For many contract manufacturers, through-hole PCB assembly is a distraction from their higher-volume SMT business. But since through-hole components are essential for many applications, you need to know how well your contract manufacturer is equipped to handle them. At Z-AXIS, nearly 75% of the boards we run are mixed-technology PCBs. We have honed our ability to produce them at reasonable cost and high quality in the USA.
Most contract manufacturers concentrate on their surface mount technology (SMT) capabilities for PCB assembly. The SMT lines can be almost completely automated, making it possible to run a high volume of boards with little human intervention and low cost per board. Through-hole assembly, whether automated or manual, is a slower process. It takes resources away from the high-volume business that many manufacturers prefer.
You might think that through-hole parts are old-fashioned and destined to fade away. Indeed most modern ICs – like this one – are not even available as a thru-hole option.
But through-hole is not going away any time soon. At Z-AXIS, even though only about 10% of the parts we buy are through-hole, nearly 75% of the boards we run are mixed technology: a combination of through-hole and SMT.
One reason is that nearly half of our board assemblies are for high-power boards, which use capacitors, inductors and transformers to transfer energy. The size of these components is proportional to the energy they can store. So for a high-power board we need to use some fairly large and heavy components, and that means through-hole technology.
In addition, things like customer-accessible connectors, that have to withstand stress as cables are connected and removed, are likely to be through-hole components.
Through-hole components are held in place by the pins as well as the solder, so you get a much stronger and more reliable mechanical bond than with surface mount components, that have only solder to hold them in place.
If your contract manufacturer is focused on higher-volume SMT business, it’s important for you understand how they will handle though-hole components when you need them. At Z-AXIS we run mixed technology boards every day. We have a single-piece flow from the stuff line, to soldering, to in-line inspection, depaneling, QC, testing and burn-in. So we can implement any corrections or process improvements immediately, rather than with the next batch.
We continuously hone our ability to produce boards with through-hole components at a reasonable cost and high quality.
Contact us to learn more about through-hole and mixed-technology PCB assembly services in the USA.