The IPC-A-610, otherwise known as Acceptability of Electronic Assemblies, is a certification issued by the Association Connecting Electronic Industries to individuals involved in electronic assemblies. It is an important component of electronic manufacturing training that workers in the industry are required to undergo. This certification is intended for persons who are directly responsible for the quality and reliability of electronic assemblies. It also qualifies an individual to train others on subjects that include soldering criteria, jumper wire assembly requirements and surface mounting criteria.
In the electronic manufacturing industry, the IPC-A-610 is the standard that separates what are acceptable and what are not in so far as the assembly of printed circuit boards is concerned. It involves a training and certification process that makes an individual or electronics manufacturing services provider quality-aware, qualified, and capable of delivering industry-acceptable products.
The IPC-A-610 classifies electronic assemblies in the following manner:
The lowest category in electronics assemblies, it is quite lenient with potential defects. The products that belong to this class are mostly installed in cheap, non-critical items such as cheap toys. Printed circuit board assemblies that are classified class 1 have short useful lives but they do function as expected. The price of the finished product that use class 1 electronics assemblies can easily justify its quality.
This is the standard that many Original Equipment Manufacturers find acceptable. The products that belong to this category are not of the highest quality, but manufacturers ask this from contract electronic manufacturers (CEM) for the manufacture of electronic assemblies that are not critical but require long-term reliability. This class has actually a slight tolerance for imperfection such as “off pad” placement of surface-mounted components, but it becomes a big factor in the affordability of the end-product.
Being the highest standard, class 3 has the best workmanship in terms of quality, durability and neatness. It is intended for PCB assemblies of high-end electronic products and other critical assemblies. It’s not a wonder if they come with a higher price. Part of the price equipment manufacturers pay for it is the added quality inspection and any rework that are necessary to ensure that all products don’t fall below standard. CEM providers are required to produce class 3 products by default, but they do produce inferior quality assemblies when required by the company that hires them.
As owner or chief executive of original equipment manufacturing company, you must be sure to distinguish these three classes. It can help you to make things clear with your EMS provider and give it the ability to deliver your order with the expected quality, at the right time, and at the least possible cost. These can translate to profitability which is the ultimate purpose of every business.
All providers of Electronic Manufacturing Services that are seriously considering quality and compliance to OEM standards should be able to obtain an IPC certification for each staff involved in the assembly process. It must work hand-in-hand with the manufacturer to implement an extensive training program to ensure that people involved in the company’s manufacturing process are aware of the company’s quality objectives. One of the best ways to achieve this is to employ in-house IPC certified trainers.
Despite the existence and reliability of IPC, a lot of electronic manufacturing companies establish their own standards. These are companies that want to ensure that any product delivered by the CEM meets their required specifications.
As original equipment manufacturer, if you choose to establish a standard other than IPC-A-610, you must be sure to have it clearly understood by your electronics manufacturing service provider. But as a general rule, it is always good to adopt a standard of quality that is accepted and implemented by thousands of companies all over the world. The IPC-A-610 is one such standard. Its certification is a testimony of competence and reliability that is recognized and respected in the industry. It can really make a difference in your business.