Sending designs off to a manufacturer to reproduce on a massive scale without adequate testing can be very costly.
No matter how meticulous the testing was during the PCB design process, testing during production is a necessary step to adhere to the highest standards of quality and safety.
Here are some specific PCB testing methods you’ll need to consider when evaluating a manufacturing and assembly partner.
In-Circuit Test (ICT)
In-circuit testing is the most highly utilized PCB testing method for its accuracy and specificity to each PCB product. Depending on the end-use of your PCBs each one or some in each batch will be tested.
ICT involves the production of a "bed of nails" fixture that will connect to your circuit board for testing. Fixtures can be costly, and the price will often be figured into the fees charged by your manufacturer. Costs can vary depending on your manufacturer and the complexity of your product.
In-Circuit Testing offers the best possible quality control solution for testing PCBs that will ultimately end up in the hands of consumers
Manufacturing Defect Analysis (MDA)
Manufacturing Defect Analysis (MDA) is a quality assurance step that takes place before production even begins. When you are conducting a manufacturing defect analysis, you are quite simply testing to identify the limits of your PCB.
During the manufacturing process, solder can be splashed or joints inappropriately fastened—when conducting an MDA test, you will be intentionally mimicking defective assembled boards and testing them using an ICT made explicitly for the defective board.
Doing this prior to production will allow for the quick identification of assembly issues and help you find the right manufacturing partner. This is especially common when working with untested overseas manufacturers.
Both of the suggested testing protocols use an ICT. You ICT will be designed straight from your PCB CAD data. You should have your designers create ICT fixture CAD designs once the PCB design has been established.
The last thing that you want is to end up having to write off a bad batch of PCBs or even worse injuring a customer and tainting your name. For these reasons, proper PCB testing must not be an afterthought.
The cost of inadequate testing—loss of product, loss of customers, the cost of finding a new manufacturer—cannot be understated. Protect your investment and make sure your PCBs are put through rigorous testing before distribution.