From Prototype to Production

What can first level inc. do?

first level inc. provides these services related to the first level of electronic assemblies, i.e. at the microchip level.

Our core competency is in direct chip attach (DCA) and chip-on-board (COB). Our manufacturing line is equipped with manual systems as well as fully automated equipment capable in delivering prototypes and volume production in a timely manner.

Our manufacturing floor offers 5500 sq. ft. of clean room area equipped with several processes such as:

  • Die attach using epoxy or solder
  • Wire or ribbon bonding with aluminum or gold
  • Flip chip attach
  • Encapsulation by glob top or capping
  • Lead frame attach with QFP, DIP, or SIP
  • Solder ball attach
  • Lead forming and trimming
  • Surface mount component attach using epoxy or solder
  • Cleaning processes utilizing plasma, aqueous, and solvent degreasing

In addition, quality is monitored continuously to guarantee a defect free product. Inline and off-line testing includes:

  • Wire bond pull testing
  • Die shear testing
  • Fine and gross leak testing
  • Electrical and functional testing
  • Dimensional and visual inspections

Why partner with first level inc.?

The cost of manufacturing offshore

The cost of labor and manufacturing space is low when compared to costs of manufacturing in North America or Europe . Other costs, if not controlled, may increase the cost and eliminate the attraction of low cost manufacturing. Unless these factors are optimized, offshore manufacturing is not as attractive as it should be:

  • Minimize shipping costs: This could be achieved by careful planning of production. Air freight is very expensive. Shipping by sea or land is slow and will increase product cycle. Volumes and delivery rates should be planned to allow for a continuous supply chain of goods to the next level of assembly or to sales point.
  • Minimize manufacturing support: The cost of sending engineers and technicians overseas to troubleshoot a manufacturing line is high and, combined to a loss of production, will wipe out all profits very rapidly. Generally, a mature product, requiring little or no engineering support, will show profits only if production is smooth and continuous, with no or little stoppage.
  • Planned production: Demand should be planned in advance and for a long period of time with no or little interruption. As the cycle time is relatively long (due to scheduling and shipping), the cost of filling the production pipe line is high. Planning production will minimize fluctuation in demand for raw materials and reduce procurement costs.
  • Product life: The longer the product life, the more beneficial an offshore production will be.

Off-loading production of an electronic product to a manufacturing site overseas is beneficial only if the product will remain of service for at least a year, preferably longer, production can be planned at least 3 months in advance with a realistic forecast and minimum deviation, product is mature and requiring very little or no engineering support, and deliveries planned so that shipping costs are optimized.

In addition other conditions should be considered when estimating the cost of assembling an electronic product overseas. These are:

  • Cycle Time: Cycle time should include the production time and shipping delays. In the case where the material cost is more important than labor cost, the cost of tied up inventory due to a longer cycle time will have to be estimated and can affect the cash flow of the corporation.
  • Cost of taxes, custom fees, bonded storage, custom brokerage fees, and other documents required for shipping overseas.
  • Cost of money transfer either by wire or through banks.
  • Difficulty of communication due to different time zones and different languages: This could affect the implementation of an engineering change or correcting a specification. This difficulty is even increased if traveling is required.
  • Difficulty of returning non-conforming material: This will cause delays added to increase in shipping costs if rework is an option to be considered.

Onshore Contract Assembly Facility

It is clear that the shortest and most economical road for product development will require an on-site qualification and pre-production phase followed by an off-load of production runs to overseas locations. To avoid the investment in first level capital equipment, companies can use inshore contract assembly facilities. An ideal contract assembly facility is defined as a facility that can provide a service that meets customer requirements in a timely manner at a high quality level and meets all customer expectations.

Ideally, a contract assembly facility should be within driving distance (or can be reached easily by air) from a customer location, should have an assembly line capable of performing multiple operations in short turn-around time and yet, remain flexible enough to meet customer requirements.