FAQs by Newbie SMT Assemblers
We’ve been using contractors for circuit board prototyping and assembly. What makes you so sure we can do these tasks in-house with no previous experience?
Many companies have seen a major decrease in PCB production expenses by bringing their circuit board prototyping and assembly in-house. Quicker turn-around, better quality control and faster test and implementation of engineering changes are added advantages.
Can anticipated savings from building boards in-house be realistically calculated? If so, how?
If you are presently outsourcing PCB assembly, your invoices should reveal assembly cost per board. Projected in-house production costs can be accurately predicted and compared by completing our Buyers Guide questionnaire.
Where can we get a quick education on circuit board assembly?
The basic technology is not all that complicated. Just access this link which opens to a 5-minute Power Point presentation. You'll easily grasp the role of each machine in the assembly process. For more information you may wish to visit these trade organization websites: www.smta.org & www.ipc.org
Could you describe the equipment needed and how each functions?
The basic requirements for PCB production are screen printer, pick-and-place machine and reflow oven.
- The screen printer (stencil printer) – applies solder paste to the PCB on the pad locations.
- The Pick-and-Place – Picks up, inspects, and places SMT components on programmed locations.
- The Reflow Oven – Carefully heats PCB assembly to a temperature high enough to make the solder paste liquidous – when cool the circuit and PCB are complete.
A wave soldering machine may also be required for assembly of mixed-technology boards which contain both surface mount and through-hole components. Automatic defluxing, stencil cleaning and inspection are other equipment options that may ultimately be required.
Should we go lead-free?
In many countries, lead-free soldering is now legally mandated. Thus if your products are exported, it would be wise to go leadless at the start. Unquestionably, the U.S. will ultimately be lead-free. So the decision may become obvious.
How much dedicated floor space is required?
The dimensions of each machine are usually found in manufacturers’ specifications.
Just total the combined square footage of all machines, plus figure at least an additional 3 sq. ft. width around the entire perimeter of your assembly line to allow for feeders and operator access. If future equipment purchases are contemplated, it would be wise to also allocate this space at startup.
What do you figure our upfront costs -- including equipment -- will be?
Our Buyers Guide will be of major help in determining costs of pick-and-place. For stencil printer and reflow oven estimates, we recommend accessing websites of reliable equipment providers, such as www.manncorp.com.
Will this move increase our manufacturing payroll?
Possibly not, since an existing non-experienced employee or two can be trained to program and operate PCB production equipment. Your equipment vendor should provide onsite training and stay until your people are at ease with his machines.
How long will it take us to be up and running?
Once the equipment is installed and operators trained, it should take no more than two or three weeks to be in production. You will need this additional time to acquire bare boards, stencil(s) and component inventory.
Other than price, what criteria should be used for selecting an equipment supplier?
First, ask for and do contact a few of the prospective vendor’s customers. Find out their experience with the machine(s) and if the location is convenient to you, arrange a visit so you can see the equipment in operation. Above all, be certain the machines you are considering will build your product effectively. Allow room for growth to protect your product investment. This is especially important if your product and component mix will change or production targets expand.
Should I consider used machinery?
Buying used involves taking risks that surely outweigh any potential savings. Consider warranties that may no longer be valid; through-the-roof service costs (that is, if service is available at all); replacement parts that are non-existent; out-of-date software; a part handling mix that is limited. These are just several of the many scenarios that could make your investment a literal disaster. Are you willing to face them?