• 35, 1st Main Rd, Munireddy layout, Bandepalya, Garvebhavi Palya, Bengaluru, 560068

Social

Why We Need to Near Source Electronic Components

Why we need to Near Source Electronic Components

The past two years have offered some harsh lessons to all in the PCBA industry on the value of inputs. For a long time, the cost paid was the only consideration. The supplier might be located on the other side of the world, but if the cost was marginally lower, the choice was clear. But the pandemic changed all that. The cost of logistics / transport that used to be negligible ballooned beyond expectations. And for some parts – no matter what cost we were willing to pay – the availability just did not exist.

PCB Assembly

PCB Assembly

In India, we import more than 90 percent of the components required for assembling PCBs locally. These imports come from 4 countries – China, Taiwan, Vietnam, and Malaysia. A break down at one source country, as we saw in 2020 and 2021, drives up the cost of doing business for all.

Here’s our experience with supply trends for some of our major inputs:

Bare PCBs:  

Bare PCBs are the stronger point in our supply chain. We have seen reliable suppliers of Bare PCBs based in Tamil Nadu and in Gujarat. We (and many of our customers) have been able to source Bare PCBs in the past 18 months with no major issues. Supply lead times have remained consistent and price increases have stayed within tolerable limits.

Assembly Machinery: 

Machinery needed for PCBA is mostly manufactured outside India by majors like Yamaha, Fuji, Panasonic, and Siemens. While prices have stayed stable, lead times have increased considerably. What used to be available in 4 weeks now takes 4 months to get delivered. We’ve had to plan and order earlier than ever before for any capacity enhancements or repairs and replacements.

Other Components / Services: 

Integrated Circuits (IC’s), their component resistors, capacitors et al, solder paste etc. are mostly imported and have all seen prices and lead times zoom up. 52 weeks is now the new normal! Companies like Micron, TI, Cypress, Infineon, Latis, NXP have factories based in China, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Indonesia. When supply and manufacturing centers were shut and major ports slowed down, component shortages have visibly hit every industry from automotive to computers and mobile phones. Even stocks held by major distributors Avnet, Future, Arrow, or online suppliers like Digikey, and Mouser could not tide the industry over for long.

This is the area where India needs to attract investment and build manufacturing capacity. 

What Next:

The government has already recognised the need for building an electronics components manufacturing ecosystem. It is doing its part by offering Production Linked Incentive programs and other sops to encourage manufacture of components in India. It is now up to us in Industry to pick up the challenge and partner in building a strong local eco-system for components. 

Read More

Agritech: High-end Hardware Applications for Indian Agriculture

The global human population is projected to reach 9.8 billion people by 2050. Food security is a critical concern worldwide. Resource availability, distribution and access imbalance, higher agricultural and dairy output, and sustainability are major challenges.

The Indian agriculture sector is valued at over $370 billion. It employs 40% of the population and contributes nearly 20% of India’s GDP. Agritech is vital to ensuring our nation’s food security issues. A 2020 E&Y study estimated that the Indian agritech market could reach $24 billion in the next 4 years. Another study put the number at $35 billion.

Indian Agritech has great potential

Over 1,300 Indian startups are working in this space as of October 2021. They use AI, ML, IoT and other digital technologies to improve productivity, efficiency, revenue and profitability for farmers. In 2020, Indian agritech startups received $242 million in funding in just ten months.

These startups offer a range of products and services including sensors, signal conditioning, processing and security, power management, connectivity, and positioning. As a precision-engineering EMS manufacturer, Podrain works with IoT-driven agritech startups to create the hardware required for smart farming. Some of the many applications are:

Precision agriculture and farm management.

Geospatial and weather data, IoT sensors for humidity, temperature and other variables, resource and field management, energy and water use, and robotics on farm equipment.

Farm infrastructure and equipment.

Industrial automation using machinery, tools and robots to seed, harvest, and handle materials. Greenhouse systems, temperature and humidity monitoring, environmental controls, irrigation and water management, heating and ventilation monitoring.

Dairy farm optimisation.

IoT sensors monitor the health parameters, milk production, eating patterns and nutrition, fertility and reproductive cycle of individual cows, and overall herd health. Diseases can be detected early. Digital milk analysis devices measure fat and water content, SNF and contaminants at every stage.

Cultivation and land use.

GPS data have applications in land mapping, soil quality, crop placement, soil sampling, weed identification, determining the right time to harvest, pest management and optimum pesticide use, and water availability and irrigation, among many others.

PCBs are a foundational component of IoT-based digital technology. Podrain has vast expertise in developing customised solutions and solving highly complex problems for our clients. We apply our talents to the vital area of agritech. It presents a large and growing opportunity to harness the power of digital technology to improve the quality and quantity of agricultural and dairy output, and the economic well-being of 40% of India’s population.

Read More

Electronics Manufacturing Opportunities and Challenges for India’s Burgeoning Aerospace Industry

India’s Aerospace and Defence (A&D) market is estimated to grow to around $70 billion by 2030 with government encouragement and improving infrastructure. There are opportunities beyond commercial and military aviation. Private players are entering new areas like unmanned flight, space transportation and commercial satellites.

When most people think of India and space, they see VSSC and ISRO. In recent years, several impressive private startups have entered the domain. These startups are driven by strong R&D, and they are changing the profile and perception of Indian high-tech. Here are just a few:

  • Asteria Aerospace combines robotics and AI to create customised hardware products and software solutions for UAVs.
  • Bellatrix Aerospace, incubated at IISc, develops in-space propulsion systems and orbital launch vehicles.
  • Agnikul was incubated at IIT Madras, and is part of the Airbus Accelerator. This company uses 3D printing to build launch vehicles and engines.
  • Dhruva Space, based in Hyderabad, is a National Award-winning start-up that offers full-stack space engineering solutions from ground stations to launch solutions and satellite platforms.
  • Skyroot Aerospace is developing Earth-to-space transportation systems for both materials and people.

These startups, and many others like them, are based on the combination of decades of space research expertise from ISRO and VSSC, and the new generation of IT entrepreneurs. The new entrepreneurs have an understanding of how to win over investors with deep pockets and the appetite for risk.

This industry faces two unique challenges: massive amounts of capital and long development cycles. Companies in this area are not just developing software. They are building physical products which must go through an extended design, development and testing process, are highly regulated and require precision engineering.

Ancillary manufacturers of aerospace components and assemblies face new challenges to supply these startups. Aerospace-grade materials and components require special design, materials sourcing, transportation, manufacture and storage.

  • PCBs used in aerospace equipment must be able to withstand extreme temperature, high humidity and excessive vibration.
  • Their lifecycle must be measurable in decades.
  • In some cases, replacing a PCB may be nearly impossible – for example, a PCB used in a GPS satellite.
  • Aerospace PCBs must be absolutely uncontaminated to perform reliably.
  • PCB size is severely restricted by the high cost of transporting equipment to space.
  • Aerospace PCBs are also highly complex, requiring double-sided and multi-layered designs.

Many of these challenges have no Earth-bound equivalent. Replacing a PCB in an aircraft engine is expensive, time-consuming and complicated, but it is possible; replacing one used by an orbiting satellite is near-impossible. Solving these challenges requires new and revolutionary thinking at every step of component/assembly manufacture.

Podrain works with several of these startups. We are AS9100-certified as a top-quality manufacturer for the aviation, space and defence industry. Podrain is one of the few EMS companies in India with this level of quality. This is an exciting new industry for us. There are many new challenges and problems to solve. The possibilities are only growing.

Will private spacefaring companies be able to sustain and be profitable in the long run? India’s low-cost, improvisational manufacturing philosophy and engineering expertise make Indian EMS companies perfectly positioned to manufacture aerospace components. Podrain sees huge domestic and international potential for Indian EMS companies as space becomes democratised. Podrain stands ready to seize the opportunity.

Read More

Complex assemblies – some samples

Telit ME910 / LE910

Part number: ME910 / LE910
Telit ME910 / LE910
  • Part Number: ME910 / LE910
  • Make: TELIT
  • Dimensions: 28.2 X 28.2 X 2.2 MM
  • 4G LTE, CAT 1, 4
  • Mobile IoT 3GPP REL 13, 14 – LTE CAT M1, NB1, NB2 
  • 3G and 2G Series
  • Voice Capable Variants – Volte, Analog, and Digital Audio
  • Certified with Regulatory Bodies and Mobile Operators Worldwide
  • Multiple I/O
  • Optional GNSS

Digi International : CC-WMX-JN58-NE

  • Part Number: •CC-WMX-JN58-NE
  • Make: Digi International
  • Dimensions : 29mm X 29mm X 3.5mm
  • Description : Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, 802.11A/B/G/N/AC, Bluetooth v4.0 Transceiver Module 528 mhz  Surface Mount

Quectal: EG95EXGA-128-SGNS

Quectal: EG95EXGA-128-SGNS
  • Part Number: EG95EXGA-128-SGNS
  • Make: Quectel
  • Dimensions: 29mm X 25mm X 2.3mm
  • Description: Cellular, Navigation Beidou, Edge, Galileo, Blonass, GPS, GNSS, GPRS, GSM, HSPA+, LTE, UMTS, WCDMA Transceiver Module – Antenna not included Surface Mount

Telit: GE310-GNSS

Telit: GE310-GNSS

Part Number: GE310-GNSS

Make: TELIT

Dimensions: 18mm X 15mm X 2.2mm

Description:  Automated Manufacturing Process Friendly. Miniature and Futureproof footprint. BT 4.0 Transceiver. GPS, GLONASS, Galileo and Beidou navigation, Ideal solution for applications such as asset management, utilities, and telematics. Battery-friendly operation with 2.8V GPIOS.

Quectel: EG91NAFB-512-SGNS

Quectel: EG91NAFB-512-SGNS
  • Part Number: EG91NAFB-512-SGNS
  • Make: QUECTEL
  • Dimensions: 29mm X 25mm X 2.3mm
  • Description: Cellular Navigation on Beidou, Galileo, Glonass, GPS, GNSS, LTE, UMTS, WCDMA. Transceiver module- Antenna not included surface mount

Honeywell: LGA_299_35MMX35MM_BETTER_SOM

Honeywell: LGA_299_35MMX35MM_BETTER_SOM
  • Part Number: LGA_299_35MMX35MM_BETTER_SOM
  • Make: Honeywell International Inc.
  • Dimensions: 35mm X 35mm X 6mm
  • Description: SOM , I.MX6 SOLOX-2 , 4GBYTE EMMCFLASH , 1GBYTE DDR3L

New Technologies Inc: A-365-MQ-A00

  • Part Number: A-365-MQ-A00
  • Make: New Technologies Inc
  • Dimensions: 22.5mm X 15.05mm X 1.13mm
  • Description:  The A-365-MQ Fingerprint sensor is a fingerprint scanner in an LGA Style package. The sensor is based on capacitative contact technology with hardened surface and enhanced ESD immunity.
Read More

complex assemblies

Metal BGA

Electronics have become essential to daily life. Everything from refrigerators to military aircraft contains electronics. Today’s critical advanced assembly challenges mainly fall into three categories: performance, usability and productivity. To build and visualise product designs quickly and economically, engineers must address all these challenges.

On the other hand, manufacturing techniques are becoming more advanced and aesthetics are increasingly in demand. Project lifecycles and budgets are constrained. Sometimes, these constraints mean that DFM standards are overlooked in PCB design. For example, if the PCB has to fit in a box of fixed dimensions, the PCB design has to be tweaked accordingly. Or, components with different reflow profiles may be used on the same sid

Newer design houses or inexperienced engineers and designers may be prone to these mistakes. But not validating designs with tool and industry standards is bad practice. Here are just a few examples:

Pad mismatch

 If the copper termination pad separates partially or completely from the board, it can be hard to identify the fault; the pad may look intact as the solder usually remains attached to the component. The cause is usually mechanical strain that begins during testing, manufacturing, vibration while being transported or even when connectors are attached. PCB performance is impaired and performance is inconsistent. Extensive or even destructive testing may be required to positively identify the cause. Podrain follows a painstaking process to minimise the risk of damage from pad mismatch at each step.

No silkscreen. 

The silkscreen does not impact the electrical functionality of a PCB, but it is still extremely valuable as it provides essential information when assembling the PCB. It provides simple visual feedback that helps to catch deeper problems. It is not merely for aesthetic purposes. It is information that should not be separated from the board. Unique ID numbers, warning symbols, certifications etc. should be displayed on the board. At Podrain, we treat correct and comprehensive silkscreens as an integral part of the PCB.

THT vs. SMT components. 

When SMTs were developed in the 1980s they were expected to completely replace THTs. But THTs and SMTs are not always interchangeable. THTs offer reliable and useful in test and prototyping applications where frequent manual adjustments and replacements are needed. But SMTs are almost always more efficient and cost-effective. Podrain’s extensive experience in a wide range of applications gives us the expertise to know which type of components to use for a given project.

Incorrect polarity marking. 

To prevent polarised component packages from being inverted during assembly machine setup or manual soldering, accurate polarity marking is critical. It is only necessary for land patterns that have a specific rotation during assembly. Incorrect polarity markings can cause equipment damage, short-circuiting, serious injury, fires or even explosions. Podrain follows stringent Post Assembly Inspection Process protocols to visually validate that assembly insertion is done correctly

Incorrect component separation. 

Most designers are used to PCB clearance rules for spacing between traces in a single layer. However, many design houses overlook PCB clearance between layers. Today’s circuit designs often involve a single PCB with power and controls on the same substrate. This may put high-voltage traces close to low-voltage signals, creating a risk of arcing. The resulting sparks can permanently damage the port of the low-voltage component. Podrain designers and engineers keep ourselves up to date on the latest IPC-2221B design standards to ensure optimum manufacturability with minimum risk.

Podrain’s customers have brought us some interesting design challenges.

A top manufacturer of electric vehicle charging stations found that the PCBA yield was below 90%, lower than expected. The company approached Podrain to investigate. The issue was all the more challenging because the assembly was ROHS. Planning and finding the right profile, especially on a PCB that uses BGA + LGA, is an art.  By devoting our experienced people to solve this, we iterated through a range of 11 temperature profiles in a reflow oven within just 2 days to find the solution.

Another customer set us the challenge of setting the right profile for a board designed with a heavy BGA connector having multiple ceramic BGAs, including micro BGAs, on a 2mm thick PCB. The issue is these kind of connectors use very high temperature for soldering. 265 degree Celsius plus is needed for soldering but a normal BGA can tolerate only 245 to 255 degree Celsius. We designed and conducted multiple trials by changing the solder paste for each profile. After 15-20 trials supported by some fixtures, we were able to determine the best profile for the customer’s board.

Podrain has solved many such complex assembly design challenges for our customers.

Read More

Access to capital: the Msme money maze

Capital Access that looks easy on paper is difficult in practice

The government’s Make in India strategy demonstrates how important MSMEs are to India’s growth story, but capital is still hard to get. If you are considering launching a startup, here are some things to keep in mind:

KEEP FRIENDS, FAMILY AND FOREIGN FUNDS CLOSE

Most credit schemes are aimed at MSMEs that are at least three years old. If your company is newer, informal sources like family and friends must be part of your fundraising strategy. Quite often, this means looking abroad for help. Even if you are looking at a VC / PE funding, the Indian ecosystem is in its infancy and you are likely to go beyond India’s borders. But this can lead to a problem. Indian financial institutions need at least 75% Indian ownership to qualify you for most of their loan products. This is intended to encourage Indian entrepreneurs, but as a startup that might be considering all options for support – make sure foreign investors hold less than 25%.

CAUTION: COLLATERAL AHEAD!

Typically, financial institutions ask for collateral that equals (or exceeds) the loan amount. This can be a term deposit or a mortgage on your home. Indian financial organizations are very cautious about lending. Read the loan terms carefully and include all supporting documentation with your application. 

PLEASE MIND THE GAP

The Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI) was established to bring MSMEs and capital together. This is excellent news for MSMEs but the execution is not perfect. Rules can be unclear and confusing. Decision-making does not always follow the on-paper criteria. If your application is rejected, you may not know why.

Government schemes to support MSMEs working on Covid-19-related projects face similar challenges. Companies that qualify for credit on paper may still be rejected without an explanation.

WHAT CAN CHANGE

Podrain’s experience has taught us that patience is key. It also helps to have an experienced, trusted financial advisor or mentor who understands the options and provides guidance on processes and documentation. Some signposts and directions from financial institutions will make navigating easier.

MSMEs should be able to quickly and easily understand what each regulator is responsible for. Clearly stated eligibility rules for each scheme and a simple explanation of the risks and benefits of each option will help entrepreneurs who are not always financial experts make the right choice. A single-window approach to clearances will make MSMEs’ search for capital much easier. Regulators can also help to match MSMEs with the right funding source for their needs. We can then rely on financial institutions and their lending officers for guidance on the right capital products and schemes. 

Financial institutions also need to look beyond traditional collateral-based criteria. Very often these show only the borrower’s existing financial strength and not the intent to repay. To help new MSMEs get started, lenders may consider performance-based criteria to approve loans. For example, whether a startup pays its employees’ salaries, its taxes, and its statutory dues (GST, PF, etc.) on time is a good indication of its intent to pay. Market-based criteria used by PE/VC funds may also be used with modifications that reflect the lower risk appetite of the lender. These forward-looking strategies are consistent with the idea of financial institutions as partners in the Indian MSME growth story.

By adopting a partnership mindset, financial institutions can make capital more easily accessible to MSMEs who want to Make in India.

Read More
Solder Paste

Solder Paste Choice

Solder paste printing attaches surface mount devices to printed circuit boards. Over 70% of Surface Mount Technology defects are driven by solder problems.* The choice of solder paste can make a huge difference. As devices and their components become smaller, the solder connections are also correspondingly finer. Its hard to fill apertures for these small devices with coarser type 3 solder paste. Type 2 solder paste is almost never used on Printed Circuit Boards. Rather, it features in power and industrial products where the chip package is bigger.  

 

Until 2017, India had easy access only to type 3 solder paste which has 25-45 microns powder size. While it is possible to use type 3 solder paste for lead pitch between 0.3mm and 0.02mm , the reliability and durability of the boards reduces. Type 4 solder paste yields better results in our experience. We also use a Solder Paste Inspection system to ensure the right amount has been used.

 

Podrain has been sourcing and utilising type 4 solder paste, even though it entails a 20%-30% higher cost for the past 4 years. Now, we see an across the industry move to Type 4 solder paste  and even the manufacture of Type 3 solder paste is coming down. We are currently evaluating switching to type 5 solder paste which has a powder size of 15-25 microns for components that need to go on the smallest PCB’s. 

 

So when you are looking for a provider to make your PCBA’s, go beyond looking at the machines on the assembly line, and ask what solder paste is used. 

 

*Biemans. 2011. “5D solder paste inspection merits beyond 3D technology.” Global SMT and Packaging 8-13 

References

https://blog.gotopac.com/2020/03/13/solder-paste-types-powder-sizes-for-smt-dispensing/

https://scholarworks.rit.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=10208&context=theses

 

 

Read More