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5 Quality Control Tests Done By Top Companies In Circuit Manufacturing

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Printed circuit boards are like secret agents—they make things happen behind the limelight. Because of this, how they work is beyond the conjecture of an average person, particularly one who does not know how to tinker with their tech.

To keep everyone’s attention glued to the topic of printed circuit boards, we can say that it is virtually in every device we use now. Raspberry Pi, Amazon’s Echo Dot, Nintendo Switch, Steam Decks, and even wearable tech like the Apple Vision Pro contain multiple layers of these thin conducting sheets.

If you work or do business in this industry, it may be interesting for you to know the quality control tests done on printed circuit boards. This knowledge assures you that no problems will arise while fiddling with the final PCB product. Here are some of the most important tests done by top companies in circuit manufacturing.

Visual Tests

The first test is a visual examination, which the PCB assembly operator himself conducts in a well-lit room. It involves examining the circuit board and ensuring connections are meticulously linked. 

However, such an inspection is definitely insufficient, given that PCBs may have minuscule parts that require magnification to be checked thoroughly. This is where microscope tests take place, which are still a type of visual test, only that they use handheld optical tools. A PCB microscope is specifically designed to get the job done, and companies like FS Tech have the technology to project this inspection onto a larger screen for closer review.

In-Circuit Tests

In-circuit tests, or ICTs, cover essential testing methods that determine whether the hardware is at par with standard product specifications and capabilities. 

ICT will test components one by one to ensure that every part is in the right place, particularly that units become smaller over time. There are different types of ICT, but generally, they aim to assess the function of various parts, find open or short circuits, detect low-functioning components that are probably damaged, and identify the PCB’s electrical functionality.

AOIs

Although they sound fancy, automated optical inspections, or AOIs, may be done with cheaper systems. They involve the use of affordable webcams and OpenCV to compare a manufactured PCB unit to a PCB that passed earlier QC processes.

Meanwhile, a top PCB manufacturer may use commercial-grade systems for higher accuracy and faster screening. Here, a machine vision tech that uses ultra-high-quality cameras and RGB LEDs examines solder quality and detects connection faults that could bypass the inspection of its cheaper counterparts.

Saw Inspections

It may be funny to imagine manufacturing companies slicing through circuit boards with fine-toothed saws to prove a point. However, some PCB makers go that far to see the bigger picture of the entire assembly process.

So, this literal “cutting-edge” testing is used to check through holes. They fabricate board extensions to lessen expense and then magnify the internal components for examination. It’s also worth noting that this is only recommendable and practical in mass productions.

Functional Testing

Lastly, a production company’s final phase of quality control examination is functional testing. This inspection is as we can all picture out: a tester powers up the final PCB product and puts it through a full trial run to make sure everything is working as intended.

Functional testing will depend on the design and order requirements. For a simple PCB, a test can be as easy as switching power supply testing. On the other hand, full testing procedures, which may sometimes be expensive, may come with strict protocols or test software. This type of quality control test is so straightforward that some companies choose to do it alone and skip other QC tests we mentioned above.

Written by Marcus Richards

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