Essential Guidelines for PCB Assembly Services

Did you observe the intriguing trend where an increasing number of prominent enterprises, including Apple, Huawei, and Lenovo, are entrusting their non-core operations to business process outsourcing companies? Within the electronics manufacturing sector, this practice is commonly referred to as EMS or OEM, whereby professional service providers are tasked with handling various processes such as PCB manufacturing, assembly, and procurement. In this TechSparks article, we will delve into the viability of outsourcing PCB assembly to these entities, elucidate crucial considerations, and highlight dependable manufacturers in the field.

What is PCB Assembly Service

PCB assembly factory

PCB assembly services encompass the installation of electronic components onto the surface of a PCB through SMT and THT, in accordance with the project requirements of the customer, along with functional testing. Electronics manufacturers can discover these service providers, who offer PCBA services, through platforms such as Google or Alibaba. By availing themselves of these services, manufacturers can focus solely on assembling and selling the final products. Since different electronics manufacturers face diverse environments, they have the option to select customized services that align with their company’s development.

  • Turnkey: This comprehensive service model entails the service provider assuming full responsibility once the electronic manufacturer communicates their requirements. This encompasses circuit design, component procurement, bare board manufacturing, PCB assembly, functional testing, and even final product assembly.
  • Consignment: An effective supply chain management approach wherein the customer purchases all necessary components and provides them to the assembly service provider for the assembly process. It is worth noting that not all service providers accept this mode, as a substantial portion of the profits for PCBA projects lies in the components. Consignment arrangements hinder the service providers from obtaining this part of the profit.
  • Partial consignment: This mode differs from consignment in that the customer supplies some components while the service provider procures the remainder. It is commonly employed when the customer has specific requirements for key components or existing inventory.
  • Customized service: This option imposes higher requirements on service providers, allowing customers to have extensive customization options. Such requirements are often difficult to meet for intermediaries, as they lack independent manufacturing facilities, potentially necessitating the search for new partners to fulfill customer orders.

Why Outsource PCB Assembly Projects

In the past, the prevalent approach among enterprises was to adopt an integrated industry and trade operation mode, wherein they handled both production and sales. However, as the manufacturing industry continues to evolve, this model is losing its appeal. Recent statistics reveal a growing trend of entrepreneurs venturing into the PCBA business due to the rising demand for PCBA in industries such as medical electronics and consumer electronics. It is projected that the market value of PCBA will exceed $100 billion by 2030.

Given the multitude of options available for outsourcing PCB assembly, utilizing these services has become a crucial strategic objective for enterprises. The traditional operating model struggles to keep pace with the rapid iteration and updates seen in modern electronics. TechSparks has compiled the following advantages of leveraging PCB assembly services:

Preventing Organizational Bulking

In the traditional electronics manufacturing industry, manufacturers often find themselves burdened with the requirement of maintaining their own PCB factory, as well as operating departments for promotion and sales. This leads to the need for a large and cumbersome organizational structure, which in turn gives rise to a host of challenges:

  • Scattered Resources: Juggling responsibilities across production, supply chain, sales, and market development leads to the dispersion of resources. Managing multiple fields simultaneously increases organizational complexity and burden.
  • Insufficient Specialization: Dealing with diverse business areas prevents focused specialization. For instance, the development capabilities may not match those of dedicated research and development companies, while the promotional abilities may fall short compared to specialized sales companies.
  • Human Resource Management: Accomplishing the required tasks demands a larger workforce, making inter-departmental coordination challenging and resulting in human resource inefficiencies.

To address these issues, the key lies in opting for professional PCB assembly services. Collaborating with such manufacturers is akin to having a dedicated team that serves your company’s needs, capable of efficiently handling your business during peak periods. This flexibility allows for optimal deployment of resources during off-seasons, without concerns about position wastage. Furthermore, it enables companies to concentrate on a specific field, becoming a dominant player and attracting a more loyal user base.

Production Diversification

Similar to your organization, PCBA factories also strive to enhance their capabilities to align with market demands and advancements. For instance, while through-hole assembly used to dominate assembly projects in the past, the landscape has shifted with the rise of Surface Mount Technology as the prevailing method. As a result, nearly all PCB assembly service providers have adapted to this trend and showcase their expertise in utilizing advanced automated SMT production lines to attract clients.

However, it is worth noting that certain projects still require through-hole assembly for larger components, which presents challenges for automation. As a result, factories are compelled to offer more diverse PCB assembly services to cater to customer needs, ensuring they can handle both SMT and through-hole assembly effectively. This adaptability allows them to provide comprehensive solutions for a wide range of projects.

Quick Turnaround​

The rapid pace of iterative updates in the realm of electronic products, particularly consumer electronics, is evident. These products often require upgrades within a few months to a year. For small-scale electronics manufacturers, failure to achieve swift turnover can result in missed market opportunities and substantial losses. In such cases, leveraging PCB assembly and soldering services becomes a critical strategy for accelerating production schedules.

Over the years, these service providers have developed a wealth of supplier resources and acquired specialized skills. When procuring materials for your project, you can rely on these providers to handle any concerns related to component shortages or counterfeit components. In the event such issues arise, the service provider assumes responsibility. Furthermore, their expertise in production enables them to swiftly complete proofing for new projects within 1-3 days, with mass assembly projects delivered within 1-3 months.

Reduce Costs

While we have previously highlighted the numerous benefits of outsourcing, the primary reason why electronic manufacturers opt for PCBA services is the substantial cost savings they offer.

  • Storage Concerns: Both board components and PCB boards require proper storage conditions. Components, especially high-precision ones, necessitate a controlled temperature environment. As the global market for circuit board components continues to expand, many manufacturers stockpile large quantities to ensure uninterrupted supply. Special moisture-proof cabinets are also required for integrated circuits and BGAs. Apart from the cost of storage equipment, expenses associated with warehouse management and labor add up significantly.
  • Material Costs: PCBA manufacturers establish long-term partnerships with material suppliers to secure more favorable pricing, thanks to the volume and consistency of their business. This enables them to negotiate discounts and mitigate material costs. Additionally, some components may be challenging to procure due to market shortages, further driving up costs.
  • Equipment Expenses: PCBA processing entails a complex set of operations that necessitate a range of equipment, spanning from PCB production to PCBA assembly. This includes workstations, placement machines, solder paste printers, testing equipment, and soldering stations, among others. The total investment in such equipment can easily reach around $500,000.

Key Considerations for Choosing EMS PCBA Services

Dstance

There are several advantages to selecting a local PCB assembly service for your project. Firstly, it offers significant benefits in terms of cost reduction for transportation and expedited services. These cost savings directly contribute to lowering the overall expenses of your electronic project.

Secondly, opting for a nearby service enables face-to-face communication with the customer service team, eliminating potential language barriers and time zone differences. This facilitates smooth and efficient discussions regarding project details, ensuring clear understanding and effective collaboration.

Lastly, having the opportunity to personally visit the assembly facility allows for on-site inspections, bypassing the involvement of intermediaries. This firsthand experience grants you valuable insights into the manufacturing capabilities and expertise of the service provider, enabling you to make an informed decision and avoid any potential mistakes due to lack of awareness.

Quote Strategy

When selecting a manufacturer for your PCBA project, it is not advisable to solely consider price as the determining factor. PCBA projects involve long-term cooperation, and once you become dependent on a manufacturer, it can be difficult to switch providers. Therefore, it is crucial to find a balance between price and quality. Here are some strategies to help you make the right choice:

Prioritize service providers that offer online quotations. These providers offering online quotes often have competitive pricing advantages. By utilizing their online cost calculator, you can gain a clear understanding of the project’s cost. Moreover, the ability to provide online quotations indicates that they are actual manufacturers, eliminating the need to approach multiple service providers for quotes.

Then just choose the online quotation service, right?

Obviously this is a wrong view. TechSparks suggests choosing according to your specific project requirements. Some projects may be complex, and not all service providers may be willing or capable of handling them. In such cases, engaging the services of a broker, particularly a reputable one based in Hong Kong, may be beneficial.

While the quotation from a PCB assembly broker may be slightly higher, the benefits they provide are worthwhile. Brokers pay meticulous attention to your project documents as they earn their fee from this service. They ensure that any disorganized documents are transformed into an orderly format for your convenience.

Furthermore, by utilizing a broker, you are entrusting your project to them. They will effectively communicate and coordinate with the actual manufacturer on your behalf, allowing you to focus on receiving the final product.

Qualification Certification

When it comes to determining the reliability of PCB assembly service manufacturers, there are several authoritative organizations that provide valuable indications. It is important to check the certification qualifications and implementation standards of these manufacturers to ensure their credibility.

One prominent standard is IPC-A-610, which outlines acceptability criteria for electronic assemblies. By aligning your requirements with the standards implemented by the manufacturer, you can avoid unexpected issues related to soldering, component mounting, and circuit layout defects.

ISO 9001 certification is also a crucial factor to consider. It signifies the strength of the company’s PCBA quality management system. Generally, informal companies find it challenging to obtain this certification, making it a helpful criterion for filtering out entities that do not meet quality standards.

For specific industries, it is vital to verify whether the service provider possesses the necessary qualifications to offer PCB assembly services. ISO 13485 establishes the requirements for serving the medical industry, while IATF 16949 demonstrates the manufacturer’s capability to cater to the automotive industry. Additionally, ITAR registration is essential for engaging in military-related business.

 

Best PCB Assembly Service Provider

Surmotech

Surmotech website

Surmotech, a manufacturing company based in Victor, New York, was established in 1991 with a focus on providing PCBA electronic contract manufacturing services. They cater to a wide range of industries including military, medical, industrial, optical, aerospace, and consumer markets. In their pursuit of excellence, Surmotech actively seeks certifications to enhance their reputation in the industry. Currently, they hold certifications such as AS9100 for aerospace, ISO 9001 for quality control management, ISO 13485 for the medical field, and ITAR for international trade in arms.

The company specializes in electronic testing, electromechanical assembly, and printed circuit board assembly services. Their expertise in these areas has been recognized in the past, as they have been named one of the top 100 companies in Rochester on multiple occasions. This distinction attests to their strong capabilities and reliability as a service provider.

However, it is worth noting that Surmotech’s online presence and promotion efforts seem to be limited. Their online visibility is scarce, and comprehensive information about their capabilities is not readily available on their website. 

PCB Prime

As a prominent PCBA service provider based in the United States, PCB Prime has been serving global electronics manufacturers for over two decades, offering comprehensive services ranging from manufacturing to assembly. Throughout their years of operation, they have prioritized the development of a robust supply chain and continuous improvement of their manufacturing facilities, ensuring access to the highest quality raw materials from reputable suppliers.

With the rapid growth of the industry, numerous assembly service companies have emerged, but unfortunately, some have resorted to cost-cutting measures that compromise quality, leading to a murky landscape. However, PCB Prime stands out as a beacon of integrity. They prioritize transparency and openness in their pricing structure, as demonstrated by the clearly marked pricing on their website for prototype manufacturing. This approach benefits not only students and hobbyists but also electronics manufacturers seeking reliable and affordable services.

For your convenience, we have provided a table below outlining the PCB assembly services capabilities obtained from PCB Prime’s website:

Service CapabilityDetails
Delivery Lead Time-1-4 Weeks
Production Capacity-Prototype to Volume
Assembly Types– SMT
– Through-Hole
– Mixed Technology
Component Packages– Fine-Pitch Components (minimum 0201)
– BGA and Micro BGA
– QFP
– SOP
– DIP
– Leadless Components
Testing and Inspection– ICT
– FCT
– X-ray Inspection
– AOI
– Visual Inspection
Quality and Standards– ISO 9001:2015 Certified
– RoHS and REACH Compliance
Additional Services– PCB Design and Layout
– PCB Fabrication
– Component Sourcing and Procurement
– PCB Reverse Engineering
– Conformal Coating
– Box Build Assembly

Please note that the table may be subject to updates and TechSparks recommend visiting PCB Prime’s website for the most up-to-date and comprehensive information on their services.

Weller

Weller website

WellerPCB is a renowned leader in the EMS PCB services industry in China. Committed to environmental stewardship, they strictly adhere to applicable regulations, employing eco-friendly materials and optimizing energy consumption to minimize their ecological impact. With a strong focus on capacity, they offer comprehensive service solutions tailored to diverse industries, supported by state-of-the-art machinery and cutting-edge technology. Their unwavering commitment to quality and reliability ensures that every PCBA board meets the highest industry standards.

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