So what questions should an OEM be asking a prospective EMS partner about their AOI process?
You may be tempted to want to quiz your potential EMS provider on their AOI pass figures. After all, high pass rates equal a great quality product, right? Well, not always.
While in theory a high pass rate figure could suggest your product will be more reliable in the field, in reality it doesn’t necessarily guarantee performance.
Likewise too, a lower pass rate doesn’t mean that the build quality is bad—it may just mean that your EMS partner is being more particular in what they’re asking the AOI system to check for. In the long run, what you want is a high performing product, not a fantastic pass rate at the expense of product performance.
So, are there any limitations to AOI? While it’s an automated system, the inspection windows or parameters are set by the operator. So, the AOI will only inspect what you tell it to—and, conversely, it won’t find what it’s not told to look for.
There are also key elements of the inspection process where other methods of inspection are essential. In some cases, a degree of manual inspection, for example might be required alongside AOI if you’re wanting to check the quality of a solder joint. And X-ray can be invaluable for certain electronic assemblies when you want to check components with ‘hidden’ solder joints.
With the growing demand for higher quality and higher volume products, and an increasingly sophisticated manufacturing environment, it's crucial that any potential problems are identified and corrected as early as possible in the process flow.
As we've explored in this article, AOI has an invaluable role to play in speeding up the process of PCB production, in ensuring extreme precision to catch even the smallest of defects, and in minimizing the potential for time-consuming and costly reworking.
AOI acts as a 'quality gate,' for your PCB production, it’s an invaluable form of process control and it ensures greater reliability of your product ‘in the field’ which will provide peace of mind for both you and your EMS partner.
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