Most of today’s flex PCB manufacturing process begins with a prototype production. There are several advantages of building a working model of the flex circuit before attempting the mass producing of these boards. Building a prototype not only helps to test the board’s function but also aids in improving it as per the requirement. Additionally, prototype creation helps in detecting errors at the earliest, and decide upon the final design and other specifications of the board. Since prototype creation plays such a decisive role, it must be executed by an experienced service provider. The post is intended to give you some insights when analysing the capabilities of PCB manufacturers performing prototype creation.
Questions to be Asked to your Flex PCB Manufacturer
Ensure that the chosen flex PCB prototypes fabrication shop possesses certain capabilities. You can evaluate the competencies of PCB manufactures in flex PCB prototype making by asking a few questions such as:
- How long have you been providing Flex PCB prototypes to the customers: Although the question seems basic, it helps to evaluate the total experience of the fabrication shop. A PCB fabricator with several years of experience will be certainly equipped and expertise enough to understand your prototype requirements than a startup.
- How long will you take to complete the prototype making from the order accepted date? Although the turnaround time varies as per the capabilities of the manufacturer, the one must be able to create Flex PCB Prototypes in 24 to 48 hours or within a week’s team. More than the said time frame is not usually acceptable when it comes to prototype creation.
- What are the quality standards you implement to get the prototype right and functional? Again, standard and certification compliance varies across the industry. Since there are several international standards formulated to ensure the boards quality, you must know the quality standards followed by the chosen fabrication shop. If the list includes major standards such as IPC, UL, ITAR Registered, ISO and RoHS, then you can trust the work of the production house.
- Do you own a well-equipped manufacturing facility to proceed with the approved prototypes for mass production? There are some PCB production houses that are specifically functioning to meet the prototype demands of the customers, and not in mass production. Lack of cutting-edge production facilities, advanced equipment, and man power are amongst a few reasons why such production houses limit their service to only prototyping. Hence, you must ensure the extent of their service.
- What methods do you use to assure quality? Similar to the stringent inspections imposed while mass producing the flex boards, it is inevitable to have the same level of quality checks throughout every stage of the flex PCB prototypes production. Hence, while choosing a PCB production house, it is extremely significant to ensure that they are performing the inspection stringently utilizing the best of techniques such as visual inspection, X-ray inspection, and Automated Optical Inspection, among others.
Flex PCB prototypes can be extremely helpful as they help both the manufacturers and customers to check the board against various parameters before the mass production. Unlike the past, there are growing numbers of customers who demand the production of prototype as it tells how usable and valuable the product is to them. However, similar to the efforts you take to choose a PCB production house to mass assemble PCBs, you must also be careful while selecting flex PCB prototype manufacturer. In the last post, we had listed a few questions that must be asked before opting a manufacturer. As a continuation, this post lists a few more questions, which help understand the capabilities of manufacture in terms of flex PCB prototype production.
In addition to the questions listed in the last post, the following inquiries also help you to analyze the skills and capacities of PCB manufacturer in flex PCB prototypes production.
- Is the design and technical team available to answer your queries pertaining to the prototypes created? As a customer, you might have several doubts regarding the prototype created such as polyamide thickness, materials used, finishes, conductor width / spacing, among several others. If the chosen manufacturer fails to respond to your queries instantly, you may get dissatisfied with the service. Hence, ask the question mentioned and understand how well the team handles your queries.
- Will you be able to work immediately in case of changes? There might be occasions wherein you may get displeased with the flex PCB prototypes created by the manufacturer. So, in case of such change requirements, what would be the response of the manufacturer? Will they instantly incorporate the changes or take time to make them as per your requirement? Be clear about the days it will take to rework on the prototypes created.
- What is the turnaround time if I have a question related to DFM errors in the initial design? As mentioned earlier, waiting for a long to get answers for queries usually irritate the customers. This happens especially when it comes to DFM errors in the initial design. Ensure that you will get constant assistance from the manufacturer to resolve design related issues immediately. How strong is your customer service team and how well they know about prototype service is also an important question you can ask.
- Can you cater to my minimum order requirements? Although some manufacturers provide prototyping service, they don’t accept small quantity production, instead directly cater to large scale production. Hence, understand the minimum order requirements of the manufacturer. This will help in case you need to take the prototype to the next level, the mass production.
By receiving satisfactory answers to the afforelisted questions and seeking clarification for other queries, you can choose to work with the said manufacturer. Asking questions helps to analyze the manufacturer in terms of designing, manufacturing, assembling, and packaging capabilities. Since a prototype is an early stage design, it must be handled by a safe and trusted provider.
To make your selection process simple here you find the name of a prominent PCB manufacturer in the market whose core competency includes prototype production. The company Rigiflex Technology Inc. is experienced in handling special and sophisticated flex PCB prototypes projects with utmost accuracy in par with the customer’s specifications. With the best materials, machinery, and skill sets, Rigiflex provides prototypes that meet the expected quality standards.