Man vs. Machine: Should PCB Prototype Assembly Be Done by Hand?
If you have a computer, a phone, or any other kind of digital device, odds are it has a circuit board in it. Circuit board assembly services are incredibly important to countless electronics around the world, but before they can be assembled, PCB prototype assembly has to be done.
PCB prototype assembly creates preliminary models of circuit boards that can then be tested in order to then create the final product. But there’s been a debate on how to create these prototypes. Many argue that creating them by hand is more effective and more precise, but others believe that automated processes are faster and more cost-effective. Here are a few more arguments for each side.
If you’re running a smaller assembly line and only need small batch PCB assembly, you may prefer hand soldering to automatic processes. Not only does it allow precision, it allows you as a business owner to be close to your process and keep excellent control over it.
Unfortunately, any process done by hand has a margin for human error. The same is true especially for PCB assembly, as all of the parts are small and soldering needs to be extremely precise. Though printing machine errors account for 70% of all surface assembly quality issues, the margin is larger for human error.
Running a large assembly line and steering away from small batch PCB assembly means you’re probably going to want a machine to do your soldering. This allows for much more efficient, precise assembly. In addition, you can create more circuit boards for less up-front cost.
The biggest downside of automated assembly is the time you’ll need to invest in equipment training and maintenance. It’s important to evaluate your staff and your equipment regularly, which can be a time-draining exercise.
Ultimately, how you create PCBs depends on how you’d like to run your business. If you prefer being up close and personal with your staff and your process, maybe hand soldering is preferable. Despite that, there’s no denying that automated assembly has its fair share of benefits.