Manufacturing Day Tour – October 6, 2017
These notes and observations were made by a member of our Internet Marketing support team, Amber Shaw, who attended our event to capture ideas and images of the event. Amber describes her impressions after a great tour from PDS.
Manufacturing Day is an event recognized across the country on the first Friday in October. This year the day was on October 6th and I had the opportunity to visit Power Design Systems in San Jose California. PDS celebrated Manufacturing Day by opening its doors for a rare tour of the company, and its processes.
For someone like me who is not familiar with how printed circuit boards are made, it was an interesting and educational day.
Tuan Tran, VP of Sales and one of the original founders of the company, gave the tour. His passion and enthusiasm for what his company does was immediately apparent. I was joined on the tour by Vanessa Carr, Field Representative with our local congressman. I don’t encounter manufacturing much in my daily life in the middle of Silicon Valley, but I quickly realized how important high-tech modern manufacturing is to our local community.
Printed Circuit Board Assembly in Silicon Valley
PDS specializes in very fast and high quality small production of circuit boards. They serve a wide variety of companies, from super-secret small start-ups to large local well-established companies and the military. One of the first things I noticed about PDS, as I put on my blue lab coat for the tour, is how organized everything was. Tuan explained each part of the manufacturing process as we walked through. The way the company is set up, the process is very straightforward and clear.
It starts with projects coming in through their computer system, and proceeds to departments set up to make sure all the components needed are purchased and delivered and checked, assembled, bonded, cleaned and tested and checked again. The components that make up a circuit board, many as small as little grains of sand, are organized and put in place so that the sophisticated machinery can place them where required on the circuit boards. This is called the assembly area.
The PCBA Process has Every Day Comparisons
These machines are very fast and very precise, and actually pretty loud when they are all running. Some of the circuit boards being assembled have hundreds of very small components and the machines can place them incredibly quickly. It’s mesmerizing to watch. When the circuit board comes out of the assembly machine, it then goes into what Tuan humorously refers to as the pizza oven. It’s actually a very precisely computer controlled and very hot oven that bonds the components to the circuit board. From there, once cooled, the boards go into a dishwasher. Well it’s not really a dishwasher, but it looks like one.
Yes, circuit boards can get wet before they are powered! The boards are washed of any residue or chemicals with water that has been purified. Then the water is purified again and when it is discharged back into the sewer system, it is much cleaner than when it came in from the city water source. I had some vague impression that this kind of a manufacturing process would produce chemicals that might be harmful to the environment, but it’s simply not true here.
Most circuit boards are made on a rigid green base, but as I learned, the base can be any color, and doesn’t even need to be rigid. There are flexible materials that can be embedded with circuits, that are designed to fit in small spaces or to fit in certain devices.
All along this manufacturing process are employees monitoring machinery, checking each stage, performing quality control, and doing any parts of the process by hand if it’s faster or more efficient for that particular project than the machines. There are 36 manufacturing employees, and many of them are cross-trained to be experts in several steps of the process.
Building Prototypes with Fast Turn-around Times
Tuan is proud of his company’s highly skilled and versatile manufacturing employees and it’s one of the unique qualities that allows them to deliver such quick turnarounds for their clients.
PDS has the capability to quickly produce a single prototype, or make small production runs. Larger production runs usually go either to facilities in other states within the US with lower costs, or offshore. The high quality and super quick turnaround they can provide is absolutely essential to local companies looking to be the first to market with a new product.
PDS can produce a prototype locally in 2-3 days, which allows engineers to quickly test and make changes and improve on their product until they are ready to go into larger production.
Power Design Systems helps drive the culture of innovation in Silicon Valley, including over nights or weekends if the customer needs. As Tuan says, “there is always someone in panic mode” trying to deliver a product on time to an investor or for an important demo, and his company is uniquely qualified to deliver.
Thank you, Tuan and Vanessa, for your time today!
- Amber Shaw, WSI Net Advantage