A good trick in manufacturing to speed up assembly is to order PCBs in panels. In this example, there are 4 different PCBs set in one panel. This way the machines can build 4 boards at one time. Takes less human interaction and less errors than if the boards are assembled and processed it one by one.
Panelization gives lots of things that are important for assembly. The edge rails allow for special mounting hold that allow for the board to be fitted into our stencil machines, pick and place machines, and any production jigs that we may need.
JLCPCB will add 5mm edgerails with mounting holes for you for a very small engineering fee.
In order to have JLCPCB panelize your board for your, they have a few requirements. In order to have JLCPCB to panelize your board, it will need to have a non-irregular shape.
Let’s go through what the different options on JLCPCB’s quote form are for panelization.
- Delivery Mode – There are three options here. ‘Single PCB’ is the default option and the one you’re likely most familiar with. ‘Panel by Customer’ is an option for you to select if you have panelized the boards yourself, before submitting your gerbers for production. ‘Panel by JLCPCB’ is the option we’re interested in here.
- Panel Format – You can have your boards panelized 5 rows of 4 boards, 1 row of 3 boards, and so on. When considering how many boards to put on your panel, things like board thickness, the size of the individual boards, and if any components will overlap from one board to another during assembly. Generally we like to keep our panel sizes to less than 150mm x 150mm, but we can process boards larger than that. It seems to be the most economic size for panelization.
- Edge Rails – Here we have three main options. When panelizing, we have found that 5mm edge rails on all four sides are great for processing and assembly.
One of the key benefits of panelization, is when you add edge rails, JLCPCB will add mounting holes and fiducially to the panel. The line we use works best if we have mounting holes on the board or panel.
These holes can be of various sizes from 1.0 mm to 3.0 mm.
The holes do not have to placed on an edge rail, but we need at least three holes to mount into our machines. Please add 0.05 mm tolerance to your holes. So, if you want to use a 2.0 mm mounting pin, please size the hole 2.05mm.
If you can’t or don’t want to add edge rails to your board, this is a great way to avoid needing them.
Another great use of your edge rails is storing your boards. In-between different stages of the assembly process, we may need to put your boards somewhere, while we prepare for the next part of the process. Having edge rails allows us to use antistatic trays to keep up with your boards.
In conclusion, panelization, edge rails, and mounting holes make the assembly process much easier, quicker, and allow for less issues during the assembly and QC processes.
This article features MicroPhonon’s Aquaping PCBs in production. Sensors are available for purchase at Crowd Supply and Mouser Electronics.