Increasing Printed Circuit Board Production with Custom Steel Baskets

September 7, 2016 | Wire Forms, Steel Wire Products

PCB baskets such as this help to increase efficiency in the circuit board washing process.Printed circuit boards (PCBs) are a key element of pretty much every modern device we use. From computers to smartphones, microwaves to TV remotes, if it’s electronic, there’s a printed circuit board in it.

With PCBs being in such high demand, it’s important to be able to produce them as quickly and efficiently as possible to meet production goals and retain customers.

There are many factors that contribute to efficiency and speed in the production process, such as parts reject rate, time to complete key processes, and time spent handling parts between processes.

One way to increase efficiency is to use a custom-made PC board basket to hold your printed circuit boards through your parts finishing processes.

How PCB Baskets Increase Efficiency

You might be wondering how a basket for printed circuit boards can increase production efficiency. While the specifics might vary depending on your particular production process, there are a few ways that a custom printed circuit board basket can drive efficiency and increase productivity:

  • Reduced Scrap. A well-made basket can protect PCBs throughout the washing process so they don’t get damaged. In tougher cleaning processes, this is vital for keeping the circuits in the board from getting too damaged.
  • Faster Drying of PCBs After the Wash. The faster a circuit board can get dried after a wet wash process, the faster it can be put through the next step. By optimizing open space between wires, a PCB basket design can increase air flow and allow for faster drying of boards, minimizing delays between the washing process and other processes.
  • Easier Handling of Parts. Little delays can add up over the course of a production shift. The harder it is for workers to move a load from one point to the next, the longer it takes. By making it easy to move circuit boards, PCB baskets save time and labor.
  • Reduced Reprocessing of Parts. Having to rewash a part because it didn’t get clean the first time is a major waste. By making it easier to get parts clean the first time, a custom circuit board washing basket can save a significant amount of time and money.

The Problem with Poor-Quality Baskets

In one parts washing process, a printed circuit board manufacturer was using an older set of baskets that were falling apart and rusting through. Although scratches weren’t generally a major worry, severe damage to boards from rusted metal poking through a printed circuit was enough to ruin the board’s functionality.

Additionally, rust flakes from the degraded baskets would contaminate the boards and circuitry. This contamination could further compromise the boards, leading to higher parts rejection rates and reduced production throughput.

Finally, the degradation of the baskets kept their lids from shutting properly—the manufacturer had to use alternative mechanisms like zip ties and bungee cords to keep the lids secure. There were two major problems with this:

  1. The lids could open up during the wash and dump parts; and
  2. Using these mechanisms made it harder to load/unload parts.

The manufacturer needed a new set of baskets, ones that would be easier to handle, and would not rust up when repeatedly exposed to water-based wash processes.

This is where design and construction of a custom circuit board basket come into play.

Building a Better Basket

Options such as removable dividers help increase the utility of a circuit board basket.A well-designed basket should take into account the wash process, parts, and environmental factors to maximize useful life and avoid problems like rust.

To this end, a basket made with a stainless steel alloy, such as grade 304 SS, would be ideal for a water-based wash process. This alloy of stainless steel would resist rust caused by plain water exposure, preventing future contamination of parts. Additionally, this material would be more than strong enough to carry lightweight circuit boards through the wash cycle.

Keeping the open space of the wires as wide as possible would allow for greater air flow, enabling circuit boards to dry faster after washing. However, the spacing between wires can’t be too large, or else smaller circuit boards with widths of less than 2” could fall out.

Once the basic design is complete, it should be tested against the manufacturer’s process and environment using virtual physics simulation software to ensure that any potential causes of failure could be eliminated beforehand. If the basket fails the test, the software generates a report on the cause of the failure so that the design can be corrected.

After the design passes muster, the basket can be manufactured. Here, using automated manufacturing equipment helps to ensure consistent quality, even in unusually-shaped custom baskets.

With the right custom printed circuit board washing basket, increasing efficiency is easy. Learn more today!

Download our case study!