The essential guide to PCB testing methods

The essential guide to PCB testing methods

Testing is a critical part of the PCB assembly manufacturing process. Circuit boards are integral to the safety, reliability and performance of your product, so you need to be sure that they work as intended.

Different products require different levels of testing and whatever level of PCB testing you need, it is important that it is carried out to a high standard. It is a specialist process, so you should always use an experienced electronics manufacturing partner with the right in-house equipment and expertise.

To help you understand what is involved in PCB testing, the types of testing that are available and why it is vital that it is carried out properly, we have put together this short guide to PCB testing methods.

What is PCB testing?

Whatever environment your product is likely to be used in, whether it’s in the desert, on the high seas or in the living room, you need to know that your circuit boards will work as intended. PCB testing provides this assurance.

The type of PCB testing that you need for your circuit boards and products will depend on the conditions in which it will be used. Some circuit boards will require basic testing and others will need more complex testing.

The right electronics manufacturing partner will have the experience to advise you on the type of PCB testing you need and the expertise to provide it. You should not accept a standard test function – every product is unique and the testing required should reflect this.

What types of PCB testing are available?

There is a range of PCB testing services available. The most commonly used are environmental testing, automatic optical inspection (AOI) testing and customer-specific functionality testing.

  • Environmental testing involves the testing of circuit boards in extreme conditions that could cause the failure of your product, including extreme temperature, humidity, shock and vibration. These conditions are simulated in an environmental test chamber.
  • AOI testing is an automated visual inspection process by which circuit boards are scanned for quality defects (e.g. faults with soldering or the placement of components) or catastrophic failure (e.g. missing components).
  • Customer-specific functionality testing is a testing process designed according to unique product characteristics. It can be carried out manually (bench-top testing) or it can be automated (ATE testing).

Regardless of the type of PCB testing service you need, the right electronics manufacturing partner will provide it as either a standalone service or part of a part- or full-product assembly service.

Does testing affect PCB assemblies?

No. Whatever type of testing your circuit boards require, the process will not have an impact on the performance or appearance of the PCB assemblies. If you want your PCB assemblies to look as good as they possibly can, your contract manufacturer should be able to offer a cleaning service or you should be able to make use of your contract manufacturer’s cleaning process.

Notably, in terms of PCB testing, you should find out whether a potential manufacturing partner performs testing on a batch or all-board basis. To ensure consistent quality, you should only use a PCB assembly manufacturer that performs testing on all of your boards.

Circuit board testing and your PCB assembly partner

The outsourcing of electronics manufacturing is rising in popularity and one of the main reasons is that product makers do not have the in-house resources or the desire to carry out key processes, such as the testing of circuit boards.

Whatever the type of PCB testing you require and the framework you wish to apply to it, given the critical nature of the process and its importance to the safety, reliability and performance of your products, it is vital that you choose the right PCB assembly partner.

To find out how MPE Electronics PCB manufacturing and assembly services can benefit your business, contact us on +44 (0)1825 764822 or enquiries@mpe-electronics.co.uk.