Commercial processes

When a product is going to be mass produced, it can cost a manufacturer less money in the long term to invest in specialist equipment and processes, as these will ensure a higher quality product and a quicker production process.

Pick and place assembly

Pick and place assembly is when components are picked up and placed on a circuit board automatically by robots, with suction cups used to pick up and arrange components in the right place on a circuit board. It is used in the production of printed circuit boards (PCBs) in electrical systems. Although buying the machines and programming them is expensive and time-consuming, their performance is quick and accurate, and it is also cost-effective when mass producing a circuit.

The automated pick and place assembly of electronic components onto a circuit board.

Manual assembly

Manual assembly of components can be fiddly and time-consuming, as components are small and take longer to fit into place when done by hand. This assembly method is used mainly for circuits made up of components that are fitted with pins through a circuit board. This is a costly and slow method of production, more suitable for specialist production of small numbers of electronics such as for TVs, radios and alarms.

Flow soldering

Flow soldering is a technique used to attach components to a circuit board quickly, without the need for human input. This improves accuracy and speed and reduces the amount of solder used. To allow components to be added to several circuit boards in a row, surface mounted technology (SMT) is used. This allows connections to be made easily while taking up as little room as possible. Once the SMT components are placed on the PCB with pre-soldered pasted pads, they are put into a precisely controlled oven where the solder melts into the correct positions and creates an accurate connection.

Wave soldering

Wave soldering is used in the mass production of PCBs as it is a fast, efficient and accurate way of soldering PCBs. Components are placed into a PCB by their pins through pre-drilled holes and put on a conveyor belt - this takes the boards through a series of stages:

  1. flux is added to the underside board to help the flow of solder
  2. it is then heated up and passed over a wave of solder
  3. the solder covers the pins under the PCB and creates a bond once cooled
The wave soldering process, with the steps flux added, heat added, solder added and cooled illustrated.