Military and Aerospace: Automated Circuit Board Optical Inspection
In the industries of military and aerospace electronics, it is essential that all products made for use in military or aerospace equipment pass the strictest standards of quality, since the consequences of product failure could potentially impact human lives. Even the smallest electronic component or circuit board could be critical to the function of some far larger assembly or end product used in either of these two fields of endeavor.
For that reason, quality assurance is of the utmost importance, and must be carried out at the point of manufacture according to the most exacting standards. One of the most modern, high-tech processes which can be used to ensure this kind of quality is automated optical inspection (AOI) of circuit board assemblies.
How it works
As you might guess from its name, automated optical inspection is setup to be more consistent and more critical than the human eye can be when carrying out inspections of circuit board assemblies. Automated optical inspection can be used at several stages during the assembly flow through a manufacturing facility, and is a non-contact way of inspecting a circuit board for numerous potential problems, including the following:
- lited leads
- area defects
- component offsets
- solder joints
- damaged components
- missing components
- BGA co-planarity
This kind of optical inspection can be performed on a three-dimensional level, and that constitutes the only really reliable way of finding lifted leads and problems with co-planarity. If co-planarity is out of specification at any point in the process, it can cause components to be misplaced on the board, and it can cause lifted leads or tombstoning to occur, thus rendering the circuit board useless.
If the circuit board isn’t perfectly flat as it should be, it can also cause problems further down the assembly line, where delicate equipment might make inappropriate contact, becoming damaged in the process. Of course, traditional two-dimensional inspections can also be performed with AOI equipment to ensure compliance with standards, and this can be enforced right down to the very tiniest component placed on a PCB.
In the event that any imperfection is detected during the AOI process, interfaces to an overall data collection system will provide alerts that an out-of-tolerance condition exists, and that some kind of action needs to be taken. Once quality personnel have been alerted, corrective measures can be implemented, or production can be temporarily halted while an assessment is made about the cause of the out-of-tolerance condition. The whole point of having this state-of-the-art fault detection system is to contain any issues at the point of manufacture, before they ever leave the facility and have a chance to impact others.
The need for this kind of high-tech fault detection system in the military and aerospace electronics field has never been greater than it is today. With PCB’s becoming ever smaller and the electronic components mounted on them shrinking correspondingly in size, traditional visual inspections are simply not good enough to ensure the kind of high quality needed in these demanding industries.
The advent of AOI systems at companies which supply military and aerospace initiatives will help to ensure that circuit board assemblies are produced to the highest standards, and can be relied upon to perform all of the most critical functions.