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How PCBs are made – the basics

พฤ, 10/18/2018 - 04:11

The PCB manufacturing is important step towards successful build of electronic equipment. The quality of device, smooth operation may be influenced by printed circuit board – if it is well built, device works as planned, and if it has flaws then it may bring some deviations from normal operation. Anyway there are billions of electronic devices around the globe and all of them use PCBs as basis for circuits. Earlier devices were larger, used lots of through-hole components, but today in modern world electronics is very miniature and dense, thus PCBs become much more complex requiring more and thinner tracks, more layers and should work on high frequencies. So not only PCB designer has tough task, but also a PCB manufacturer should be able to follow the trends.

But despite the requirement change, the whole process of PCB manufacturing remain practically the same.

PCB materials

General purpose PCBs are manufactured using widely known FR4 board material also known as glass-reinforced epoxy laminate material. FR4 is a composite material composed of woven fiberglass cloth with an epoxy resin binder that is flame resistant.  FR4 material is commonly used and of its low cost. IT is manageable to work up to 1GHz frequencies. If you step to higher frequencies, then you may need PTFE material which can be used for up to 10GHz electronics. The main downside is that it is expensive as it is harder to process the boards.

The manufacturing of PCBs

The manufacturing of PCBs normally is based on chemical etching of unwanted copper leaving only tracks on board. Common etchant is ferric chloride. There are also other etchants used depending on manufacturer and technology.

The track pattern on PCB is applied by using photographic process. During this process the copper on bare PCB is covered with thin layer of photo resist. Then it is exposed to light through photographic film containing track image – this way tracks are passed on to photoresist. In following step tracks are developed in special solution where exposed to light photo resist is etched.

The next stage involves etching of copper. The copper covered with photo resist isn’t affected by etchant. This way all unwanted copper is removed leaving only required tracks. Etching process require knowing the concentration of ferric chloride, the temperature and etching time.

Other methods involve different techniques such as milling. Accurate computer guided milling machines remove unwanted copper. Milling takes long time and is suitable only for prototyping or manufacturing of small quantities of PCBs.

Multilayer PCBs

Today even less complex electronic devices use more than two layered PCBs. The reason is same – increasing amount of surface mounted parts and EMI compliance. It is more convenient to trace signal, power lines in different layers leaving more room for components and designers imagination.

Multilayer PCBs are made similarly as single layer, just material is much thinner. Thinner individual boards are then glued together that are interconnected with vias. Manufacturing of multilayer PCBs require accuracy when matching individual boards together. There can be many problems when heat gluing boards together. They can warp. So designing of these boards require some knowledge.

Drilling holes and placing vias

Almost all PCBs have some number of holes and vias. Holes normally are used to mount larger components, fix the board to enclosure or be used as vents. Vias are so called plated holes the carry connection from one side to another or between layers. Drilling is done automatically with drilling machine which reads CAD file with hole size and position information. The price of board may depend on amount of holes and vias, so if possible use less of them.

Plating and solder resist

After holes are drilled, the next operation is plating and applying solder resist layer. Plating ensures better component soldering and connectivity. This process also is known as tinning. The cheaper methods use solder to cover exposed pads, for better results there may be gold used. Solder resist in other hand isolates other areas from solder adhesion. It prevents from solder bridging, and also serves as protective layer. You can choose different colors of solder resist for instance the most common is green.

Silk screen

The last but not less important layer of PCB is silk screen. It carries all information to the board. Here can be marked positions of different components and their values, company logo, board identification, warnings and version. There are several silk-screening methods available:

  • Silk screen-printing can be utilized when the registration tolerance is 5 mil.
  • LPI (Liquid Photo Imaging) provides more accuracy when line widths are greater than 4mil.
  • DLP (Direct Legend Printing) is the most accurate and has the highest cost for consumables.
Optional steps

After PCBs are manufactured they are cut or routed in to individual boards. Also the may be tested for connectivity. If you are planning large production of devices, is advised to build a prototype to test the layout before running all batch of PCBs. This step takes time, but can save tons of money. You never know if you need small adjustment to make, replace some parts or do other minor adjustments.

DIY: Using Drones to Sell Your Home

พฤ, 10/18/2018 - 01:24

The technology used in real estate follows the same patterns you would see in any other field. The tools used in the field advance and evolve in order to provide new and exciting opportunities. Drones have become the newest up and coming development that have changed the way we approach photography and videography. In an industry that thrives on online presentation and marketing, the more advanced the photography techniques the better. Real estate businesses that invest in drones are seeing a large payoff when they are able to present homes in a manner that provides their customers with incredibly detailed views of a home. Professional real estate companies are able to use drone services as a selling point for their services due to how important their use has become to the business.

How Drones are Used

Drones have become so intertwined with the real estate industry that many believe the tool to be invaluable to their work. The reason why is obvious: flying cameras have revolutionized the industry, overcoming feats that would have been unimaginable a few years prior. Like taking sweeping shots of an estate from hundreds of feet in the air in minutes when it used to take days. The machines are so accurate and easy to control that shots are capable of being taken from as high as hundreds of feet up to as low as a couple inches off of the ground.

Glidecams are the ground-based versions of flying drones and can transition videos to the inside of a home. It has become easier than ever to fully render a home online for buyers to virtually explore. The cameras that can be attached to the flying platforms may be built in or added on, but their quality is commonly above average, Real estate businesses usually spring for the HD camera models which means clear, vibrant pictures of properties. Dramatic shooting is done in a way that adds to a home’s appeal and can takes full advantage of the advanced technology installed into the drone.

Advancing Drone Technology

The original drones, like most technology just starting development, was unwieldy and expensive. The military technology was only available at high prices, while also lacking the durability and utility of modern drones. Newer manufacturing techniques have allowed for dramatic shots in a clarity that would have cost a fortune compared to the prices you can snap them for now. The software has become so advanced and adaptable that you could fly your drone into a home and have it continue taking pictures inside without any danger to the house or to itself.

The drones you can buy online today are often completely customizable too, meaning that the rig can have any number of attachments. Your drone is as expensive as you want it to be, an invaluable part of any DIY project. Once the drone is set up and taking photos, the next step is using these photographs to sell your home. Listings with more photos attract more attention, they feel more honest and provide an in-depth view into any property.

A Good BOM Solution Service for Electronic Components Purchasers

ศุกร์, 09/07/2018 - 02:15

The manufacturing industry is not one to lag behind with the digital transformation going on in the world around us. Even though the electronics industry still has a lot to do, it’s no doubt that some businesses are already setting the pace with new business models for this digital transformation. Our discussion will center on the best BOM solution for electronic component purchasers.

What is BOM in electronic components industry?

The BOM is short for bill of material. A bill of material or BOM is a list of all manufactured and raw material needed to build an assembly of more than one manufactured part. It serves as the core of any manufacturing process because it lays out all information required to assemble a part. Not only does a BOM outline what manufactured and raw materials are needed to build a part, but it also includes the equipment and tools needed to build the parts.

It may like this:

(click on image to enlarge)

What is a BOM solution service?

The use of BOM solution service in the electronics distribution industry is quite complicated. While a lot of distributors are still into the old ways.

Imagine you have a BOM plan, it’s involved in 100 parts and 20 brands in the BOM—if you had to shop for several of these parts NO. to complete your product. The process would go something like this:

  • Run a search for a dual voltage regulator such as LM125, find your regulator, click into the details page, add part quantity, add to cart.
  • Search for resistors, find your resistor, view the details page, add quantity, add to cart.

(Repeat process 99 more times on a variety of distributors’ websites.)

And the problem gets worse if you are trying to optimize for cost and/or deliver the parts into a specific production/prototype window.

All that work, and at the end of the process, someone would still have to go back into the BOM and update the documentation manually.

This is such an important aspect of sales that will impact the overall customer experience.

Some are gradually embracing the shift to more modern methods to meet the growing needs of components purchasers in a highly competitive market. BOM solutions across different businesses vary from one to the other. Basically, the service is intended to help with cost calculation, replacement solution, risk management, price comparison and a lot of other growing needs.

With the growing shift to digital forms of purchasing, it is necessary that companies hoping to maintain their relevance and sustain growth approach transformation in a similar manner to the pace at which everyone else progresses. This is why the need for a smart and intelligent BOM service is needed to greatly improve the customer experience at the purchasing and ordering levels.

Which websites have BOM solutions?

There are lots of electronic components distributors with different business models adopting different approaches to engage their customers. Although a large section of electronics components distribution companies still employs manual, cumbersome, and stressful approaches, several companies have adopted automated approaches to BOM management that helps to improve ordering and purchasing. Some of these include Allchips (BOM IN ONE BOX), Digikey (BOM Manager), Mouser (Forte), Avnet (BOM Manager), and some other websites. These companies are able to service their customers’ request as regards purchasing electronic parts online with varying levels of satisfaction.

Which company has the best BOM service?

Allchips’ BOM IN ONE BOX (Chinese version is better than the English one) service seems to be the best in a somehow distinct manner. Allchips has deeply involve in the electronic components industries for more than ten years, and made a name for itself within such a short time. Aside from being of the best electronics components distributors online globally, it has this one of a kind BOM service for small-medium business which is unparalleled by most of the other big names in the industry.

Allchips BOM IN ONE BOX Service

The BOM IN ONE BOX service from Allchips is an all-in-one procurement solution for electronic components. This smart and intelligent BOM solution stands out for its ability to intelligently recognize, analyze, match, compare, and recommend for your non-template BOM list by uploading or dragging without registration. The system has been designed to intelligently analyze and optimize to suit the needs of hardware engineers, project owners, as well as electronic components purchasers.   For what it’s worth, the Allchips BOM IN ONE BOX service outperforms most other companies’ BOM solutions for reasons that bother on;

  • Intelligent Recognizing

Non-template BOM list, intelligent recognized the BOM list format. Just type in, drag or upload your BOM List.

  • Cost Calculation

With the intelligent analysis, you can get a rapid quotation. What is more, you can see where the main cost from the BOM, and you can adjust the electronic components parts to meet your demand.

  • Replacement Solution

For the shortage of parts in the production process and cannot be bought within a short period of time or the EOL (End of life) parts, Allchips will intelligent provide customers with Suggested Substitutes.

  • Price Comparison

Analysis of every components parts in your BOM list, Allchips will compare the price within the market, and provide the best price and even lowest cost from general market.

  •  Risk Management

Help you to figure whether your project item number is from a single supply channel, whether it is out of production or it is out of stock as well as whether it meets environmental standards. These factors and some others are the greatest potential risks against project. Though the analysis, you can make a safe and appropriate plan for your project from a long-term view.

  •  Whole BOM Supply

Help you to find all electronic components in your BOM list, and provide a quotation with your BOM. If Allchips online platform can’t meet your BOM demand, you can send your BOM demand to their offline teams. Allchips has more than 30 professionals with 5 years’ experience in purchasing team, and help you to find the all electronic components parts.

The Allchips BOM solution is developed to embody not only a digital transformation but also to revolutionize service and maintenance. Thus, the company and its customers are able to “stay on the same BOM”. The value of a BOM solution can only be measured by the capability to utilize data in the downstream process. This smart system from Allchips has not only ensured the company progresses at an equal pace to connect with customers in a digital world, it has also ensured that customers have a hitch-free experience ordering and purchasing online.

The smart and intelligent BOM service is not the only good thing about Allchips. The company has also put considerable efforts into after sales support to add more value to their service by improving customer experience. With about 10,000,000 parts sourced solely from original manufacturers and authorized agents, it’s hard to go wrong with the quality of components on offer. Allchips partners are either original manufacturers or authorized agents meeting international certification standards such as the ISO9001 and ISO14001 international standard certifications among others. Along with this ensuring that quality is kept at the maximum possible level, you’ll also enjoy a 360-day quality guarantee.

All in all, Allchips BOM IN ONE BOX is one of those unique competitive advantage that have made Allchips. For electronic components purchaser, hardware engineers, project owners, and every other person in need of quality electronic components online, Allchips has a good BOM solution service.

How To Choose A Software Development Company

เสาร์, 09/01/2018 - 00:43

As you evaluate software development firms there are various things that have to be considered. One of them is the questions that are asked. A clear sign that the software development company is not good for your project is that the company representatives you talk to do not actually want to learn more about what you actually need. The same thing goes when you see that you are being rushed into signing a deal. Besides this, whenever you want to hire someone that offers a software engineering service, consider the following.

Range Of Services Provided

All project development has to be seen as being complex. Modern projects require highly comprehensive approaches. High quality code writing is necessary but it is also important to go through preliminary business studies, quality assurance, risk assessment, quality audit, team development and risk mitigation. These are all necessary during all development stages. They are even needed after the project is released since support might be needed.

The outsourcing software development companies that offer truly full IT service ranges will be able to guide businesses on how to make projects better and will offer real solutions to problems intended clients have. Only when multiple services are offered you can be sure that you get good quality development done.

Professional Approach And Software Quality

The software development team has to be chosen based on much more than technology skills. It is important to look at the ability to use really useful frameworks and tools that are capable of accelerating development while increasing productivity and work efficiency. Always try to figure out the delivery process, delivery methodology, mockup tools, quality software metrics and traffic systems that are used by the vendor while creating software. Then, discuss all expectations you might have so that no misconceptions can appear.

Cultural And Language Compatibility

The project needs to be delivered exactly as expected, all while being faced with a totally reasonable time frame and budget. When there are communication gaps or cultural differences, efforts are practically cut across. Be sure that you focus on vendor cultural compatibility and language skills. The goal is always to facilitate interaction and communication. In order to achieve this, choose the vendor that has highly similar educational and cultural backgrounds.

Time Zone And Location

The best solution is always to have vendors that are within close reach. Proximity is going to reduce travel times and costs. If outsourcing, time zone is what you are mainly interested in since you want the working hours to be similar. This is going to make communication a lot better and simply makes problem solving faster.

Final Thoughts

Always take as much time as needed to assess the quality that is offered by all software development companies that you see as being suitable for the work that you need to have done. Patience is necessary if you are looking for the best possible results. A failure to ask questions and focus on proper communication does lead to problems. Do not make your final choice solely based on price.

When To Seccure A Full Service PCB Assembly Partner

อังคาร, 08/14/2018 - 12:56

If your product requires an assembled PCB (printed circuit board) and you don’t have the parts needed to build it, you’ll want to find a full-service PCB assembly partner. A full-service PCB assembly partner will take care of the entire PCB assembly for you.

What will a PCB Assembly Partner do for you?

Obtaining all of the individual parts need for your PCB assembly can be very inefficient, especially when you consider the fact that you will then have to put those parts together on your electronic assembly before integrating them into your final product. It’s more cost-effective to go through a PCB assembly partner, which will also help minimize the potential problems that can arise from working with multiple vendors.

The only thing a PCB assembly partner will need from you is the specifications and requirements of your PCB. They will be able to:

  • Order all components that are needed for the PCB
  • Assemble the PCBs according to your specifications
  • Fabricate the PCBs

Because they are responsible for every aspect of the PCB assembly, they tend to have thoroughly trained employees to ensure the high-quality assembly of your PCB, and strong relationships with multiple vendors, which helps them obtain high-quality parts at lower costs that may not be attainable by other manufacturers.

As for the types of PCBs that a full-service PCB assembly partner can produce, you shouldn’t have any issue with that. Most PCB assembly service providers have the ability to manufacture all types of PCBs, including flexible PCBs that are laminated for higher application demands. Many of these potential PCB assembly partners can provide services that include edge plating, half-cut hole, Kapton tape, micro-vias, and more. Such PCBs can be used in numerous industries, including industrial industries, automotive industries, communication industries, defense industries, and more.

When you begin searching for the right PCB assembly partner for you, make sure that they are RoHS (restriction of hazardous substance) compliant. Most reputable PCB assembly partners should be.

Partial Assembly Services

It’s worth keeping in mind that just because a PCB assembly partner offers full assembly services, it does not mean that they do not do partial assemblies as well. For example, if you have some of the components that you need for your electronic assembly, such as your printed circuit boards, but you don’t have the ability to build an assembly, then you can provide the components to your PCB assembly partner along with your directions and specifications and they will build your PCB assembly for you.

If you need a PCB built for your electronic assembly, then you should look into to working with a full-service PCB assembly service.

 

PCBWay PCB prototype service review

เสาร์, 08/04/2018 - 00:11

Full disclosure: These PCB were provided by PCBWay. Obviously I will try to take to a look at the good as well as the bad.

A few images to start us off:

PCBWay $5 PCB prototyping service

PCBWays’ prototyping service as low as $5/10pcs for max 100 x 100mm size, FR4 double side custom PCB. As with many of Chinese PCB manufacturer you need to input the parameters:

A choice of nine solder mask colors, white or black silkscreen and an array of thicknesses (0.6mm, 0.8mm, 1.0mm, 1.2mm and 1.6mm; thicker and thinner PCBs are available but will increase the price). The default minimum track/ spacing is 6/6mil (0.1524mm), but better tolerances of up to 4/4 mil can be ordered at a premium. The default minimum hole size is 0.3mm but again better spec is available.

Consider the price of PCBWay’s board and delivery time, it is quite competitive compared to other companies.

Order Process:

The order process in PCBWay is a little different because PCBWay allows their engineers to take a look at PCB design before you actually pay. After you submit gerber file, they typically don’t expect any problems. Most other systems functions are automated.

I uploaded the gerber file on 15th May and I tracked my order progress online. Their website allows you to track the detailed progress of your board as it moves along the manufacturing process. For small runs like this one, it is not crucial but if you were doing a large project with panels of many boards, this would definitely be handy.

They started manufacture on 15th and completed everything on 18th. They shipped the boards out on 18th and provided me with a tracking number.

Here’s a summary of the timeline:

15th: Gerber files submission

15th: start of PCB manufacturing

18th: boards completed

18th: boards shipped (via DHL to US)

21th: boards received

Delivery

Nobody wants to wait for standard China Post unless you really are on a shoestring budget (I’ve had some packages take 10 days to arrive, others 30 days, some didn’t arrive at all…). I generally choose DHL as it’s a little cheaper than Fedex and has comparable delivery times. Selecting DHL (+$21) quoted 3-5 days delivery to the US.

3 days delivery to the US including customs clearance! Well worth the extra money, no qualms whatsoever. The boards were nicely packaged.

PCB build quality

The first impressions are good after unpacked and unwrapped. The boards look good, solder mask is bright and silkscreen is reasonably legible.

[Min Track/Spacing: 6/6mil, Min Hole Size: 0.3mm, Blue Solder Mask, White Silkscreen]

Traces/vias Copper and surface finish

 Immersion gold looks good, nice and shiny. Haven’t done any resistance testing but am fairly confident I actually got 1oz copper.

Silkscreen

The white silkscreen is quite legible, no misaligned or badly offset silkscreen. Compared to other PCB manufacturer it’s actually better. As with many Chinese PCB manufacturers an internal tracking code is placed on the silkscreen layer, fortunately they found a spot under an inductor. No unsightly codes on finished PCB, good stuff.

Solder Mask

They also offer matte black & matte green colors. I haven’t seen matte colors being offered at other PCB manufacturer so far. This time the solder mask color I tried is blue.

The solder mask is brightly colored and applied nicely.

Drill

Drills were nicely centered, no distinguishable offset, means they made it properly to their own specified minimum clearances

Conclusion

Well, PCBWay generally makes decent PCBs. Their prototype PCBs for hobbyists (like myself) is very wonderful. If you are looking to manufacture PCBs with a matte black or matte green solder mask, or if you need a fast turnaround time, I would recommend you to give PCBWay a try.