A PCB prototype offers a great opportunity to be able to test any teething issues that could turn into costly errors post-deployment. It is however important to have a robust checklist for PCB prototype testing. If you have been looking for one, here is help:
Why is circuit board prototype testing important?
Before we get on to the checklist let us quickly look at the importance of prototype testing in the first place. When tested correctly, you can be sure that there will be minimal issues at the manufacturing stage. In turn this will save a lot of costs as you will not have to go back to the drawing board. Importantly, any errors post manufacturing can also cost you your company reputation.
Before powering up your prototype, however, the following common causes of error need to be taken note of:
1. Short Circuit
Among the commonest causes of damage to PCB prototypes, it is imperative that you pay attention to fine-pitch elements. Also, any tiny solder lead can result in a short circuit, thereby destroying the micro-controller. As a thumb rule, it is important to measure the impedance of each voltage node.
2. Populated Components
Double check to see that you have not missed any parts during assembly, as that could lead to power-up failure. Having a detailed PCB bill of materials ready with you can also go a long way in minimizing errors.
3. Inverted Polarity
In case the integrated circuits are soldered in opposite polarity, it could lead to damaged components. It is therefore important that each element is assembled as per its polarity and the scope for any errors, minimized.
Some of the precautions that you need to follow before powering up your PCB prototype therefore include:
Use LED indicators that stand for different voltages
This will act as an alert to notify you when a particular voltage regulator is active. Importantly, you will also need to ensure that you take voltage measurements for every single voltage regulator.
Watch out for signs of damaged components
If one or more LEDs are off, it could indicate damaged components. It is also possible that there could have been an error and some components may not have been soldered.
Ensure that your BOM is cross-referenced so that any missing part can be easily found. It is also advisable to automate BOM generation so that chances of manual errors are significantly reduced.
A checklist for PCB prototype testing will not be complete without including a robust checklist to choose the right PCB Prototype manufacturer in the first place. It is the choice of a reliable PCB assembly manufacturer that will make or break your project So here goes:
Checklist for choosing a PCB prototype manufacturer
- Can they offer design and layout support? – Essentially you need to make sure that the manufacturer has expert design engineers who can help implement your plan. If they are equipped with industry best practices they can make sure that you do not face any issues at the manufacturing stage.
- What kind of turnaround time do they offer? – In today’s world, the quick go-to-market is the biggest source of competitive advantage. It is imperative that the manufacturer can offer quick turnaround times.
- Are they equipped to offer debugging service? – The engineers need to be experienced enough to be able to wean out any issues in the initial plan so that there are minimal chances of error later.
- Do they offer optimal cost? – Optimal costs are a big determinant when it comes to the viability of your project.
- Pro tip – It is important however to be able to do a cost-quality evaluation. Ever so often you could land up making the mistake of going with a manufacturer that offers you the lowest quote without paying sufficient attention to quality. Needless to mention that this can bring in detrimental results that can impact your reputation.
To sum up
Following the above checklist will significantly extend to ensure that your prototypes are robust. Importantly going ahead with the right manufacturer will ensure that you do not have to worry about costly errors as they are equipped with industry best practices and can make all the difference.
Mer-Mar Electronics is one of the leading PCB manufacturing companies, providing services from designing to final prototypes. We follow industry’s best practices, ensure standard quality PCB prototype that our clients do not deal with recall or rework. Ask your queries related to prototype PCB manufacturing services by emailing us at email@example.com or call us at (760) 244-6149.