Printed circuit board (PCB) process engineers are in charge of processes surrounding PCB design and production. They are tasked with the job of being sure that process flow is smooth and results come out as expected over time. The most significant values that a process engineer provides is consistency and improvement.
Design Process Engineering
A design process engineer is going to be concerned with the efficiency and performance of newly developed PCB designs. Process engineering at this stage will make sure that the correct pieces or components are being used in the proper places. For example, a PCB design integrates flexible circuitry; the process engineer will be sure that the correct types of flexible clads and bondpiles are used for the particular electronic properties of that part of the PCB.
Process engineering during the design phase will ensure that the mechanical and flexible properties that are needed for the board to work properly are met. Design process engineers are also well versed in what the manufacturer is capable of and will work with designers to create PCBs that suit the manufacturer’s processes.
Process engineering at this step saves companies time and money producing faulty PCB designs. Designs will be sure to meet the necessary criteria for production and distribution as everything will be signed off on before the product is sent to manufacturing.
PCB Production Process Engineering
Process engineering at this stage is a bit more technical. Production process engineers are responsible for the consistent production of a final product. The responsibilities of this person will vary depending on what parts of production take place in-house and what is outsourced. Larger companies often break this job up between multiple positions.
A large company that produces PCBs on site will have process engineers in charge of each step of the production process. One group will be in charge of circuitry, another in charge of board production, another in charge of etching, component addition, etc. The main point being that the process engineer makes sure that each step of the process runs smoothly, gives expected results, and troubleshoots when things go awry.
The Value of Process Engineering
Process engineering at all stages of PCB production will ensure that operations are running smoothly and within compliance measures. Each process is required to fit within a set of statistics where process engineers will be alerted when something is off.
Process engineering can be outsourced at different steps of the process. A small company could design a PCB for a piece of consumer technology they have developed. They can then send this design to an auditing company to be sure that they have designed their PCB as efficiently and safely as possible. Another example of outsourcing is when an offshore manufacturer is used to produce a PCB. In this case, a company usually in the region of the manufacturer can be hired to go into the manufacturer and check on their manufacturing processes. This is generally done after a manufacturing agreement has been made and production has not gone so well.
Process engineering is a valuable step in PCB design and manufacturing processes. Having someone in this position will ensure that all of the checks and balances are in, and your materials are compliant with current regulations and safe for end users. Using a process engineering step in your PCB manufacturing and design will save you time and money in the long run.