If you prototype printed circuit boards in the U.S., how can you ensure that laminates and prepregs you used will match those used in offshore volume production?
As an industry, those of us involved in designing and manufacturing electronic products can all agree that we now live and operate in a global supply chain environment. Since a lot of what is incorporated into current and next generation products is reflected in the software, this isn't much of a concern. Take your favorite products, download the latest software update and newly developed apps and you're ready to go.
When it comes to developing the pieces of hardware, the process is not so simple. And, when it comes to printed circuit board (PCB) development efforts, the process becomes even more challenging. That's because PCBs are the launching points for hardware product development and the laminate and prepreg materials used in designing and manufacturing PCBs are the nuclei for those boards. (Prepreg is fiberglass cloth that has been saturated with resin that is not fully cured. As a PCB is placed under the heat and pressure of lamination this resin melts and flows into the voids in the adjacent copper layers filling them.)
The global aspects of the PCB development process are pretty much carved in stone—design and prototype the product in the U.S. and then move volume production offshore. The challenge lies in ensuring that the laminates and prepregs used for US prototyping efforts will be the same as those used in offshore volume production. On the surface, the seamless transparent transition process for utilizing the same PCB laminates from prototype to the full up product processes should be a "no brainer" and one that should not be subject to much scrutiny but that is not the case. This article will discuss what takes place in today's design/prototyping environments and the challenges that ensue in the realm of volume production.
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