If you're receiving printed circuit board (PCB) assemblies in little plastic bags, you may be causing needless waste of time and materials in your manufacturing operation. Ask your contract manufacturer for custom-formed electro-static discharge (ESD) trays instead.
Contract manufacturers often pack smaller-sized PCB assemblies into individual plastic bags. When the boards arrive at your manufacturing facility, receiving has to open each bag, take out the board, and place it in an ESD-safe tray or container that can be taken to inventory or the production floor.
This method clearly presents a number of inefficiencies. First, counting hundreds of little boards one at a time is tedious and error-prone. Second, for very small boards, it's easy to miss one and toss it out with the discarded bags. Third, every time a board is handled there is an opportunity for damage. And finally, it leaves you with a big pile of used bags.
Custom-formed ESD trays eliminate most of these problems. They are far more convenient to handle, produce less waste, and provide better protection for your boards in shipment.
To make the trays, a mold in the shape of your board is created. PET film is softened and formed to the mold using a light vacuum. The result is a flat tray that holds multiple boards, each nestled into a perfectly-shaped protective pocket in the tray. The trays can be easily and snugly stacked into a cardboard carton for shipping.
When a shipment arrives, the receiving clerk can count by trays without handling each individual board. The process is faster, easier, and more accurate. There are no bags to discard, and the trays can then go straight into inventory or out to the production floor.
Trays are more convenient for your production as well as receiving. For example, when boards that have connecting wires are packed in bags, the wires are curled and bent and the assembly workers have to spend time straightening them before they can use them in an assembly. Trays can be designed with groves to keep the wires straight until they reach the work station, where they can be quickly picked and installed.
Custom-formed trays provide such added value to our customers that we invested in a vacuum forming system to create them in-house for the PCB assemblies we make at Z-AXIS. We purchase PET film that is made from recycled plastic soda bottles and coated with an ESD coating. We use our laser to cut acrylic molds. Our vacuum forming machine softens the film and creates the trays, which we produce on demand for each job.
Making our own molds and trays in-house is actually cheaper than buying single-use plastic bags. It's “greener” too: using recycled material to create reusable packaging. Most of our customers do return the trays to us to be reused many times.
If your contract manufacturer has thermal forming capabilities in-house, they can probably provide custom-formed ESD trays for small volume orders at a reasonable cost. Otherwise, the trays can be purchased from companies specializing in vacuum forming but minimum quantities may be required.
Custom-formed ESD trays do a great job of protecting PCB assemblies during shipping, through receiving and to assembly. They're more convenient, greener and cheaper than plastic bags. They are a simple way to make your operations just a little smoother while saving money.