For many reasons, it can be somewhat intimidating when you’re finally ready to bring your PCB design to mass production. There are so many electronics, variables, and design specifics to go over before you actually bring a final iteration of your prototype to mass production that it can almost seem too complex to understand at times. There is, however, a simple formula to use, or series of questions you can ask yourself before you bring your final PCB design into mass production.
Consider Your Design Scale
There are benefits and drawbacks to all sizes of boards, but these depend on what you need out of your boards when you’re thinking about the size to use. Larger boards are known to be far easier to route, but they usually cost more than smaller options. On the other hand, smaller boards may not cost as much by square inches, but they could cost more if your design features many layers and takes much longer to layout.
Make Sure Your Parts Are Available
Often, a manufacturer will plan to use a part that they may not realize is hard to get. Many parts are only available in small-sized QFN form factors, or tiny wafer scale BGA. You need to take an in-depth look at the inner workings of your boards and its integrated circuits and electronics to ensure that they are available in packages that work for you and your project.
If you need a certain sole-sourced part but it’s not readily accessible, it’s probably a good idea to swap in a similar part that is going to be more available if you can.
Use the Correct Markings
You need to provide the correct markings to ensure that the correct designators go with the correct parts. There should be no ambiguity in your polarity markings. You also need to take extra care with LEDs; sometimes a manufacturer will swap their markings between two things that have different meanings in different parts.
Double checking your files is very important so that you can fix any errors before they cost you. It’s very common for the bills for materials to have pieces of information that are out of date and, therefore, could end up causing huge delays in the manufacturing process, which will both cost money and be a huge headache.
Take Account of Your Parts
Make sure to check your part kits to ensure that they are not missing any components. Also, take care to make sure that you have both the reference designator and the part number on your part bags.
Prototype Early and Often
The use of prototypes is the single most important thing to remember when manufacturing a design for mass production. You don’t want to send your first design into mass production, since you won’t know what all of the physical challenges and flaws will be, and you can’t know that fully without building prototypes. You should invest in building prototypes early as well, not just near the final stages of design. When you start building your prototypes as early as possible, you allow time for possible failure and course correction.
The use of prototypes gives you an opportunity to test out theories and bring your design to life in ways that no other step in the innovation process can achieve. When it comes to the most helpful pieces of advice for first-time manufacturers, building prototypes early is one of the most useful and will save manufacturers so much time and energy that its importance cannot be overstated. There’s a reason why all of the top manufacturers make sure to invest generously into building early prototypes.
Bringing a PCB design to life can be very intimidating if you aren’t familiar with the process. There are many things along the way that can trip up the manufacturing process and potentially send your idea crashing to the ground if you aren’t careful. Most mistakes can be avoided with careful preparation and awareness.
Checking to see that you have all the correct parts you need, and making sure the parts you’ll need are all available will save lots of hassle. Also marking and storing your parts correctly, as well as creating prototypes as early as you can, will very likely create the difference between success and failure.