When it comes to electronics manufacturing, printed circuit board assemblies (PCBAs) usually involve a well-defined and relatively straightforward process. A box build, on the other hand, can mean many different things.

From a PCBA in a small enclosure to a large cabinet full of wires or a fully integrated electro-mechanical system complete with electronics and pneumatics, a box build assembly can include varying degrees of complexity at each step.

The process will largely depend on what the customer requires and is specific to each project. However, the most common box build processes include installation of sub-assemblies, installation of other components, routing of cabling or wire harnesses and the fabrication of enclosures.

Simple designs can be manufactured in just over an hour, whereas more substantial projects often take a week. When you factor in procurement, the entire process usually takes about eight to 12 weeks.

Considering all aspects

The initial design will have a significant impact on the process and final product, so it is crucial to ensure all aspects have been carefully considered at this stage.

Product dimensions, including details of the size and weight of the assembly, will allow the electronics manufacturing services provider to decide how the units will be handled throughout the complete box build process. Outlining how the final box build assembly will be packaged and shipped will also enable the EMS provider to manage units more efficiently and optimise box build speed.

A visualisation of the final product, such as a 3D CAD (three-dimensional computer-aided design) model, will also help ensure accuracy and shorten the overall process. 3D CAD tools can also convert computerised drawings to build instructions ready for assembly.

However, the bill of materials (BOM) — which includes details about the item number, part types and descriptions, quantity, reference designator and so on — is arguably the most important piece of information to consider. The BOM helps the EMS provider to establish what key components and materials need to be sourced and what will be provided directly by the customer. For example, will they need to source plastic, such as ABS, or metal for the enclosure?

The types of materials and components used will generally be driven by customer choice; however, before making a decision, it is vital to consider cost and the final application. Quality standards and specifications will differ vastly depending on the function. Products designed and manufactured for use in the medical or military sector, for instance, will have a higher spec and need to be of a much higher quality to ensure reliability and optimal performance.

 Simplifying the process

 Due to the complexities of electronic box builds, the process often involves teams of highly skilled engineers.

Separate teams with different skill sets will be required to create the various elements of the final product — from the PCBs and cable assemblies to the box build itself. Without good communication and cohesion between these teams, an already complex process becomes even more complicated. Stringent quality controls at each stage are also essential, with each aspect requiring inspection by trained individuals, in line with relevant IPC standards.

As such, it is advisable to outsource the project to an electronics manufacturing services provider that can deliver a complete box build assembly solution and manage the entire process. Typical box build assembly services an EMS provider can offer include system-level assembly, product assembly, software installation, product configuration, packaging, testing, warehousing, logistics and end-user delivery.

With a complete product assembly service, teams can work in parallel with each other — ensuring everything from producing the PCB and cutting cables to building the box and fitting hardware can be done efficiently, at the same time.

Often, questions will arise at the initial procurement stage and throughout the project. Being involved from the start means the electronics manufacturer can provide suitable recommendations and anticipate production delays or establish alternative plans for the box build if needed. Having a single point of contact, who can liaise with the different teams on behalf of the customer, will also ensure a smoother process.

This full turnkey solution will not only save time and a lot of ‘back and forth’ conversations, but it will also minimise the risk of anything getting lost in translation along the way — ensuring complete control and guaranteeing a quality, fully operational product.

A complete service

 At EC Electronics, we offer a complete electronics box build assembly service from our specialist facilities in the UK and Romania.

Our electronics box build experts combine core electronic manufacturing skills and take care of the entire process — from procuring and producing all the necessary components using our extensive network of global suppliers to assembling ‘boxed products’ ready for delivery.

With any electrical device, safety is also a major consideration. This is why we will test products to customer specifications — before incorporating logistics planning and end-user delivery to ship the packaged products in the required quantities.

Keen to use our complete electronics box build assembly service for your next project? Get in touch today to discuss your requirements.