5 Pointers for Comparing Printed Circuit Board Manufacturers

Printed circuit boards (PCBs) are extremely important and relevant in the electronics and appliance industries. A PCB collects the electronic elements of a product using conductive products that are usually etched on a “non-conductive” substrate. Naturally, PCBs are used extensively in production of many products, including regular consumer goods. All kinds of active devices and components, including resisters and capacitors, are usually soldered to the board.

If you are looking to place an order for your business and want to find a reliable printed circuit board manufacturer, there are a few aspects that you need to note.

1. First things first, check if the manufacturer is well known in the industry. Ask relevant questions like – How long have you been in business? Who are your clients? How many batches or orders do you handle each month? Can you share a few references? A company that has been around for a long time will never shy away from offering references. They will also do what it takes to convince their new and prospective clients. You can also check their website to find a few more relevant details.

2. Check the prices. Don’t be surprised, there are reliable manufactures who can offer low-priced circuit boards without compromising on the quality. They also ensure fast and quick delivery for their clients on request. However, be careful when you choose a service, because there are a few quality standards that must be met. Check if the concerned company has the required certifications, which can vary in some countries.

3. Know their clients. As mentioned earlier, you need to know the industries and clients that a company services. Check if they have worked for the military and some of the other bodies of the government. If they have supplied their products to known firms and electronic companies, it is like an assurance that they will never ever fool around with the quality. If you get references, call a few of them or write an email asking about their experiences.

4. Do not ignore customer service, it is extremely important when ordering PCBs. You need a manufacturer who is around to take questions or concerns and handle them quickly and accurately. It is important to be careful about customer service and whereabouts of the company, because some of them are just brokers and are making money by selling low-quality PCBs to customers.

5. Can they handle specific requirements? PCB requirements can vary, and you need a team that has the capacities to meet different production needs. They must be willing to take up production challenges, and it is not enough to claim things, unless they prove things. You can place a small order for custom PCBs to know more about their commitment towards customization, timely delivery and pricing.

Lastly, do check with the concerned manufacturer if they have the time to work on specific projects, especially if your company is involved in innovative productions.

Shot Blasting Machine: What You Need To Know

Shot blasting is a technique used to clean, fortify (strengthen) or polish metals. The method is used in virtually all industries that use metals such as automotive, construction, foundry, aerospace and several others. The question arises, how is shot blasting carried out? A machine (shot blasting machine) comes to our rescue. The machine strongly blasts the metal under processing to remove such impurities as rust, scale and welding slag.To efficiently carry out its job, the shot blasting machine is composed of components that each carry out a particular function as explained below:-

The Blast Wheel

The blast wheels are a critical spare part of blasting equipment. A blast wheel produces the centrifugal force required to project the abrasive particles. The rate of work and kind of job affect the number of wheels that are installed on the blasting machine.

Cabinet

The cabinet is a closed booth free of vibration, and it is made of steel. It is lined with a wear resistant liner, usually an Mn alloy. The cabinet provides an environment where the abrasive particles (traveling at high speeds of 50 – 100m/s) can be treated.

Work Handling

This component varies greatly from machine to machine, as it directly depends on the following two factors; the type of machine you are using and the size and quality of the particles to be obtained in the end. For example, roller conveyor type shot blasting machine is designed for heavy-duty beams, steel profile and fabricated work pieces.

Elevator

The abrasive recovery system is recovered at the lowest end of the shot blasting machine cabinet and linked to the screw conveyor on the base of the elevator (which also carries the separator). The elevator is a critical part since it’s malfunction will translate to low production rates of the shot blasting machine. It thus requires constant maintenance.

Air Separator

The principal goal of the separator is to clean is to clean the abrasive particles origination from the blast wheel. When abrasive metal particles enter the blast wheel, they must be rid of all contaminants as the cleaning makes the shot blasting machine work efficiently.

Dust Collector

As the name implies, the work of this component is to collect dust during the blasting process. The dust originates from the cabinet ventilation and separator. It usually creates laden air creating an avenue for environmental pollution and the potential health risk to the workers in working in the industry. To curb the problems, the user of the machine should assure proper work to the dust controller.

Simple Steps To Improve Manufacturing Productivity

Staying competitive in a global economy demands consistent efforts to improve manufacturing productivity. In order to succeed with the objective of sustainable growth and the capacity to generate useful output, manufacturers have to make critical decisions regarding the deployment of resources, implementation of new technologies, elimination of operational inefficiencies, etc. A sound manufacturing strategy plays an integral role in shaping the competitive position of a company.

The more effective your manufacturing productivity, the more profit your company can make. In some cases, it is easy to identify variables that interfere with operational efficiency and productivity. However, it is not always simple to understand the complexity of a process. Once you are determined to improve manufacturing productivity, you will be able to better understand underlying problems and resolve them. Following are simple steps and strategies that can help you improve the productivity of your production plant:

Collect data regularly

As you put efforts to comprehend your manufacturing processes in depth, you become better positioned to enhance your production process. First and the most important thing is to understand manufacturing patterns through data. The number of production hours, efficiency of production machines, time to manufacture each item, output per hour, and productivity of employees are some of the variables that highlight the overall efficiency of a manufacturing plant. Successful manufacturers keep track of everything happening on their factory floors.

Identify bottlenecks

It is very important to locate points in your workflow where production gets backed up because production processes are not properly integrated. Integration of production processes plays a vital role in bringing about an efficient factory floor where everything is connected and works in harmony. So, identify and eliminate bottlenecks in order to develop a more streamlined and organized workflow.

Upgrade manufacturing systems

Old-fashioned, manual production processes cannot meet the growing market expectations. Customers demand high-quality products. It will be extremely difficult for a manufacturer to address emerging market trends without implementing innovation and bringing in modern automation technologies. As a manufacturer, you should continuously look for modern production means that are fast, efficient, and flexible. It is the only way to maintain manufacturing productivity over a long period of time.

Industrial automation solution providers offer a variety of affordable manufacturing systems that you can integrate into your existing setup and witness dramatic improvements. Consult a reputable automation engineering company that can develop custom machines and control systems for your factory floor.

The Use of Laser Cutting in Sheet Metal Prototyping

Though there are a number of ways that sheet metal can be shaped and cut, few are as precise, reliable and cost effective as laser cutting. The technology involved in laser cutting is so effective that a continuation and improvement of its future capabilities is inevitable.

Categories of Laser cutting Tools

Laser cut is a versatile tool whose use can be applied across a broad spectrum of materials such as stone, glass, wood, plastic and sheet metal.

A CO2 laser is a popular type of tool that is prized because it is easy to control and highly accurate. A beam made of concentrated CO2 gas is activated by electricity to fuel the cutting.

A fiber laser uses glass fibers to increase the potential of a seed laser. The result is a laser that is both more powerful and more precise when compared to a CO2 laser. A fiber laser is often used for metals because of its focused and intense beam.

A crystal laser is similar to a fiber laser except it uses both pump diodes and crystals to generate the intensity of its beam. A crystal laser has a comparable performance and application potential to a fiber laser.

There are numerous reasons why using laser cutting is the preferred method when developing a sheet metal prototype.

More Intricate
Because a laser has an average size of only a few micrometers, it allows for precision to create and cut sheet metal prototypes that would be impossible if other methods were utilized. This results in an almost limitless array of possibilities.

Finished edge
Using a physical technique, such as a blade, to cut sheet metal results in imperfections, such as roughness and burrs, along the edge. For many designs, these would need to be buffed out or otherwise removed which can increase the time it takes for the end user to receive their product. Using a laser eliminates this issue.

Scalability
The tools enable companies to cut as many or as few sheet metal prototypes as their customers need. These lasers often don’t have to be adjusted or retooled to accommodate the design of a particular piece. When adjustments are inevitable, they are easier to accomplish when using a laser cutter.

Laser Cutting and the Future

As of right now, CO2 lasers are still the industry standard though fiber lasers are being adopted rapidly. Although fairly new, the fiber laser technology is projected to become standard over the next 10 to 15 years. Many companies will continue to use their CO2 lasers alongside their fiber lasers, giving them more options for designs they can offer their customers. It could also be paired with 3D printing to create precise and reliable products for customers.

Automation of Industrial Processes

The rapid expansion of a huge international market requires the industrial sector to optimize production processes to achieve a greater market share and increase competitiveness. To achieve this, engineering has promoted the development of areas such as mechanics, electronics and robotics to manage and consolidate the automation of industrial processes.

Automation is the implementation of intelligent systems and technologies to operate machinery and control production processes, regardless of human operation in jobs that require greater effort and represent a huge risk to the health and welfare of workers. Currently, there are three types of automation in accordance with the degree of production and needs of a certain industry:

Fixed Automation:

Designed for large-scale manufacturing: A specialized machine or equipment is used to produce a part of a product or the product itself, in a fixed and continuous sequence. This type of automation is ideal for producing large volumes of products that have a long-life cycle, an invariable design and a broad consumer demand. Its main limitations are the high initial cost and the lack of flexibility of the equipment to adapt.

Programmable Automation:

Suitable for a smaller production volume, segmented by batches, programmable automation allows to change or reprogram the sequence of operation, by means of a software, to include the variations of the product. Among the most used equipment for this type of automation are numerical control machines, robots and programmable logic controllers.

Flexible Automation:

Designed for an average production level, flexible automation is the extension of programmable automation. It reduces the programming time of the equipment and allows to alternate the elaboration of two products (in series) when mixing different variables. Flexibility refers to the ability of teams to accept changes in the design and configuration of the product, thus reducing costs for companies.

Advantages of Industrial Automation

  • Decreases manufacturing costs
  • Increases the efficiency of the production process.
  • Speeds the response to market demands.
  • Replaces the man with complicated industrial processes that endanger his physical integrity
  • Favors business competitiveness.
  • Improves the security of the processes and the quality of the production.

Disadvantages of Industrial Automation

  • Generates technological dependence
  • Requires a large initial investment
  • Lack of trained personnel to manage the equipment
  • Susceptibility to technological obsolescence
  • The resistance of the workers to the change

One of the main challenges of the implementation of automated systems in industries is to balance the work done by computerized equipment and robots with the work performed by the operators. While technology helps to optimize processes and limits human intervention, it does not replace it completely. The error is to associate industrial automation with unemployment since human presence is necessary for the management, supervision and control of complex production processes.

Why It Benefits to Use a Generator

A power outage can lead to many problems for both homes and businesses. Life support machinery, lighting, and heating systems can be instantly lost when a storm or a similar event takes out the main power. Let’s take a look at several of the reasons to use the generator:

Construction sites

A typical use for the generator is on construction sites where there are plenty of power tools to operate, such as industrial lights, spray guns for painting, nail guns, etc. Any remote or newly developed site isn’t likely to have access to the electric grid, so this will be the only way to get power.

Emergencies

Any homes or businesses that are located in an area that experiences heavy rain storms or other acts of nature that can take out the power will certainly benefit from a backup source of power. In the event of a power outage, the generator will make it a lot easier to stay independent and carry on as close to normal until the main electrical supply is back. Using the generator means it is possible to continue to eat hot meals, stay warm, and make sure the main appliances, like the fridge continue to run.

Also, with the increase in the elderly generation, there are more households that have the medical hardware in the home, such as the oxygen-producing machines which demand a constant source of power. Even a short loss of power can be very inconvenient, so the simple process of installing a generator can help to save lives in this type of situation. Additionally, there are many people who rely on electric scooters or a stair lift to get around which will stop working.

Farming

Farming is an industry that needs to continue to work at all times. In an effort to prevent a farm coming to a stand-still after a storm, the generators will ensure the essential electrical equipment is kept working. For instance, it will be necessary to keep power going to continue production, feed livestock, maintain the freshness of food supplies, and keep the lighting on.

Outdoor events

Beyond the ability to give an essential source of power in the event of an outage, the generators are a practical option for outdoor and recreational events, such as barbecues, garden parties, off the grip campsites and festivals. They give a constant source of power which is very useful to plug-in speakers, keep things cool, power fans and light up the area.

5 Challenges Facing the Industrial & Manufacturing Sector

  • Changing Compliance Regulations & Traceability
  • Relevance
  • Skills Gap
  • Healthcare
  • Environment Concerns

The industrial and manufacturing sector keep evolving and that evolution doesn’t just happen. It’s almost always a direct result of overcoming the challenges that threaten the very existence of the sector. So, are there any challenges that the sector is dealing with currently?

Well, here are 5 challenges the manufacturing sector is currently trying to overcome.

Changing Compliance Regulations & Traceability

Changing regulations have always haunted manufacturers. But, they’re there for a good reason. Without compliance standards, manufacturers could very well end up cutting corners, which ultimately ends up affecting the end consumer.

So, for the sake of things such as quality control or proper waste management, compliance standards need to exist. However, complying with new standards isn’t an easy task for manufacturers. More often than not, they’re a burden and thanks to globalization, manufacturers are also forced to deal with regulations that are unique to each territory.

Manufacturers are also tasked with tracking compliance as well. This means that have to go through the entire supply chain to check for compliance, right from vendors to the end-product that’s sent to the customer.

Relevance

As technology evolves, the rate of innovation increases. But, this also means companies have to rush and that can lead to all kinds of temptations. The urge to skip a step or avoid certain tests can be hard to resist when the goal is to market the product as soon as possible.

But, the last thing a manufacturer needs is to put the business at risk with a low-quality product. So, innovation management becomes a must in these situations. Preferences change by the day and any delay in delivering appropriate solutions can mean the end of everything.

So, manufacturers have to establish a system that allows for the consistent delivery of new ideas and innovation. Only this can sustain manufacturing success.

Skills Gap

As one generation exits the workforce, it makes way for a new generation of workers. This transition is, in itself, quite a challenge. But, things are very different today.

Manufacturers face the challenge of filling up those positions with equally skilled members from the current generation. However, the new generation of employees is simply not skilled enough, making the challenge even harder to overcome. As a result, manufacturers have to develop strategies such as working with the education sector to offer the skills training necessary to fill these positions.

Some manufacturers are also retaining skill by extending the retirement age.

Healthcare

As healthcare costs go up, it becomes very difficult for manufacturers to manage their budgets. For instance, in the US, it’s manufacturers who foot healthcare bills for their employees. But, with costs going up, it is simply not feasible and there are no viable alternatives.

Environmental Concerns

Regulations with regard to sustainable and environmentally safe processes and practices put more strain on the manufacturing process. Whether it’s waste disposal or the regulation of materials, more resources are needed to follow best practices.

As you can see, it’s not exactly easy for the industrial and manufacturing sector. However, manufacturers have to figure out a way to leverage technology and innovative ideas to keep up with the changes that pose a threat to them.

5 Different Types of Printed Circuit Boards

A printed circuit board (PCB) is a standard component in many different electronic gadgets, such as computers, radars, beepers, etc. They are made from a variety of materials with laminate, composite and fiberglass the most common. Also, the type of circuit board can vary with the intended use. Let’s take a look at five of the different types:

Single sided – this is the most typical circuit board and is built with a single layer or base material. The single layer is coated with a conductive material like copper. They may also have a silk screen coat or a protective solder mask on top of the copper layer. A great advantage of this type of PCB is the low production cost and they are often used in mass-produced items.

Double sided – this is much like the single sided, but has the conductive material on both sides. There are many holes in the board to make it easy to attach metal parts from the top to bottom side. This type of circuit board increases operational flexibility and is a practical option to build the more dense circuit designs. This board is also relatively low-cost. However, it still isn’t a practical option for the most complex circuits and is unable to work with technology that reduces electromagnetic interference. They are typically used in amplifiers, power monitoring systems, and testing equipment.

Multi-layer – the multi-layer circuit board is built with extra layers of conductive materials. The high number of layers which can reach 30 or more means it is possible to create a circuit design with very high flexibility. The individual layers are separated by special insulating materials and substrate board. A great benefit of this type of board is the compact size, which helps to save space and weight in a relatively small product. Also, they are mostly used when it is necessary to use a high-speed circuit.

Flexible – this is a very versatile circuit board. It is not only designed with a flexible layer, but also available in the single, double, or multi-layer boards. They are a great option when it is necessary to save space and weight when building a particular device. Also, they are appreciated for high ductility and low mass. However, the flexible nature of the board can make them more difficult to use.

Rigid – the rigid circuit board is built with a solid, non-flexible material for its layers. They are typically compact in size and able to handle the complex circuit designs. Plus, the signal paths are easy to organize and the ability to maintain and repair is quite straightforward.

A Brief Introduction to the Programmable Logic Controller

The term programmable logic controller (PLC) refers to the industrial digital computers that are designed for controlling various manufacturing equipment such as industrial robots, escalators, power stations, and assembly lines. These sophisticated devices are used to control production processes where dependable controls, flexible programming, and ease of troubleshooting is of immense importance.

The significance of industrial computers increases in applications where precision with zero error is critical. Initially, it was the automotive industry that utilized computer-controlled systems in order to replace cam timers and hard-wired relays. Now, computer-driven tools have become a vital part of industrial process control and factory automation.

Unlike personal computers, PLC is capable of performing in harsh industrial environments where temperature, humidity, dust, mechanical shocks and other hazards are prevalent. Manufacturers need a variety of equipment in order to produce a product and make it work for the end users.

All the equipment or devices working on producing something in a facility needs to be organized in terms of time intervals. For instance, in the automobile industry, one device or a set of devices works on painting car exterior and the other machine works on engine parts. One of the functions of an industrial digital computer is to set the specific time frame for machines so that all the processes can be performed in a perfectly harmonious manner.

Industrial computers were introduced in the 1960s and before that, manufacturers relied on cam timers, relays and other similar kinds of devices to streamline their manufacturing processes. They control a wide range of applications from small production systems to large processing plants. Some of the advantages of PLC include:

  • Ease of maintenance and installation
  • Accuracy and dependability
  • Cost-effectiveness
  • Low power consumption
  • Higher flexibility and integration

Central Processing Unit (CPU), memory, and input & outputs are the three fundamental component of an industrial digital computer. Like in the personal computer, CPU plays the part of a brain in a computer as it performs all the communication, arithmetic, logical and memory related operations. The memory component in PLC operates almost the same way as that of personal computers.As mentioned earlier, the ability to perform effectively for years in harsh industrial environments is what makes PLCs different from personal computers. A digital computer has to be flexible and configurable. The 21st Century process control expects functional flexibility, superior performance, and a smaller form factor from a control system.

The rapid development in the industrial automation technology has made it possible for manufacturers to produce high-quality products cost-effectively and at large scales. Powerful industrial computers, robots, sensors, intelligent and automated devices are the present and the future of modern industries. It would be hard for industries to stay competitive in future without embracing the modern industrial technologies.

Aluminium Foil and Resource Efficiency

From foil wrappers and household foil to semi-rigid foil containers, lids and laminated foil pouches, aluminium foil applications offer a versatile range of packaging solutions to meet today’s sustainability challenges. The physical properties of aluminium foil, such as the absolute barrier effect, lead to more protection and longer shelf-lives for the product contents, as well as better preservation of their nutritional and health benefits. The net result: less food waste and so greater resource efficiency. Also, less use of resources results in a reduction in the overall environmental impact and improved profitability.

In summary: More efficient packaging ultimately saves resources or, in other words, More is Less! The following lists some of the unique characteristics of aluminium foil and gives examples of how these properties provide resource- and energy-efficient solutions.

Barrier: Aluminium foil acts as an absolute barrier to light, gases and moisture providing almost perfect preservation of aroma, flavour and other product characteristics thus protecting product quality. It has a highly efficient barrier function to weight ratio, e.g., for 1 litre of milk packed in a beverage carton, only 1.5 grams of aluminium is sufficient to allow an ambient shelf-life of several months.

By enabling useful life of products for extended periods at room temperature, aluminium foil helps to reduce food waste and then to save the important resources used to produce the food. This also provides energy savings as products can be preserved without the need for refrigeration.

Product to pack ratio: In particular, due to the absolute barrier property even at very low gauges, aluminium foil allows for the development of packaging solutions that are both very efficient and very light. The product to pack ratio of flexible foil packaging is generally very high, potentially 5 to 10 times higher than for rigid packaging used for the same application.

High product to pack ratio means less packaging material is used to protect and deliver the same quantity of product. This also means less energy to transport the packaging whether empty or filled. And at the end of life there is significantly less packaging waste generated

Portion-ability: Foil’s excellent ability to be used alone or in combination with other materials (paper and/or plastic) provides flexibility to easily pack the product (food) into appropriate and convenient portions.

Providing food in appropriate quantities prevents both over-preparation and over-consumption which contribute to food wastage. Portioning also extends the shelf-life of the unprepared food by keeping it packaged and protected.

Material and space efficiency: Aluminium foil can efficiently be laminated with other materials to combine specific properties of several flexible packaging substrates in a complementary way for an improved overall performance and a very limited overall amount of material used. The reduced amount of material used in flexible foil packaging, plus the fact that it is delivered in the form of rolls, leads to more space efficiency during storage and transportation and enables further energy and cost savings.

Mechanical properties: Uniquely light yet strong, foil’s ‘deadfold’ characteristics allows it to wrap products tightly and without any glue or other sealing systems.

For household foil for example, the easy wrapping and reclose-ability helps to prevent food waste through appropriate protection of the goods at home or on-the-go and the possibility to efficiently preserve leftovers.

Thermal conductivity: Aluminium is an excellent conductor of heat and is able to withstand extreme temperatures. Alufoil is ideal for use in autoclaving, heat-sealing and other thermal processes (e.g. retort).

Excellent thermal conductivity minimizes the processing, sealing, chilling and re-heating times, thus saving energy and also ensuring a better protection of the organoleptic and nutritional quality of the food by flattening extreme temperature gradients within the product.

Electrical conductivity: Excellent electrical conductivity of aluminium foil enables high-
precision, contact-free sealing, thus widening the application range for efficient and fast filling technologies.The presence of aluminium foil in a packaging facilitates induction and ultrasonic sealing, saving materials and energy by minimizing the seal area and time.

Reflectivity: Aluminium foil reflects up to 98% of light and infrared heat. Good heat reflectivity saves energy during the cooling or heating of in pack prepared foods.

Multi-mode cooking: The unique combination of thermal, electrical heat transfer allows food to be cooked or re-heated by convection or microwave oven and/or in ‘bain marie’ systems. This flexibility in heating/cooking helps save time and energy during preparation.

Recyclability: Aluminium material is fully recyclable, endlessly, without any loss of quality. Increasing collection and recycling/recovery rates for aluminium foil and aluminium foil packaging means that an equivalent quantity of primary (i.e. virgin) aluminium will not be required by the industry. This represents a significant energy saving as processing recycled aluminium requires up to 95% less energy than the equivalent quantity of primary metal produced from bauxite.In Europe it is assumed that average recycling rate of all aluminium packaging is above 60%. The amount of aluminium packaging recycled greatly depends on the efficiency of the national packaging collection schemes in each European country. For aluminium foil trays and semi-rigid containers, the latest statistics show that the average recycling rate in Europe reaches about 55% thanks to continued work by the industry to promote the value of collection and recycling of aluminium foil packaging. For foil flexible packs, generally having a lower aluminium content since the packaging is often very thin and frequently laminated with plastics or paper, it is also possible to recover the aluminium from the scraps and reclaim it for closed-loop recycling, using specially developed technologies like pyrolysis. In the situations where aluminium foil packaging is not collected separately for recycling and enters an energy recovery process, a significant proportion of the aluminium in the packaging – even the thin gauge foil – can be collected from the bottom ashes for recycling. The part of aluminium which is oxidized during incineration is releasing energy which is recovered and converted to heat and electricity.

Resource Efficiency of aluminium foil packaging: For a given product there are often several effective packaging solutions able to perform the required functions. But some solutions are more resource efficient than others in that they use less resources.

Because of the combination of the unique above properties, aluminium foil packaging supports efficient use of resources and waste minimization throughout the lifecycle of the packed product. Not only does foil packaging help to save important food resources by offering optimised fit-for-purpose solutions with reduced risk of product waste, but it makes a very efficient use of packaging material over its entire life cycle.