Often times PCB and PCBA are interchangeable, but inside the electronic manufacturing industry these 2 acronyms are completely different. There are 3 major steps in the manufacturing process that need to be completed in order for you product to ship. The first critical process is the manufacturing of the raw-PCB (or just pcb). The second critical process is the manufacturing of the complete assembly (or PCBA). The final critical process is installing the circuit board into your final product (commonly referred to as Box Build). You can get a better idea of how the industry works from brief instructions in the below:
The first step in building your project is manufacturing the pcb. This step can take anywhere from 2 days to 6 weeks and is typically the most expensive component you will buy for you project. Because of the high cost of the raw-PCB it is critical to get the design correct as quickly as possible without having to design multiple iterations. Then the decision comes down how quickly you need the board. Some domestic shops can turn PCBs in 2 days and other overseas manufacturers can take up to 6 weeks, so knowing your project schedule will dictate where your product should be built.
The second step in manufacturing your pcb project is the PCB Assembly.If you are not building the board assembly internally at your facility, then you could find a PCB Assembly manufacturer that could complete all 3 steps in manufacturing a board. This could make your purchasing groups life easier because they will be able to place one PO and receive completed assemblies a few weeks later. The PCB assembly company will take your PO and place an order for all of the material associated with your project including the raw-PCB and each component listed on your bill of material, BOM.
The last step in manufacturing your project is installing the product in its final casing. Most organizations in the industry refer to this as the Box-Build portion of the build. For a long time this process always occurred internally for a company, but there has been a trend that has been growing year-over-year that contracts this work out to PCB Assembly facilities. In short, this would be handled just like the PCB Assembly function listed in step 2.Your company would issue one PO and then receive the end product a few weeks later. Typically this takes some time to establish, but it can be streamlined quite well and make your organizations overhead and labor dramatically lower.
Suntek offers a turnkey solution for all your outsourcing needs. Our final box build assembly operations have grown out of the need to provide our customers with a complete EMS solution. We can source all of the needed materials, construct the PCBAs, supply any needed cables, and complete the manufacturing process by building the customer’s final product.