The assembly process can be complex in the production of RF modules with a variety of skills needed to populate components, including: hand soldering; eutectic attachment; ribbon bonding; coil winding; and surface mounting. Ultimately, manufacturing RF, microwave, and millimeter-wave circuits and assemblies requires dedicated, well-trained (often cross-trained) full-time staff with demonstrable expertise in precision assembly. But while a reasonable pool of talent has been available to RF/manufacturers in common east and west coast geographies, this talent pool has been drying up over the last decade due to a variety of economic factors. And this trend is destined to continue.
If this sounds familiar, this may be the time to begin establishing a relationship with a US-based contract manufacturer who is dedicated to training and maintaining the skilled talent you might need in a pinch. As you’re considering such a partner, an additional factor to consider is how often a build includes sophisticated printed circuit board assemblies as well. You can search online for a host of low cost PCB manufacturers, but will they know how to handle your high mix, fine pitch, or VGA needs? Can they manage your odd shaped boards and test and install them turnkey? Can they help you put together a process development procedure? As you consider your next outsource, it’s important to look ahead at your total potential needs. This will often include a partner with a fully equipped testing and screening lab, too.
To learn more about the importance of a fully equipped and staffed testing and screening lab read our blog “An Expertly Staffed and Fully Equipped RF Testing and Screening Lab is Critical to Meeting Stringent MIL-STDs”.