Routines can be helpful–like the daily habits of brushing and flossing that keep us out of the dentist’s chair. But sometimes they get in the way. They can fossilize, gradually becoming less useful, even though we keep doing things the same way,

The same thing can happen to printed circuit board designs. You might not want to admit that you’re still ordering the same boards with the same design that you’ve been using for years. They work, and they get the job done, so why be concerned?

But there are plenty of reasons for concern, starting with the principle that If you’re not improving, you’re not just standing still, you may be losing ground. Those older designs could be adding unnecessary costs to your final product. And the more fiddly or difficult to source, the more likely there’s a better way.

Choosing the right supplier involves more than finding someone who can get the job done in a reasonable time. Of course, timeliness matters and quality is non-negotiable, but there’s no need to walk away from potential benefits.

Perhaps you’ve never thought about how your toughest circuits could be improved and you just assume they’ll always be tough to obtain. A collaborative partnership can make all the difference.

Let’s take a peek under the hood and see what goes into the kind of collaboration you can expect from a contract manufacturing supplier like Aurora Boardworks, especially for challenging circuits.

What makes a circuit tough to produce and tough to source?
Circuits that involve a significant number of manual operations are generally more time consuming and harder to produce. We’re talking more stages, hybrid designs including SMT and through hole components, multiple boards to create a stack, unusual or specific sizes and shapes, and the list goes on. Every additional operation adds time and labor. . . and cost.

Changing the design may not be an option for a variety of reasons. Compliance challenges, durability issues that require stronger solder joints, harsh conditions that demand high performance coating may all prevent you from making a complete design change.

Aurora Boardworks looks at every design for PCBs and assemblies as an opportunity to deliver above and beyond expectations.

What’s our process and how can we make a difference?
We start with your design – whether it’s a detailed engineering design or a photo of a napkin sketch – and our engineers review it based on years of experience with a huge range of projects.

Our engineering team will assess what’s involved and determine the best way to produce it. They’ll pinpoint the components that are driving costs, or potentially becoming obsolete, and identify efficiencies that could provide the greatest results for the effort involved in making the change to create the most value for the customer. And they’ll clearly communicate and document their recommendations.

Many design changes result in cost savings but those aren’t the only benefits–

  • Improving manufacturability and designing for production improves efficiency and ability to provide a consistent supply of the board.
  • Optimizing for manufacturing, with a design that’s suited to the process, reduces the potential for quality issues and all their associated costs from downtime to rework or returns.
  • Identifying alternatives for components that are becoming obsolete reduces supply chain risk and improves lead times.

Interdepartmental collaboration
Collaboration isn’t only between Aurora Boardworks engineers and customers–our success depends on strong collaboration between our own teams. We collaborate with the teams on the floor, checking and testing to see if the design can be produced or what needs to be adjusted to make production possible. If standard processes need to be adjusted for unique conditions, we eliminate the guesswork for the team on the floor by clearly defining everything so that operators and assemblers can work confidently. When in-house teams are working smoothly together, it shows.

Design challenges
Bringing a 20- or 30-year-old design up to date can be a challenge, but often the challenge occurs because of a difference between the design on paper and the physical board that can be produced. Isaias Solis-Valencia, Electrical Manufacturing Engineer, notes that the common electrical engineering wisdom holds true–that you can build a circuit on paper, and you can build a board, but when you put it on a printed circuit it may not work at all. That’s where knowledge and perseverance come into play–with an ongoing back and forth with the customer to achieve the desired results.

Consistent communication, along with an eye on best practices as well as design and production rules, keeps the project moving forward. Some boards may need a strict testing protocol, involving custom fixtures and procedures, while others may not. We adapt our procedures to customer needs. That means we’re also able to provide the necessary testing, a step that the customer can choose to add to the project process.

Solis-Valencia reflects the attitude of the team when he says that he sees his role as that of a problem solver, uncomplicating the design and production process. He enjoys the challenges that “really work [his] brain” and sums up the Aurora Boardworks positive attitude this way, “we’re always willing to help. Nothing’s too crazy–if it’s doable, we’ll do it.”

With flexibility and the willingness to handle small quantities and prototypes as well as high volume orders, this is where a beautiful partnership with Aurora Boardworks begins.