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PCB identification shapes the future of smart production

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Today, we are delving into the world of PCB identification and discovering its importance in the context of Industry 4.0 and the Smart Factory. At a time when technology and production are merging seamlessly, identifications are not just simple information, but the input that paves the way for efficient, intelligent and cutting-edge manufacturing. Let’s explore together how proper identification has a significant impact on the performance and integration of PCBs into a smooth manufacturing process.

 Understanding the basics: What is PCB identification?
 

Let’s take a quick look at what PCB identification actually means. Essentially, this is the process by which printed circuit boards are provided with unique identification codes, data and information. The information is applied to the circuit board using various processes. 

PCB identification at KSG

 

KSG uses laser marking, as well as inkjet and screen printing. In addition, identifications can also be drilled into circuit boards, etched into the copper or exposed in the solder mask.

We distinguish between two categories of identifications:

 

First: identifications requested by the customer. These are, for example, UL numbers, date codes, the promising digital labeling of printed circuit boards or the marking of invalidated items in use. 

Second: identifications that play a key role in the digitalization of production at KSG. The latter gives KSG customers a major advantage in terms of process reliability and therefore product quality. By doing so, KSG is also taking steps toward complete traceability of individual materials, and consequently, printed circuit boards.

This means that identifications not only serve as an identity for each printed circuit board, but also make a decisive contribution to traceability and quality assurance.

Let’s take a closer look at two special identifications requested by the customer: 

Digital labeling

 

With digital labeling of printed circuit boards, all the identification required for further processing is generated for the customer exactly according to customer requirements—functioning as the “product ID” of the printed circuit board.

A PCB with a product ID can already be registered on receipt of goods using the number or code on the label. Modern stock management systems based on product identifications and using technical aids provide continuous insight into essential product data (article number,
date code = manufacturing code, order number, revision number, etc.).

For products for which complete traceability (identification and tracing of products) is required, these identifications and all product and process parameters are automatically recorded in databases. Specialized software programs make it possible to track the life cycles of assemblies and the origin of an end product along the entire supply chain, right down to the individual component (traceability).

Anyone who has a PCB labeled in this way outsources the labeling process of the PCB to the PCB manufacturer. This means that systems, production steps and the associated costs can be saved and the company’s own productivity increased.

What’s more, this label is guaranteed to be smudge and scratch-resistant, compared to printed adhesive labels. It has no adhesion problems and the heat resistance of the identification guarantees a long service life, even under extreme conditions.

Marking the position of a defective piece in the sub-panel

 

When marking the position of a defective piece in the sub-panel, the customer is provided with information about invalidated individual pieces in the sub-panel via a code applied to the PCB. The automated readability of the code at the customer’s premises can prevent the placement of invalidated individual parts. The potential of identifying the position of defective pieces on the delivered sub-panel is currently still underutilized. This information can be applied as a code to the edge of the panel by laser at the end of the PCB manufacturing process. A combination with other information requested by the customer (IPC class, customer identification number, etc.) can be processed and applied in a single code.

 

Industry 4.0: The networking of everything

 

With the advent of Industry 4.0, the manufacturing landscape is becoming more intelligent and networked. Machines, systems and processes communicate with each other to enable seamless production. In this highly digitalized environment, PCB identification becomes a link between physical production and digital control. 

Clear and unambiguous identification not only enables companies to trace the origin of each component, but also to act quickly in the event of quality problems. This contributes significantly to improving overall quality and minimizing rejects.

Smart Factory
Each PCB becomes a unique, identifiable player in the smart factory network. (Source: canva)

 

Conclusion: Identification as a trailblazer for the smart factory

 

In the era of Industry 4.0, PCB identification is not just a means of identification, but an important tool for efficient, networked and intelligent production. Through precise identification, we create the basis for the smart factory of the future, in which every component knows its role and is perfectly integrated into the overall picture. The path to the future starts here—with the correct identification on our printed circuit boards. Read in our Digital Design Compass chapter 6.1 which types of identifications are implemented at KSG and what needs to be considered in the design of these identifications.

If we have aroused your interest in the further development of digitalization at KSG, we recommend our online seminar Smart Factory on Thursday, April 11, 2024 at 10:30 a.m. The best way to do this is to register here right now.

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