Canadian Manufacturing

The mechanical challenges of PCBA manufacturing and assembly

by Emily Newton, Editor-in-Chief, Revolutionized   

Manufacturing Operations Research & Development Technology / IIoT Electronics advanced manufacturing electronics Industry 4.0 Manufacturing Research Technology

Manufacturers rely heavily on automated equipment and robotic machinery to perform assembly tasks when it comes to creating circuit boards.

Engineer showing a computer microchip on motherboard background. Electronic circuit board with processor. Source: Adobe

Circuit boards are the lifeblood of modern electronics. To get those boards, a process called printed circuit board assembly (PCBA) manufacturing is necessary. Many challenges can threaten that efficiency and performance of PCBA manufacturing if you do not carefully consider them.

1. PCBA quality control

The small size of the components used in the assembly process of circuit boards makes it difficult to achieve the necessary levels of precision manually. Therefore, manufacturers rely heavily on automated equipment and robotic machinery to perform assembly tasks. If these machines are not configured correctly or reviewed over time, errors can and do occur.

2. Materials handling and logistics

Components in the PCBA assembly process can come from multiple suppliers, each with different lead times, delivery schedules and quality standards. You must maintain accurate inventory records and manage the flow of materials to ensure you have the right components at the right time. This requires careful planning and coordination to avoid delays and minimize the risk of errors.

It also requires a trustworthy relationship with vendors and partners, which requires extensive research before striking up those collaborations and continual communication. This is precisely where innovative solutions like logistics models and simulations come into play.


Optimization modeling — which is rooted in mathematical formulas and numerical models — can help predict what might occur during a major failure. That would then help create contingency plans to continue sourcing the proper materials, supplies and components, all with the appropriate quality standards.

3. Environmental conditions during PCBA manufacturing

PCBAs are highly sensitive to temperature, humidity and electrostatic discharge. Even minor fluctuations in these conditions can affect the performance and reliability of the final product. Some of the challenges encountered during PCBA assembly include:

  • Surface delamination
  • Board or component warping
  • Loose or failing solder joints
  • Inner layer or board separations
  • Bent, bowed or twisted components
  • Wicking, melted or damaged materials

To overcome these challenges, manufacturers use specialized equipment and facilities that are designed to maintain a controlled environment. This includes using cleanrooms, anti-static materials and humidity control systems. All personnel wear personal protective equipment for their safety and to help better protect the components and assembly parts.

4. The finished product

PCBAs are used in various applications, including medical devices, automotive systems and aerospace equipment. Reliability is critical in these applications and failures can have severe consequences.

To ensure the quality and reliability of the final product, you should use advanced testing and inspection methods. These methods include X-ray inspection, automated optical inspection and functional testing.

Vibration testing is a method that reveals time domain analysis, an important measurement explaining how a system experiences abnormalities. This can help discern the strength of joints, crest factors, kurtosis and beyond. All these factors relate to how well a product will perform in the field and what may cause them to fail.

Ultimately, each of these testing methods is designed to detect defects and errors that could affect the final product’s performance.

Rising to the challenge of PCBA manufacturing

PCBA manufacturing and assembly present unique challenges requiring advanced technology, precise control and careful management. By addressing these aspects, you can produce high-quality, reliable PCBAs that meet the needs of a wide range of industries and applications, and that also pass stringent regulations in their field of operation.


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