Everything You Need To Know About Circuit Card Assembly

If you’re looking to create electronic devices, you’ve likely heard about circuit card assembly.But what is it exactly?In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into the world of circuit card assembly, including its history, types, applications, and benefits.

By the end of this article, you’ll have a comprehensive understanding of circuit card assembly and why it’s a crucial component of modern electronics.

What is Circuit Card Assembly?

Circuit card assembly (CCA), also known as printed circuit board assembly (PCBA), is the process of assembling electronic components onto a printed circuit board (PCB) to create a functional electronic device.

The process involves soldering components such as resistors, capacitors, and integrated circuits (ICs) onto a PCB using automated machines or by hand.

How has circuit card assembly evolved over time?

Circuit card assembly has evolved significantly over time, both in terms of technology and application. In the early days of circuit card assembly, PCBs were manually wired and assembled, a time-consuming and error-prone process. 

The introduction of automated component placement machines in the 1960s revolutionized the industry, making the production of electronic devices faster and more efficient.

In the following decades, circuit card assembly continued to evolve, with the introduction of new materials and techniques. Flexible circuit boards and rigid-flex circuit boards were developed, enabling the creation of devices that could bend and twist while still maintaining their functionality. 

High density interconnect (HDI) circuit boards were developed, allowing for the creation of smaller and more complex devices. Chip-on-board (COB) circuit boards were introduced, reducing the size of the device and increasing reliability.

In recent years, circuit card assembly has continued to evolve with the introduction of new technologies such as 3D printing and the Internet of Things (IoT). 

3D printing is being used to create custom circuit boards with unique shapes and features, while the IoT is allowing for the creation of interconnected devices that can communicate with each other.

What are the common types of circuit card assembly?

There are several types of circuit card assembly, each with its own unique characteristics and advantages. Let’s take a closer look at the most common types.

  • Rigid Circuit Boards

Rigid circuit boards are the most common type of circuit board and are used in a wide range of applications, from consumer electronics to aerospace and defense. They are made of a rigid substrate material, such as fiberglass or plastic, and can have multiple layers for increased functionality.

  • Flexible Circuit Boards

Flexible circuit boards, also known as flex circuits, are made of a flexible substrate material, such as polyimide or PEEK. They are used in applications where the circuit board needs to be bent or twisted, such as in medical devices and aerospace.

  • Rigid-Flex Circuit Boards

Rigid-flex circuit boards are a combination of rigid and flexible circuit boards, making them ideal for applications where both rigidity and flexibility are required. They consist of multiple layers of both rigid and flexible materials that are laminated together to form a single board.

  • High Density Interconnect (HDI) Circuit Boards

HDI circuit boards are designed to pack more components into a smaller space. They feature microvias and high-density connections, which allow for smaller and more complex devices.

  • Microvia Circuit Boards

Microvia circuit boards are a type of HDI circuit board that use very small vias to connect the layers of the board. They are used in applications where space is at a premium, such as in smartphones and wearables.

  • Chip-on-Board (COB) Circuit Boards

COB circuit boards involve directly mounting an integrated circuit onto the board without using a traditional IC package. This technique reduces the size of the device and increases reliability.

SMT circuit boards use surface-mount components, which are smaller and more compact than through-hole components. They are used in applications where space is at a premium, such as in smartphones and wearables.

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What are the common applications of circuit card assembly?

Circuit card assembly is used in a wide range of applications, from consumer electronics to industrial automation. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most common applications.

Consumer Electronics

Circuit card assembly is used in a wide range of consumer electronics, including smartphones, tablets, laptops, and gaming consoles. The compact size and high functionality of circuit boards make them ideal for these applications.

Medical Devices

Circuit card assembly is used in a variety of medical devices, such as pacemakers, insulin pumps, and MRI machines. The small size and high reliability of circuit boards make them ideal for these applications.

Aerospace and Defense

Circuit card assembly is used extensively in aerospace and defense applications, such as avionics, radar systems, and guidance systems. The high reliability and durability of circuit boards make them ideal for these applications.

Automotive

Circuit card assembly is used in a variety of automotive applications, such as engine control units and infotainment systems. The small size and high functionality of circuit boards make them ideal for these applications.

Industrial Automation

Circuit card assembly is used extensively in industrial automation applications, such as control systems and robotics. The high reliability and durability of circuit boards make them ideal for these applications.

What is the circuit card assembly process?

The circuit card assembly process typically involves several steps, including designing the circuit board, printing the circuit board, applying solder paste, placing components, reflow soldering, and inspection.

  1. Designing the Circuit Board: This step involves designing the circuit board using computer-aided design (CAD) software. The design specifies the location and orientation of the components, as well as the electrical connections between them.
  2. Printing the Circuit Board: The design is then printed onto a copper-coated board using a special printer that applies a resist layer to protect the areas where components will be placed.
  3. Applying Solder Paste: Solder paste is applied to the board using a stencil, which ensures that the paste is applied in the correct locations.
  4. Placing Components: Automated machines or technicians manually place the components onto the board, following the design specifications.
  5. Reflow Soldering: The board is then heated in a reflow oven, which melts the solder paste and fuses the components to the board.
  6. Inspection: The board is inspected to ensure that all components are properly soldered and that there are no defects.

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Circuit Card Assembly (CCA) vs. Printed Circuit Board Assembly (PCBA)

Circuit card assembly (CCA) and printed circuit board assembly (PCBA) are often used interchangeably, but there are some key differences between the two.

PCBA refers specifically to the process of assembling electronic components onto a printed circuit board (PCB) to create a functional electronic device. 

The PCB is the base material onto which the components are mounted, and the process involves soldering components such as resistors, capacitors, and integrated circuits (ICs) onto the PCB using automated machines or by hand.

CCA, on the other hand, is a broader term that refers to the entire process of designing, manufacturing, and assembling circuit cards, including PCBs and all associated components. This process may also include testing and quality control measures.

In other words, PCBA is a subset of CCA. PCBA specifically refers to the assembly of components onto a PCB, while CCA includes the entire process of creating a circuit card, from design to assembly.

In practical terms, the distinction between PCBA and CCA may not be significant for many applications. However, in certain industries where precise terminology is important, such as aerospace and defense, the distinction between the two may be more relevant.

Common Circuit Card Assembly Issues and Solutions

There are several issues that can arise during the circuit card assembly process, including soldering issues, component placement issues, and design issues. Let’s take a look at some common issues and their solutions.

Soldering Issues

Soldering issues can include incomplete solder joints, cold solder joints, and excessive solder. These issues can be caused by incorrect solder paste application, incorrect temperature settings, or faulty components. Solutions include adjusting the temperature settings, reapplying the solder paste, or replacing faulty components.

Component Placement Issues

Component placement issues can include misplaced components or components that are not properly aligned. These issues can be caused by incorrect component orientation or incorrect machine settings. Solutions include manually adjusting the component position or adjusting the machine settings.

Design Issues

Design issues can include incorrect design specifications or incorrect component footprints. These issues can be caused by incorrect design files or incorrect component data. Solutions include revising the design files or correcting the component data.

Benefits of using a turnkey circuit card manufacturer vs. consignment assembly

OEMs, or original equipment manufacturers, have a preference for all-encompassing circuit card assembly producers who can provide comprehensive services throughout the entire production process, as opposed to consignment assembly. The advantages of utilizing one supplier for all stages of production are numerous.

Firstly, this method is economically sound due to the absence of shipping fees and the optimization of bill of materials costs as all processes occur within one roof. Secondly, this technique ensures a high level of quality assurance, as with multiple suppliers, any error at any stage may not be communicated to the subsequent vendor, resulting in a quality issue in the end product. 

This can result in a time-consuming process of determining who is at fault with added costs and no clear recourse to fix the situation. Using a single supplier negates this situation as all responsibility rests on one entity, and quality is assured at each stage, with errors corrected before proceeding to the next.

Thirdly, working with a single point of contact enables smoother collaboration between designers, engineers, and testing teams, leading to better communication and a more efficient workflow. 

Fourthly, utilizing a single supplier leads to faster go-to-market times due to better collaboration, greater control on quality, accessible communication, and no transit time between phases.

In contrast, choosing consignment assembly requires the customer to be responsible for a significant portion of the process, including parts procurement, ordering, warehousing, inventory management, and packing and shipping.

This is why electronic manufacturers prefer to engage PCB assembly companies like MorePCB that provide end-to-end services. MorePCB is dedicated to fulfilling customer needs in a way that exceeds expectations.

What is the future of circuit card assembly technology?

The future of circuit card assembly technology is exciting, with new advances on the horizon that promise to revolutionize the industry. Some of the most promising developments include:

  1. 5G Connectivity: The rollout of 5G networks is expected to increase the demand for smaller and more powerful electronic devices. Circuit card assembly technology will play a crucial role in enabling the creation of these devices.
  2. Internet of Things (IoT): The IoT is already transforming the way we live and work, and circuit card assembly technology will continue to play a key role in the creation of interconnected devices that can communicate with each other.
  3. Artificial Intelligence (AI): AI is already being used in a wide range of applications, and circuit card assembly technology is no exception. AI can be used to optimize the design and assembly of circuit boards, leading to faster and more efficient production.
  4. Additive Manufacturing: 3D printing technology is rapidly advancing, and it’s expected that in the future, circuit boards will be 3D-printed using conductive materials, eliminating the need for traditional assembly techniques.
  5. Wearable Technology: Wearable technology is becoming increasingly popular, and circuit card assembly technology will continue to play a crucial role in the creation of smaller, more powerful wearable devices.

Conclusion

Circuit card assembly is a crucial component of modern electronics, allowing for the creation of smaller, more complex, and more functional devices. By understanding the types, applications, benefits, and assembly process of circuit card assembly, you can make informed decisions about how to incorporate this technology into your own electronic devices.

Still, need help? Contact Us: sales@morepcb.com

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