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Effective PCB Prototyping Requires the Right Partnership

There are many pressures driving today’s electronic system designs. Demand is higher than ever to push innovation boundaries, while still meeting ever shrinking time-to-market windows. To be successful it’s essential for electronic system designs to make use of rapid, reliable and cost-effective PCB prototyping and assembly services.

The process of developing new electronic systems has become more dynamic than ever. Energized by significant new trends such as the Internet of Things (IoT), Industry 4.0 and “smart” devices, opportunities are greater than ever in all the major electronics sectors: consumer, industrial, automotive, electromedical and mobile.

To keep pace, system developers have to adapt to new paradigms. This means abandoning of pure hardware solutions in favor of “mixed” hardware and software solutions—systems where programmable components are now common. That said, hardware designers remain the first link in the product development chain and are therefore required to produce a working prototype in a short time. Such prototypes enable them to continue with the firmware development and final validation of the product. In this article we’ll discuss how key services—entirely available online—help serve today’s demanding PCB prototyping, assembly and production needs and how partnering with PCBWay can help meet those needs.

Prototyping and PCB Production
Although there’s a rich set of materials and technologies for the manufacture of PCBs, it’s important to choose them wisely based on the requirements of your specific application and the available budget. Traditional solutions are represented by FR-4 cards (fiberglass) and aluminum cards. FR-4—commonly known as vetronite or epoxy glass—is a composite material based on glass fibers arranged orthogonally between two layers in an epoxy resin matrix. Fiberglass is an excellent insulator—robust, light and flame resistant.

Aluminum PCBs are particularly suitable for power applications where high heat dissipation is required, such as industrial lighting systems and LED lights for automotive applications. Aluminum has the characteristic of being lighter, sturdier and longer lasting than vetronite. In Figure 1 shows an example of an aluminum printed circuit designed for a lighting application.

Figure 1 — High thermal dissipation aluminum PCB

The most advanced types of PCBs include Rogers boards—suited for high frequency RF applications, HDI (high density interconnect) boards for applications with high density of connections (for example smartphones), flexible PCBs and PCBs that combine rigid and flexible PCBs. All those PCB solutions and others are offered by PCBWay at a very competitive price. Quotations are available instantly (for PCBs up to 14 layers) by accessing this section of the website (click here). Delivery times are very fast: 24 hours for a double-layer PCB and 48 hours for a four-layer PCB.

Check out this video from DDelectroTech showing “How PCBs are Made” based on their visit to PCBWay facilities:

 

PCB Assembly
Any complete and functional prototype effort must also include a correct and accurate assembly phase of the components on the PCB. With that in mind, PCBWay provides a professional PCB assembly service starting at $30—both for surface mount (SMT), through-hole (THT) components or mixed solutions. The SMT assembly technique is performed using screen printing frames and frames (framed and unframed stencils) which present excellent stability over time and high wear resistance. Figure 2 shows an example of a stencil PCB, ready to be used during the assembly phase with SMT technology.

Figure 2 — An example of a stencil for SMD assembly

The components required for assembly can be supplied by the customer or directly by PCBWay relying on its large and frequently replenished warehouse. Check out the Assembly section of the website (click here) to obtain an estimate of the assembly costs and shipping costs. To get an instant quote, simply insert the number of cards to be assembled and load the Gerber files, the components list (BOM) and the file in centroid (or pick & place) format. PCBWay’s assembly service provides professional and accurate results regardless of the volume required and includes shipping to all countries in the world.

Check out this video from Strange Parts of their factory tour of the PCBWay PCB assembly factory in Shenzhen, China:

 

Full Range of PCB Design Services
In addition to PCB production and component assembly services, PCBWay is able to offer its customers complete support in all phases of their development of an electronic system. Taking advantage of the work of professionals and certified third-party companies, PCBWay is able to assist customers in a variety of activities. These include definition of the PCB layout starting from the wiring diagram (CAD tools support includes Altium Designer, Cadence, OrCad, Allegro, Eagle and KiCad), circuit and mechanical design, software and firmware development for embedded systems, and 3D printing. A quick and efficient listing of costs related to design services can be obtained online (click here). Options include a service and warranty period of up to 120 days.

Open Source Community
The PCBWay website hosts a collection of over five hundred printed circuit projects developed by the user community, accompanied by extensive project documentation—all accessible in full compliance with the open source philosophy. An representative sample of the vast number of projects carried out is shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3 — Just a sampling of the extensive collection of PCB projects developed by the user community

Those projects are made possible by an important sponsorship initiative offered by PCBWay to its customers—applicable exclusively to projects without commercial purposes (no profit). By filling out the sponsorship request form online (in which the customer agrees to share his own non-profit project with the user community) students, makers and hobbyists can easily obtain a coupon for the first order on PCBWay completely free.

Conclusions
For anyone involved in electronic design looking for a complete range of professional services able to cover all phases of the development cycle of an electronic system, PCBWay is ideal partner. It can provide all the needed services—starting with the prototyping and printing of PCBs and all the way through production. And, these services are easily accessible online and with delivery times among the lowest ever.

PCBWay | www.pcbway.com


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