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.


Surface Mount Assembly: The Valuable Surface Beneath the Surface

Beneath the surface of just about everything you rely on, from the computer in your car or the one on your desk at home, to the tiny one slowly wearing a hole in the pocket of your favorite pair of jeans. Printed circuit boards are everywhere, and they would be nothing without surface mount assembly, and that is why surface mount assemblies are the critical surface beneath the surface of virtually all the electronic equipment you use. So, what exactly is surface mount assembly?
Surface mount technology is a method used for constructing electronic circuits where the components that actually bring functionality to the assembly are mounted directly to the surface of the printed circuit board. In the past, instead of the components being mounted to the printed circuit board, they all had individual connections – which lead to very inefficient management of space and a level of performance that would eventually be overshadowed by surface mounting. Think of it this way, the old way was a mess of tangles and knots – the difference between a groomed show dog and a gnarly mess that’s been playing in the gutter for too long. With surface mount technology, devices can afford to be smaller, more compact, and better all-around products. surface-mount-assy

The main advantages of surface mount technology include the ability to incorporate smaller components in much greater number, fewer holes needing to be drilled through the PCB, much simpler (a nd much faster) automated assembly, and the ability to place components on both sides of the circuit boards.

Surface mounting technology was first pioneered in the 1960’s and came into prominence in the 1980’s when more and more consumer electronics and computers were being used. For the most part, the majority of research, development, and early testing was undertaken by IBM. With these new developments, components began getting smaller and smaller, allowing for greater circuit densities – bring greater capabilities to electronics without having to increase size, but instead decreasing space requirements. In the 1980’s the rapidly increasing popularity of surface mounting technology allowed for a greatly enhanced degree of automation, which reduced costs of production, increased production rates, and made many types of electronic devices readily available to a wider group of consumers.

So as you see, without surface mount technology, many of the commonplace products we have today ranging from simple toys and advanced consumer electronics to computer components and high tech missile systems would not be possible. When you reach for your mobile phone resting in your pocket or your ultra-portable laptop safely stowed away in your bag, think about what makes it all possible. Chances are in many cases, you have the early pioneers of technologies like surface mounting to thank.

 


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.


Electronic Contract Manufacturing: Your Life Wouldn’t Be The Same Without It

You’ve seen video footage of endless conveyor belts dutifully carrying every part and component through the gauntlet of creation known as “electronic contract manufacturing”. You’ve seen images of robots soldering part by part to delicate components, plugs inserted, wires installed, and more. You know very well that the many products and mechanisms you use every day aren’t entirely made by hand. You know they are mass manufactured at the hands of wonderfully complex machines and robotic manufacturing equipment.

You know all of this, but have you ever considered where we would be and how you would live if none of it existed? Without electronic contract manufacturing services (ems) the computer at your fingertips, the phone in your pocket, and the car in your driveway would be drastically more expensive, and the fabric of the world would be far different than what we’ve grown accustomed to. Would cars exist? Would we all have “smart phones” in our pockets? Would identity theft be a problem? Electronic manufacturing services (EMS) have changed the world by making all kinds of products and commodities readily available to the wider public. But what is electronic manufacturing and why is it so important?

Thought of quite literally, electronic contract manufacturing is the industrial process where an electronic manufacturing service provides the automated manufacturing of virtually any electronic component, part, or product.

Every day, electronic contract manufacturers are responsible for the fast and efficient production of everything from medical instrumentation, military electronics,  and commercial products to oceanographic instruments and precision robotics. Products manufactured with EMS can be anything from printed circuit boards for a specific application or the entirely assembled and tested final product. This often involves processes such as printed circuit board assembly, surface mount assembly, flex circuit assembly, and much more.

Lets consider the printed circuit board for example. Printed circuit boards are used to electrically “connect” electronic components using series upon series of interwoven pathways etched into copper sheets that have been laminated with a non-conductive substrate. When electronic components are mounted onto a printed circuit board, it becomes a printed circuit assembly. Without printed circuit boards and printed circuit assemblies, the electronics we depend on would not work. For example, your computer has a motherboard. The motherboard drives and provides power for various components such as the CPU, GPU, power supply, USB ports, and more. Without this critical printed circuit board, your computer would not function. Because printed circuit boards can be manufactured quickly and reliably with electronic contract manufacturing, computers are more affordable.

Now when you think about how important computers are, consider the fact that every computer contains a printed circuit board that had to be manufactured. Without EMS, chances are the ubiquity of computers might not exist, because they would be far too expensive to produce.