Flex circuit assemblies are frequently used in products where rigid circuit boards are uneconomical, too heavy, or a design constraint (such as in the case of a product that requires flexibility). Presently, you will find flex circuit boards in many of the electronics you use in your day to day life, from cameras, computer keyboards, LCD products, and more.

Many times, OEM’s require very small tolerances and extremely accurate micro-vias. A “vertical interconnect access” (via) combined with the obvious prefix micro, makes a microvia that allows for flex circuits needed in small, precision instruments like those used in operating rooms.

With this capability, many businesses that provide electronic contract manufacturing flex circuit assembly specialize in flex circuit assemblies that enable the use of the high-tech precision electronics that make a serious impact on our lives. Whether they impact us by enabling us to connect with our friends and loved ones around the with portable and reliable smartphones or keep us alive with precision medical equipment. Some other products and tools containing flex circuit assemblies include: music players, radios, phones, cameras, medical instruments, radios, computer parts, aircraft components, military equipment, and more.

Whether you’ve thought of what makes your many compact electronics possible or not, there you have it. A small insight into flex circuits and electronic contract manufacturing flex circuit assembly.  It truly is one of the technologies we rely on every day without ever knowing it.


Electronic Contract Manufacturing Services: Keeping You Connected to the World

Have you thought about EMS lately? No, not the EMS that will come to the rescue in an unfortunate pinch, but Electronic Manufacturing Services. While we might not think of electronic manufacturing services (referred to as EMS for now on), they have influenced us as a society much more than the Ambulance has.

Companies that design, test, distribute, manufacture, and repair electronic components for original equipment manufacturers (OEMN’s) are known as providing EMS, which is also referred to as electronic contract manufacturing (ECM). While it might not be something the average consumer thinks about, contract manufacturing impacts a majority of the products and tools you interact with everyday.

If you were to suggest that the more commonly known acronym for EMS, characterized by flashing lights and paramedics was more “important” than contract manufacturing, it would be important to remember that many of the electronics commonly used by the medical industry as a whole are the result of modern day medical engineering combined with contract manufacturing services. With that in mind, you could reliably trace many of the things you rely on every day to their origin: a contract manufacturing facility.

For example, every day electronic contract manufacturing provides the necessary manufacturing of printed circuit boards for consumer electronics, industrial machinery, medical instrumentation, and military equipment. But where do you think electronic manufacturing began?

In the early 1980’s electronic manufacturing began its reign, easing human resources issues for small companies and streamlining processes for businesses everywhere. By the 90’s, with contract manufacturers providing on demand manufacturing, warranty, repairs, and more – the advantages of electronic contract manufacturing were so obvious that most electronics businesses actually sold their manufacturing plants to established contract manufacturing providers.

Most frequently, EMS providers have focused on printed circuit board fabrication, with the OEM’s taking care of actual system assembly.  While many electronic contract manufacturers have outsourced their production facilities to cheaper geographic regions, many American EMS providers still exist, providing manufacturing for industrial clients, consumer electronics, medical instrumentation, and more.  Today, many EMS capabilities have stretched beyond fabrication and into a number of added services such as design assistance, system assembly, testing, and repairs, software, and more.

So next time you are tempted to take your smart phone or computer for granted – don do it! Think about everything that has gone into making it’s fantastic technology possible for so many things we all rely on every day.


The Importance of Electronic Manufacturing Services

You probably have a cell phone in your pocket, or somewhere close by. Think about how you feel when you accidentally leave it at home. You tap your pocket, instantly aware that something isn’t right and the realization is made – “I forgot my phone.” However, imagine a world where that phone might not exist. It takes a lot to make a phone, but without electronic manufacturing services – none of it would be possible.

Electronic manufacturing benefits us virtually every single day.
Electronic manufacturing benefits us virtually every single day.

Electronic manufacturing services, otherwise known by the acronym EMS are one of the most critical industrial processes in existence when it comes to getting you the products you’ve grown to rely on every day.

When surface mount technology came into existence, it enabled for electronic components to be mounted onto the surface of printed circuit boards, or PCB’s. This eventually made manufacturers capable of rapidly assembling electronics, making them widely available for the general public. For example, when you interact with your computer an electrical charge is sent from one point another using the copper pathways (or traces) laid into the surface of the printed circuit board, providing a completed circuit. When a charge is sent along that circuit, it typically interact with the parts of the circuit board that do the actual work, such as a diode, microchip, or switch.
While printed circuit boards are not the end all be all of electrical connection, they surely make a great deal possible, allowing for smaller devices, miniature components, and much smaller space requirements. Before PCB’s were the standard, a standard electronic device like a television was powered not by a circuit board but by a mess of cables all individually connected to a power supply. So while we might have some of the things we do know, picture a far more antiquated version. Your mobile phone would not fit in your pocket, it would fit in a briefcase and your television would not neatly mount on your wall, it would require a 4 foot deep entertainment center.
You might be wondering where electronic manufacturing services come into the mix, and the answer is very early. After the printed circuit board is manufactured, the EMS provider is responsible for an extremely wide variety of services ranging from basic circuit board assembly and electromechanical assembly to surface mounting, flex circuit assembly, testing, and more. These are the types of operations that add the guts to printed circuit boards, giving them the capability to actually do something more than pass an electrical charge from one point to another.

With EMS, providers are capable of quickly and efficiently putting together and testing these assemblies so people like us can have our ultra portable and high performance electronics. Or, thought of from another perspective, EMS is also used to assemble the electronic components for aerospace, military, and defense applications – putting missiles reliably in the sky and rockets successfully into orbit. If you thought not having a mobile phone was bad, think about how a lack of effective electronic manufacturing would impact an organization like the department of defense. Without EMS it would be a very different world indeed, so next time you pick up your phone or peak inside your computer – think about how monumentally far we’ve come.