Glossary of Terms

Commonly used Electronic Manufacturing Terms

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  • American wire guage (AWG): A measurement used in the United States and other countries as a standard method of denoting wire diameter. In AWG measurements, the larger the number is the smaller the diameter.
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  • Ball Grid Array (BGA): A popular surface mount chip package that uses a grid of solder balls as its connectors. Available in plastic and ceramic varieties, BGA is noted for its compact size, high lead count and low inductance, which allows lower voltages to be used. BGA chips are easier to align to the printed circuit board, because the leads, which are called "solder balls" or "solder bumps," are farther apart than leaded packages. Since the leads are underneath the chip, BGA has led the way to chip scale packaging (CSP) where the package is not more than 1.2x the size of the semiconductor die itself.
  • Box-build: a term commonly used to describe assembly work other than printed circuit board (PCB) production. The electromechanical assembly process involves enclosure fabrication, installation of subassemblies and components, and routing of cabling or wire harnesses.
  • Burn-In Testing: A thermal test method where products are powered on for extended periods to ensure product functionality.
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  • Cable: Two or more wires bound together and surrounded by an insulator.
  • Conformal Coatings: Materials applied to electronic circuitry to act as protection against moisture, dust, chemicals, and extreme temperatures. There are five different types of conformal coatings: Acrylic, Epoxy, Silicone, Parylene and Polyurethane.
  • Contract manufacturing: production of products on behalf of an OEM, in which the design and brand name belongs to the OEM. Contract manufacturers have made it possible for some companies to operate without owning any brick-and-mortar factories. Price pressure and the need for global product expansion are driving the growth of contract manufacturing. Any contract manufacturer should provide an advantage that isn’t already part of the OEM’s infrastructure. Also see "electronics manufacturing services" and "outsourcing."
  • Contract manufacturer (CM): a company that engages in product assembly, engineering services, order fulfillment and product distribution. A CM usually works on behalf of an OEM. However, OEMs can also function as contract manufacturers.
  • Core competencies: activities or practices, such as product development, deemed by a company as critical to its long-term success and growth. Typically, core competencies are based on skills or knowledge sets rather than products or functions. They provide return on investment and act as a barrier for other companies trying to enter the market. Many manufacturers choose to focus on core competencies and outsource production tasks. Most OEMs plan to keep their high-level engineering and design work as internal competencies, particularly as they apply to new products and high-end products.
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  • Design For Manufacturability (DFM): The front-end process for electronic products which focuses on minimizing the cost, complexity, defects and production time of the product-specific volume manufacturing process.
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  • Electro Mechanical Assembly: An electro-mechanical assembly is a collection of electrical components and mechanical connectors put together into an assembled unit. This term is often applied to cable assemblies, in which one or more different types of conductors are combined into a cable bundle and terminated with a pin connector.
  • Electronics manufacturing services (EMS): an industry based on providing contract design, manufacturing and product support services on behalf of OEMs. Traditional services include PCB assembly, box-build and testing. Today, EMS providers are also providing numerous services such as supply chain management, global distribution, logistics, customer support and repair. However, all intellectual property belongs to the OEM. Also see "contract manufacturing" and "outsourcing."
  • Electroplating: The electrodeposition of a metal coating on a conductive object. The object to be plated is placed in an electrolyte and connected to one terminal of a d-c voltage source. The metal to be deposited is similarly immersed and connected to the other terminal. Ions of the metal provide transfer to metal as they make up the current flow between the electrodes.
  • Enclosures: The high-precision, close-tolerance housings which encase electronics products and assemblies. Typically constructed from various metals and plastics, enclosures are an integral part of electronics products and are critical for protection, environmental control, interconnection, compactness and multi-unit integration.
  • Etching: Removing unwanted metallic substance by chemical or chemical/electrolytic process.
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  • Fabrication: The joining, usually by welding, of two or more parts to produce a finished assembly. The components of the assembly may be a combination of cast and wrought materials.
  • Full System Build: Also called systems assembly and test, is the process of building and integrating from components and subassemblies (populated PCBs, power supplies, cables, enclosures, etc.), and then testing the finished product, which may also involve loading software and optional configuration.
  • Functional Testing: A high speed method of testing electronic products by simulating actual use modes in high-volume.
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  • Harness: An assembly with two or more wires that are ready for installation into a system.
  • High-mix, low-volume: a contract manufacturing environment where the products being assembled vary in application, lot size and production processes. Contract manufacturers that are equipped for high-mix, low-volume production have the ability to change over product requirements and convert assembly lines in a matter of hours. They can easily add capacity to accommodate increased volume and rapid throughput cycles. However, high-mix, low-volume manufacturing creates numerous challenges because there are more areas to invite error. Lower quantities demand more frequent changeover and may only last several shifts or days.
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  • In-Circuit Testing: An automated, early-stage electronics testing method for production defects.
  • Integrated Circuit (IC): A microscopic array of electronic circuits and components that has been implanted onto the surface of a single crystal, or chip, of semiconducting material such as silicon. It is called an integrated circuit because the components, circuits, and base material are all made together, or integrated, out of a single piece of silicon. An integrated circuit is commonly referred to as an IC.
  • International Organization for Standardization (ISO): An international federation of national standards organizations from over 100 countries. In manufacturing terms, ISO develops and maintains standards for manufacturing industry processes, delivery and quality assurance. OCM Manufacturing is ISO 9001 registered. The ISO 9001 standard is used to assure a supplier's conformance with specific requirements during several product stages including design and development, production, testing, inspection and servicing.
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  • Lead free (Pb free) Manufacturing: A broad term in the manufacturing industry that refers to a number of initiatives and directives throughout the world related to eliminating lead (Pb) from the electronics supply chain. Currently, the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) and Reduction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) directives out of the EU are important to manufacturers today. WEEE addresses the appropriate disposal of electronics components by which companies must abide.
  • Low-mix, high-volume: a contract manufacturing environment where there are a few number of assemblies produced in large quantities. High-volume production may last for weeks or months using the same setup. Changeover is at a minimum and equipment utilization is very high. Contract manufacturers are at their most efficient when running at high volumes, with minimal engineering changes.
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  • MIL-SPEC: United States Defense Standard, often called a military standard, "MIL-STD", or "MIL-SPEC". A MIL-SPEC for quality standards for electronic parts is MIL-STD-202.
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  • New Product Design: The transfer of product definition into product design, focusing on cost reduction, manufacturability and testability.
  • New Product Introduction (NPI): An early product life-cycle process service to assist OEMs in achieving cost-effective, quick-to-market and quick-to-volume production. The NPI process includes technology selection, design and development engineering services, test and material strategies, design for manufacturability and prototyping.
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  • Pin-Through-Hole (PTH): An older method of fusing relatively low-density electrical components to one side of a printed circuit board substrate, utilizing pin-through-hole connections.
  • Potting / Encapsulating: The process utilized to enhance circuit reliability by eliminating leakage from high voltage circuits, protecting against voltage arcs and short circuits and by preventing the formation of "tin whiskers."
  • Printed Circuit Assembly (PCA): The physical assembly that consists of substrate (board) and mounted components.
  • Printed Circuit Board (PCB): A self-contained module of interconnected electronic components. The circuits are formed by a thin layer of conducting material deposited, or "printed," on the surface of an insulating board.
  • Product Assembly And Test: The process of placing components on printed circuit boards through surface mount and through-hole technologies. Printed circuit boards undergo various types of testing throughout the process to ensure the highest reliability and functionality of the product.
  • Product Assurance: Guarantees that the product is built according to specifications and meets all standards and regulations.
  • Prototyping: A physical model of a new product concept. An element of new product introduction, which involves building initial quantities, in short production runs, of an electronic product for testing, as well as for design validation and manufacturability refinement. The prototyping process involves nearly all aspects of a product prior to volume production and can significantly streamline the design and product development process, while substantially reducing costs.
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  • RoHS: The RoHS Directive mandates the removal of six hazardous substances from all electronic products shipped into the European Union. The Directive came into effect on July 1, 2006. It places a ban on four heavy metals (lead, cadmium, mercury and hexavalent chromium) and the Brominated Flame Retardants (PFR) PBB and PBDE.
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  • Solder: An alloy of tin and other metals with a comparatively low melting point used to join less fusible metals.
  • Stripping: The process of eroding a material by chemical reaction. Stripping agents can be used to remove certain types of conformal coating for the purpose of rework or repair.
  • Supply Chain Management (SCM): The process of optimizing the delivery of goods, services and information from supplier to customer. SCM engages a trading-partner community in the common goal of satisfying the end customer. This encompasses enterprise resource planning; manufacturing, warehouse and transportation management systems; and business intelligence and analysis.
  • Surface Mount Technology (SMT): A method for constructing electronic circuits in which the components are mounted directly onto the surface of printed circuit boards. Frequently abbreviated as SMT.
  • System Design and Engineering: A series of processes for taking an electrical product from customer-supplied requirements to volume production, with focuses on functionality, cost, size, manufacturability, scalability, compatibility, durability, safety and serviceability. The process includes hardware design, product architecture, circuit design and schematic capture, technology assessment and selection, component selection, parts sourcing and production quantity ordering, printed circuit board layout, mechanical design, software development, concurrent and sustaining engineering, sub-assembly integration and interconnection, enclosure and packaging design, functional and environmental compliance and prototyping, as well as programmable device software development and other services.
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  • Through-hole Technology: A method for constructing electronic circuits in which the components are inserted into holes drilled in printed boards and soldered to pads on the opposite side. Frequently abbreviated as THT. An alternate spelling is thru-hole.
  • Tinning: The process of coating wires or contacts with a light layer of solder. This allow you to more easily melt them together when soldering.
  • Turnkey: A process where the manufacturer procures all the parts and materials and deliver complete assemblies or cables to the customer.
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  • Underwriters Laboratories (UL): A not-for-profit product safety and testing and certification body. UL permits applying a number of their marks on products that comply with their standards.
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  • WEEE: The European Union Directive on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment shifts the burden for recycling onto producers. The EU member States must adopt appropriate measures in order to minimize the unsorted municipal waste element from electronic product waste and achieve a high level of separate collection of electronic waste.
  • Wire: A single, usually cylindrical, elongated strand of drawn metal conductor that carries electricity over a distance.
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