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Visual PCBA

Electronics Industry FAI - First Article Inspection (FAI) AS9102

A printed circuit board assembly (PCBA or, simply, PCB), sometimes referred to as a circuit card assembly (CCA), requires first article inspection (FAI). Within the Aerospace industry the FAI standard is AS9102, with the process being much the same for any industry inspecting PCB assemblies.

IAQG Presentation of Visual PCBA

Processes already exist to check a PCB against a previously produced master PCB as a quality inspection step, but what if a master has never been created and this is the very first one you have produced for a new design?

All the design notes, dimensional requirements and materials utilized need confirmation they are correct and meet the desired design requirements and that the electronic components – capacitors, resistors or active devices are in the correct location, have the correct orientation and the solder quality is acceptable. Sometimes different versions of the same PCBs are created by not placing certain components and thus we must check these locations remain empty or non - populated.

Electronics companies today actually do this check manually with a process that is similar to the following manual process:

  1. look up components on the original (paper) design specification parts list or bill of materials BOM, highlight this part with a pen, and then confirm that the component was specified by ERP.
  2. locate the component on the drawing and use this to find the component on the PCB. Finding the component on the PCB may also involve utilizing a piece of equipment capable of searching for the components utilizing the CAD data x,y coordinates. The component may also be found manually.
  3. once the operator is assured that the component is in the correct place, has the correct orientation and has acceptable solder quality, the component drawing is highlighted to indicate the check has been passed or the reason for failure has been identified.

This process is repeated for each component and, depending on the size and complexity of the design, can be repeated 100’s or thousands of times. In some cases PCBs may take days to complete by multiple inspectors working back to back shift patterns since it’s not practical for more than one person to inspect a PCB at any one time.

FAI Future State

  • Automate the FAI process utilizing software that has been designed specifically for PCB/CCA.
  • Have multiple inspectors working on a single PCB FAI.
  • Compress the inspection time from days/weeks to hours.
  • Have an inspection process that is not dependent on tying up expensive inspection equipment during the FAI process.
  • Confirm that the design bill of materials (BOM) has been utilized and modifications or alternatives are handled correctly during the manufacturing process.
  • Have an FAI process that fully integrates with the production part approval process (PPAP).

An Improved FAI process for PCBs/CCA

IPI Solutions have developed a series of applications to help electronics companies manage and complete their FAI process for PCB’s. Since 2005 VisualFAIR® First Article Inspection Report application has been utilized by companies globally to produce AS9102 inspection reports and other related report formats. IPI has been working with a leading electronics manufacturing service provider to streamline their global FAI process by developing specific applications.

‘Visual NPI’ (New Product Introduction) application has been developed to enable the user to create their own workflow for completing, as in this example, an FAI. However, the workflow might contain other elements such as PPAP. The stages of a PCB FAI being, check the BOM, check the electronic components and complete the FAI.

'Visual BCC’ (BOM Create & Compare) has been developed to mistake - proof the downstream FAI process of comparing the designed electronic component parts list with the data utilized during the actual manufacturing process. Visual BCC creates a standard process to make the check independently of any other software. The check is simple and quick and enables the next stage of the FAI to take place.

‘Visual PCB’ (Printed Circuit Board) has been developed to enable offline inspection of the PCB/CCA. Prior to inspection utilizing the app, the PCB undergoes a process that takes high resolutions photos of each electronic component. The photos are then utilized by Visual PCB and are linked to the design drawing location for each component. The inspector can handle the PCB and is shown the exact location of the component and view the high resolution photograph. Typically, the component photos show a margin that is large enough to see the surrounding components for context, with a quick zoom key to zoom into the component itself.

A decision can be made about solder quality, orientation and correct location using the software coupled with the inspector having the physical PCB for further inspection if required. Filters are available for manufacturing operation step (top, bottom, hand - place, etc.) and a color coded marker indicates that everything has met the specification. For locations that have optional component placements, photos are still taken to ensure that the board does not contain a component in those locations.

Visual FAIR® (First Article Inspection Report) application handles all aspects of producing an AS9102 FAI. Forms 1, 2 and 3 are all handled by the software. Notes, dimensional characteristics, materials and processes are managed to produce an FAI in a standard process but with multiple outputs in PDF, Excel and the ability to upload to other web portals such as Net Inspect™.

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