The Internet of Things revolution has had a profound effect on a circuit board assembler. Whereas demand was at one time application-oriented, with printed circuit boards in specialized operations purposed for a singular job, nowadays the expectation is that PCBs will do it all.
A circuit board assembler is now expected to cram in a plethora of capability into ever smaller boards. Needless to say, other than manufacturing and quality challenges, considerations of heat generation, electrical short circuiting and board strength have come to the forefront. All this while keeping costs low and yields high.
Through-hole technology may not be counting its days just yet, but space constraints and the difficulty of planning and drilling many small holes in extremely spaces is certainly pushing circuit board assemblers to the surface mount method of installation. Not only does it take less space, it lends itself to mass production too.
Gone are the days when a circuit board assembler could build a chip and hand it over for mechanical testing ex post. With small form factor designs in vogue, it is essential to be fully cognizant of the space constraints and effect on the performance of the chip, before the design is finalized.
Smaller designs and hitherto unimagined applications mean devices which are tailored to suit the purpose rather than prioritize PCB installation. Which is why new materials are coming into the industry to allow flexibility in installation – literally. Flexible (or at least to some extent) PCBs are looking like the next leap for circuit board assemblers. These will pose a whole host of manufacturing challenges and testing conundrums for a circuit board assembler.
Whereas PCBs in industrial applications were expected to be hard-wired, IoT means devices and sensors placed remotely and capable of running for prolonged periods on battery power. It will mean careful planning of the power consumption characteristics of the PCBs. A circuit board assembler will have to legislate carefully before committing to power hungry designs.
Standards, protocols and modularity are going to be key to widespread IoT adoption – and avoiding a mess of conflicting and competing standards. Interestingly, circuit board assemblers already work with a wide variety of protocols today, so this shouldn’t pose a new challenge. It remains to be seen to what extent these standards are going to dictate board assembly, however.
Permatech Electronics is a reputed manufacturer of printed circuit boards. Our ethos is one of constantly learning to improve our products and our service offerings. We are known for making stronger boards than our competition. Both those facets should prove handy when it comes to adopting new IoT PCB building philosophies.