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'[EE]: Contract manufacturing'
2005\03\17@134415 by PicDude

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face
Hi all,

I am considering the services of a contract manufacturer to assemble a product
in batches over the next year or two.  Since I've never done this before, I'd
like to know what to expect in the way of services, how the process works,
what payment terms are common, and how to determine if the pricing is fair.

Some questions I already have is:
       - Can I get assembly (soldering parts to the board) only (no design)?
       - Will they make the boards as well?
       - Will they handle the ordering of parts, or should I ship the parts to them?
       - Will they (or should they) test?
       - If they test, what do I need to put in place -- just a list of test cases,
or some automated test system.
       - If some of the final assembly is done by me, does that release them from
any liability if boards are faulty?
       - Any recommendations on contract assembly companies?

Pretty much, I'm looking for some real-world advice from someone who's done
this before, prior to my contacting these companies.

Thanks,
-Neil.




2005\03\17@145026 by Nigel Duckworth

picon face
Neil asked;



>- Can I get assembly (soldering parts to the board) only (no design)?

Yes I've done this and supplied my own PCBs etc.



- Will they make the boards as well?

Yes, I design projects and PCBs for two contract assembly

companies in the UK. Customers often approach them

with only product/project ideas.



>- Will they handle the ordering of parts, or should I ship the parts to
them?

In my experience they can generally source components more

cheaply than than you can, it's what they do. Free-issuing

components, particularly specialist ones isn't a problem to them.



>- Will they (or should they) test?

Up to you entirely I would say, I build as many self test

features into my designs as possible, especially if PIC based.



>- If they test, what do I need to put in place -- just a list of test cases


>or some automated test system.

Depends on the complexity of the product and the implications

of a failure, talk to them?



>- If some of the final assembly is done by me, does that release them from

>any liability if boards are faulty?

All I can say is I've built up a good working relationship with my

companies, problems do occur and we solve them between us.

If you explain this is your first venture into contact assembly I'm

sure they'll be helpful, you may even get some design work from

them as I did.  



>- Any recommendations on contract assembly companies?

Where in the world are you? Sorry but I won't reveal who

I work for... for obvious reasons.    



Take your product to two or three companies and compare their

prices and payment terms.



And as in life generally... trust your instincts :)



Regards,



Nigel Duckworth









--{Original Message removed}

2005\03\17@150621 by David Minkler

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Responses to questions inline:

PicDude wrote:

>Hi all,
>
>I am considering the services of a contract manufacturer to assemble a product
>in batches over the next year or two.  Since I've never done this before, I'd
>like to know what to expect in the way of services, how the process works,
>what payment terms are common, and how to determine if the pricing is fair.
>
Competitive quotes will tell you if pricing is "fair".  However, be sure
you are comparing apples to apples.

>Some questions I already have is:
>        - Can I get assembly (soldering parts to the board) only (no design)?
>
Yes, this is actually more common than with design

>        - Will they make the boards as well?
>
Yes, if you want them to.  If they don't have the capability in house
(most small shops won't), they will subcontract it.

>        - Will they handle the ordering of parts, or should I ship the parts to them?
>
Most places will do it either way.  Depending on quantities and the
nature of your assemblies it may be easier (and cheaper) for them to
order the parts.  It's called a "consignment job" when you supply the parts.

>        - Will they (or should they) test?
>
Many places will also offer test services but you will have to be
explicit about what tests need to be performed and how they are
performed.  If special equipment is required, you should be prepared to
supply it.

>        - If they test, what do I need to put in place -- just a list of test cases,
>or some automated test system.
>
Automated test systems are okay but most places that offer test services
will have technicians who can follow instructions.  Make sure you know
what you want and express it so that there is no chance for confusion.

>        - If some of the final assembly is done by me, does that release them from
>any liability if boards are faulty?
>
That's a contract issue.  Usually their liability is limited to the
labor expenses of correcting errors that they make in assembly
(sometimes not even that if your instructions are ambiguous).

>        - Any recommendations on contract assembly companies?
>
Where are you located?  What are you building?  What quantities?  How
fast do you need to turn on production?  Do you care where the assembly
work is done?  There are lots of choices.  Recommendations are better
targeted with more information.

>Pretty much, I'm looking for some real-world advice from someone who's done
>this before, prior to my contacting these companies.
>
>Thanks,
>-Neil.
>

Good luck,

Dave


2005\03\17@155953 by Harold Hallikainen

face picon face
I'll comment on a couple companies, one is the one I work for, the other
is a local contract assembly house.



>        - Can I get assembly (soldering parts to the board) only (no design)?

    Yes, an assembly house does assembly. We do our own design. An
assembly house sometimes suggests changes to make the board easier to
build.

>        - Will they make the boards as well?

    Not in our (limited) experience. Making boards and assembling them
seem like two very different technologies.

>        - Will they handle the ordering of parts, or should I ship the parts to
them?

    Works both ways. People we assemble for normally supply the parts.
The other local shop likes to buy the parts from your bill of
materials.

>        - Will they (or should they) test?

    It varies. On some boards we assemble for others, we just do a visual
inspection to make sure they're right. On others (especially one I
designed), we built a test jig to test them. On the other assembler,
we've provided them with test jigs and test procedures.

>        - If they test, what do I need to put in place -- just a list of test
> cases,
> or some automated test system.

    As above, we supply them with a test jig and procedure. Our volumes
are not large (maybe a run of 1,000), so automated test is not
worthwhile. If you have a large run or a large number of tests that
need to be run, automated test could be worthwhile.

>        - If some of the final assembly is done by me, does that release them
> from
> any liability if boards are faulty?

    If you are paying them to test, you should not get faulty boards. If
you are not, there should be some agreed upon failure rate. In the
cases we've dealt with, the client ends up doing final assembly, but
the boards work.

>        - Any recommendations on contract assembly companies?

For through hole board assembly, you may want to consider my employer
(Dove Systems, San Luis Obispo, CA). The SMT assembler we've worked with
(we did the design of a product for another company, the SMT assembler did
the assembly) is The Job Shop in Grover Beach, CA.

So, that's my limited experience in this area...

Harold
(Dove Systems)

--
FCC Rules Updated Daily at http://www.hallikainen.com

2005\03\17@234045 by William Chops Westfield
face picon face
On Mar 17, 2005, at 11:46 AM, Nigel Duckworth wrote:

> Sorry but I won't reveal who I work for... for obvious reasons.

Huh?  What are the "obvious reasons" for not revealing the company
that does assembly work for you?  Or are you just protecting the
"got some design work from them" aspect?

When cisco (for instance) selects a new contract manufacturer, it
makes the business pages and is subject to intense speculation and
potential insider trading scandals...

BillW

2005\03\18@023134 by PicDude

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Nigel,

Thanks for the answers.  I was hoping that you'd say that they should be able
to get the parts at a lower cost.  My only reference is a quick test circuit
I checked on Pad2Pad, and their cost of parts is about 4-5 times
Digikey's/Mouser's.

I'm not always sure that comparing a few companies will give me a good idea of
fair pricing out there, due to my experiences with machining shops.  I had
been quoted $30-$50 for a part by many companies (over a dozen), but later
found a few companies that quoted < $5.  I've tried 2 of those with excellent
results.  Why?  I'm not sure.

I'm in the U.S. (Texas), btw.

Cheers,
-Neil.



On Thursday 17 March 2005 01:46 pm, Nigel Duckworth scribbled:
{Quote hidden}

any liability if boards are faulty?
{Quote hidden}

> --{Original Message removed}

2005\03\18@024037 by PicDude

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David,

Your mention of "instructions" brings up another question -- what sort of
instructions are typically provided?  If I supplied a board layout (showing
the parts identified) with a list of parts/values (and perhaps sources), is
that enough?  Or do I need to be explicit about the assembly process?

I'm in Texas, I am very restricted by an NDA at this point about what the
project is.  So far, I do have a design & layout and the prototype will be
completed by this weekend, but subject to some tweaking.  But the board will
be about 7" x 6" and will have about 4-5 PICs, and other supporting
components.  There will also be about 15-20 wires coming off the board will
need to be attached to a special connector.  Quantity is expected to be 2000
pcs per year, which I would like to split in 500-unit batches.  Don't care
where it is assembled, though I'd think keeping it in the U.S. will avoid
some hassles.  And I will have a few months lead time before the first pieces
are delivered.

Cheers,
-Neil.





On Thursday 17 March 2005 02:11 pm, David Minkler scribbled:
{Quote hidden}

2005\03\18@024446 by Nigel Duckworth

picon face

> Or are you just protecting the "got some design work from them" aspect?

Yes of course, am I being unreasonable?

I'm a one-man business and just tried to answer Neils question
without revealing a major source of my income on a global mailing list.

No offence intended.

Nigel Duckworth



--{Original Message removed}

2005\03\18@024802 by PicDude

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Harold,

Design is done, with a prototype already being built, but tweaking is still
welcome and expected, so that's cool.

I've already found sources for and priced the boards and all components, so I
am flexible either way -- with me providing the pieces or the assembler
providing them.

Since my original posting, I've been thinking about testing and realized that
it will be pretty easy to being a pseudo-automated test fixture.  Plug it in
and verify the outputs.

I also assume that these companies will have no problem signing an NDA before
they are shown the boards/design?

BTW, can you pass along the contact info for the companies you mentioned.

Thanks,
-Neil.



On Thursday 17 March 2005 02:59 pm, Harold Hallikainen scribbled:
{Quote hidden}

2005\03\18@040948 by PicDude

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BTW, I also found this today...
       http://www.flex1express.com/

They have an online instant-quote system.  Anyone used them before, or perhaps
care to test/compare their quotes for a past project and see how they
compare?

Thanks,
-Neil.


2005\03\18@042701 by William Chops Westfield

face picon face
On Mar 17, 2005, at 11:24 PM, Nigel Duckworth wrote:

>
>> Or are you just protecting the "got some design work from them"
>> aspect?
>
> Yes of course, am I being unreasonable?
>
No, that's fine.  I just didn't understand why it would need to
be a secret going the other way around (hiding who does assembly
for you.)
I don't know that you NEED to protect the identity of your employer;
I would think a contract assembly house would have enough customers
to pick their favorites for farming out design requests, and they've
already picked you...  But I can understand it...

BillW

2005\03\18@125714 by Harold Hallikainen

face picon face

> David,
>
> Your mention of "instructions" brings up another question -- what sort of
> instructions are typically provided?  If I supplied a board layout
> (showing
> the parts identified) with a list of parts/values (and perhaps sources),
> is
> that enough?  Or do I need to be explicit about the assembly process?

I generally supply a component placement drawing, a bill of materials, and
a sample. They can figure it out from those...

Harold

--
FCC Rules Updated Daily at http://www.hallikainen.com

2005\03\18@132733 by David Minkler

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Neil,

An assembly drawing (essentially what you described) and bill of
materials should certainly be adequate for quoting purposes.  If it's
not, the assembly house will tell you so.  You mention 4-5 PICs.  If
these need to be programmed, you will need to specify who does the
programming (and when, ISP vs. before stuffing).  Your quantities are
certainly adequate to justify asking them to quote it with them
providing the parts.   While they may or may not have access to
component vendors which offer them better pricing, they can order
components in packaging which is more likely compatible with their
assembly methods (tubes vs. tape and reel vs. bulk for example).  Unless
there is some specific reason for specifying an assembly process
(sometimes there is) I would leave that up to the vendor.  It is
probably worth having a note like "Workmanship standard IPC-610 class
II" on your assembly drawing.  This will give both of you a common basis
for judging the quality of workmanship and sets the expectation at a
reasonable level.  If the assembly houses that you talk to don't know
what that note means, it means that you are dealing with the wrong
assembly house.

My question about "what you are building" wasn't to determine its
function but to determine the assembly requirements.  Information that's
useful (I knew I should have been more explicit) would be, board size,
surface mount or through hole, components on both sides, special
connectors, lead free, unusual board shapes or materials and the like.

It doesn't sound like you have an unreasonably tight schedule but it
does sound like you need to start moving on this in the not too distant
future.  I can recommend several places in the San Jose, Sacramento,
California area with whom we have had good results but I would guess
that you would do okay in Texas as well.  I recall several list members
indicating that they could offer such services.  Perhaps a post to
"[BUY]: Contract assembly services" would get their attention (although
I'd expect the current thread should have caught their attention.)  Let
me know if you want contacts here.

Incidentally, I'd love to find a machine shop or sheet metal house that
offered decent product and prices well below the norm (as you mentioned
in your post to Nigel).

Good luck,

Dave

PicDude wrote:

{Quote hidden}

2005\03\19@145138 by PicDude

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David,

I intend to program the PICs after assembly.  Circuit will be designed
accordingly.

>From a cost standpoint, is it a noticeable cost difference to design towards
tape-and-reel type parts?  Or perhaps an absolute requirement for some
assemblers?  Board has components on both sides -- mostly LED's on the front
and all other components on the back, surface mount and thru-hole --  most
components can be changed to SMT or thru-hole but there will still be some
thru-hole components in the end.   I know that SMT requires a stencil, which
adds initial cost, but does it lower costs in the long run?  Board size is
approx 7" x 6", somewhat triangular, and 2 Layer.  One main connector with
wires, but I'm considering that I might be able to change that to a
PCB-mounted connector.  If I use a wired connector, I'll probably have the
connector manufacturer crimp the wires on, etc.

I will put out an ad for the services later, depending on if I get the
contract or not, but for now I'm trying to soak up all the knowledge I can
about contract assembly, so I'll know what to look for and ask about later.

More importantly though is your mention of "Workmanship standard IPC-610 class
II".  ..... Huh?  I've never heard of this, but am very intrigued.  Google
has yielded references to it, but no explanations so far.  Any pointers to
this and any other standards that might be relevant to my endeavour?

I can get you contact info on the new shops I am working with.  What type of
metalworking are you looking for -- sheet metal fabrication only, or CNC
turning, milling, plastic fabrication/molding, etc??

Thanks,
-Neil.



On Friday 18 March 2005 12:32 pm, David Minkler scribbled:
{Quote hidden}

2005\03\21@055109 by Alan B. Pearce

face picon face
>You mention 4-5 PICs.  If these need to be programmed, you will
>need to specify who does the programming (and when, ISP vs.
>before stuffing).  Your quantities are certainly adequate to
>justify asking them to quote it with them providing the parts.

Probably also worth seeing what the cost is for Microchip to provide ready
programmed parts straight to the assemble. If using SMD devices then this
will save programming before fitting, and providing ICSP points on the
board.

2005\03\22@090956 by alan smith

picon face

We have used CM's that are very small shops to the
very large.  IN all cases, the first boards thru,
complex or not, require you to hold thier hands in
order to make sure it gets done right.  Once they have
a process down, its usually pretty much...build me 100
of these units.

Small CM's will sub the board out, even get them from
overseas if qty is enough or build themselves (if they
are a large CM that is...one of ours is)

Testing.  If you want them to test, then its going to
be a cost adder.  They typically will want the test
setup (we provide the test jig) and depending on the
design, rework can sometimes be easier at the CM
facility (large BGA's are usually not for the faint of
heart).  If you can deal with rework yourself for
failed boards then the cost burdon comes back to you.

Parts - jelly bean parts (normal caps and resistors
that is) they typically bought in reels by the
thousands and can reduce costs.  Special parts,
modules, chips, etc are usually (unless HUGE qty) not
purchased any cheaper than what you can but they have
full control over the buying process.  To elaborate,
if you have a part, its better to negotiate the price
with the vendor yourself then make sure that the CM
will buy it at that price.  We have seen where a part
has been nogotiated by a CM customer for lets say
$2ea, but our price is $2.25 for the same part. Why?
Even tho the CM is using thousands of this part, the
price was negotiated for the other client, not us.
That was a surprise actually.

Best advice? If you can use a local CM its better
since you will have issues on first runs and also
during larger runs.  Visit the line, look at some of
the work they are doing, ask permission to talk to
other customers, get a good feel of the process.  If
they refuse to allow you to see the line, etc....might
think twice about using them (what are they hiding).  

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2005\03\22@093012 by alan smith

picon face
Or the local distributor.  Here is a thought...maybe
its too late. If you are using the same PIC in all
places...can you strap each of the parts such that the
code executed is from different locations, you can
have all the PIC's preprogrammed by the distributor.
That in itself will reduce your overall costs.  I know
that Arrow will program for a small charge.

--- "Alan B. Pearce" <spam_OUTA.B.PearceTakeThisOuTspamrl.ac.uk> wrote:
{Quote hidden}

> --

2005\03\22@142151 by PicDude

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Hmmm... I thought Microchip doesn't speak to anyone who's not looking at 10's
of thousands of chips.

I was thinking I'd program here since there will probably be a few variations
of the code.  Or I might code in all variations and make them settable with a
small tact switch.

Cheers,
-Neil.



On Monday 21 March 2005 04:51 am, Alan B. Pearce scribbled:
{Quote hidden}

2005\03\23@085742 by alan smith

picon face

True...I doubt microchip will be interested, but
distributors such as Arrow (I doubt mouser or digikey
would) can and will preprogram for you such that when
the boards are built you can do some intelligent
testing at the CM.


--- PicDude <.....picdude2KILLspamspam@spam@narwani.org> wrote:
{Quote hidden}

> --

2005\03\24@091247 by PicDude

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Alan,

Very informative.  Thanks.

Care to pass on any recommendations for CM's?

Cheers,
-Neil.



On Tuesday 22 March 2005 08:09 am, alan smith scribbled:
{Quote hidden}

2005\03\24@092224 by PicDude

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On Tuesday 22 March 2005 08:30 am, alan smith scribbled:
> Or the local distributor.  Here is a thought...maybe
> its too late. If you are using the same PIC in all
> places...can you strap each of the parts such that the
> code executed is from different locations, you can
> have all the PIC's preprogrammed by the distributor.
> That in itself will reduce your overall costs.  I know
> that Arrow will program for a small charge.


Not too late -- I'm pre-planning on this one.  I know some of the Arrow folks
here -- I'll call them on this to see what the charges are like.  If I have
to program them, I don't think it'll be such a problem, especially since I'm
leaning towards testing myself, and programming can be integrated as part of
that.  In the background, I'm working on a test procedure/system for this.

Thanks,
-Neil.


2005\03\25@094308 by alan smith

picon face

Presently, we are using Sanmina-SCI and have pretty
good sucess with them.


--- PicDude <picdude2spamKILLspamnarwani.org> wrote:
{Quote hidden}

> --

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