Loose Parts

I think every good engineer has a little box or two full of loose parts. You know, you take a few from a cut strip, fiddle with them, and then just never bother to put them back. It's not always easy to put them back in the strip anyway. It's not such a big deal for passives and inexpensive parts. When you need something assembled, you just buy another strip of ten (or however many you need) for $0.29.

We sometimes can assemble from loose parts, but it's never a good idea. They can be dirty, damaged or of mixed value. It takes us extra labor time too and we'll probably have to charge for that. Since we're using robots to assemble, we'll have to put all of those loose parts into an empty strip. Ugh. Components manufacturers don't want you to store your parts loose either. They know that having the things rattle around can cause damage or contamination.

Bent pins But when it comes to the bigger, more expensive parts like BGAs or QFPs and things, it can be more of an issue. Still, though, your ultimate goal is a sold, reliable piece of hardware. If the QFP ended up with some pins bent (as in this picture) or the BGA had some balls drop off, you've probably lost your goal no matter what. So keep those expensive parts in their original packaging.

When you look at the total system cost, a new part or two probably doesn't seem so expensive anyway. A Freescale MCIMX31LVKN5B processor in a 457 ball BGA is only $26.00 from Digi-key. Getting a new one of those is pretty cheap compared to the risk of spending a week trying to diagnose a problem caused by a BGA ball that cracked because of poor storage.

There are some processors, FPGAs and other specialized components that can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars each. Those parts are probably worth repair if pins are bent or balls are knocked loose, but the best bet is to keep them in their original, not extra crispy, packaging.

Duane Benson
We don't have 11 herbs and spices in our solder paste

Internet Explorer 8 Compatibility

[UPDATE: We have fixed this problem in the screamingcircuits.com website. You'll notice that the little broken page button goes away on some parts of the Screaming Circuits site now. You shouldn't have any more problems. I'm going to go ahead and leave this post up because the same fix should work with other sites that have problems with ie8.]

ie8 Compatibility mode:

Version 8 of Internet Explorer has caused some problems with our website. It can make the quote and order system invisible. That's no good. Fortunately, Microsoft put in an easy to find and easy to use compatibility mode into ie8.

You'll find a little button that looks like a broken piece of paper up on the top bar, just to the right of the URL bar. See the red arrow on the image here.

Ie8 compatibility button 1 

Just click on the button and everything will come back to normal. When compatibility mode is on, the little icon will be a subtle shade of grey. To turn the mode off, just click the button again. Easy.

Ie8 compatibility button 2 

We're working on the website to fix this. Hopefully it will be taken care of soon, but until then, that little compatibility mode button is our friend.

Duane Benson
It just goes to show you, It's always something...

PCB Layout, the Screaming Circuits Way

Our mission has always been to make your job easier. First we've got our flagship Prototype Assembly service. We have our short-run production for the next step toward getting your product to market. We have our partners, Sunstone.com, to fab your pcb. That's prototype, one step after and one step before.

 Now, we've introduced pcb layout - the next step earlier in the process. Go to our Service/layout page Layout snippet(also found at layout.screamingcircuits.com) and get a quote with just three data points: Your number of components, nets and nodes.

Our Design Engineering Group has been providing design and layout services for many years. We'll use their expertise in pcb layout combined with our speedy service approach to get you an instant quote and a great layout quickly.

For more details, read the PCB layout FAQ and our PCB layout terms and conditions.

Short-Run Parts

IC strip sm I'm so confused... My head is spinning...

Don't panic. Locate your towel and I'll do my best to explain some of it. I'll start with taped parts.

So what do we really need when we ask for parts from you? Our Short-run service asks for parts on reels, partial reels or continuous tape. The good news is that we still just need the number of parts you need for your job plus a few percent. If you need 100, just order 105. You don't need to order 5,000. We just need it in one continuous strip that's at least 12" long for short-run. (Prototype orders can still use tiny little cut strips though)

When we buy your parts for a turn-key order, we'll just order a continuous strip or parts. And we don't need leader either. It doesn't have to be on a reel. It can be though. Just ask for a reel with only the number of parts you need on it (plus 5% for spares). (0201's need 50% spares. Sorry)

DigiKey is especially good at this. You can order a "DigiReel" with a custom number of parts on it, or you can ask for a custom length cut strip. That's what we do when we buy turn-key parts for you. For our Short-Run, we do need a strip that is at least 12 inches long though. That's the only real "got'cha". (not even really much of a "got'cha" if you ask me)

Digikey strips 500

So, don't panic. Order just the parts you need (+5%) and save money with our Short-Run production.

Duane Benson
But, can we assemble from a mobius strip of parts?
Call Matt and ask him

Parts Substitution Issues

A while back, we surveyed a number of you folks about various things that are important to you. One of the key concerns we heard about was a fear of an unapproved part substitution on a turn-key order. As a rule, when we are buying parts for a turn-key order, we do not make any substitutions without your authorization. We know this is important to you and we follow those wishes.

Schottky_top A related issue to that occurs on kitted jobs. We do sometimes get in parts that don't match the bill of materials exactly. On the one hand, we do know that on kitted jobs, you sent us the parts and it's your design. On the other hand, we also know that it's not difficult to accidentally grab the wrong bag of parts, especially if you have someone else kitting up the job for you.

We also know that there are plenty of times where there isn't any effective difference between a 10K, 1/4w resistor and a 12K, 1/8w resistor or between a 40V diode and a 36V diode. Of course, we also know that there are plenty of designs where those slight variations can be the difference between a 100pxthree_ic_circuit_chips great design and a non-functional pile of junk. And there are plenty of cases where a difference in suffix can indicate the same part but the wrong package.

If you know for certain that the substitution won't matter, the best thing to do is give us an updated bill of materials. The second best thing is to tell us in the order process that it's okay - like we describe in this post.

If we aren't sure what to do and have to call you, it can delay your job and we don't want that. We want to get your assembled boards to you when you want them.

Duane Benson
That's not me. It's my evil twin

Chrome and Safari browsers

Hi all;

Many of you may have heard that Google just released a new web browser called Chrome. It's kind of cool. I've played with it a bit, but as far as I'm concerned, for the most part a browser is a browser is a browser.Chrome_screen_shot

Not so fast here though. Chrome doesn't completely work with screamingcircuits.com. You can quote just fine and get most of the way through the order process. Unfortunately, though, Chrome won't let you complete your order. You need to go all the way to the upload page and click "Finish" and then pick up the phone and give us a call. Tell us the Quote/ Order number displayed at the top of the page and we'll finish it for you. Otherwise, we'll just see it as a saved quote and not a submitted order.

By the way, the same thing happens with the Safari browser on a Mac. The two browsers use some common components in their engines.

Duane Benson
Now I need some NaOH

Order Status Emails and eMail Filters

Hi all;

When you place an order with us, we send out periodic status updates via email. We also send you any questions that way. If we don't get an answer to these questions, your job might be delayed, so they are pretty important emails.

We've been finding more and more cases where these emails are blocked by corporate spam filters. We send these notifications from orders@screamingcircuits.com. We only used this address for your job status updates to you, so if you are doing business with us, you should make sure that this address is whitelisted or not blocked by your company spam filters.

Don't worry about getting other mail from us on this address. Our newsletters come from a different address: sales@screamingcircuits.com and you can always opt out of that from your "My Accounts" page on our website or from the bottom of the newsletter.

Duane Benson
but I don't like Spam!

Turn-Key Prototype Electronic Assembly Order

Tutorial on placing a Turn-Key assembly order with Screaming Circuits:

With a kitted quote, you send us the pcbs and parts and we build up the assembly for you. With a turn-key order, you just send us your files and we quote and then buy the boards and parts as well as build up the assembly.

Placing a turn-key order is not very different from a kitted order. The key difference is that you will not see a materials quote right away. You first place the order, then we will call you about the pcb and components details. In about a day, we will return the full quote and you can decide to proceed or not.

  1. Create a Labor Quote: Start on our quote page and tell us a few details of your project and obtain a price quote. Mostly, you are describing your BOM (bill of materials) to us. After "Generating" the quote, choose quantity and turn time. Then select "Order".
  2. "Place" your Order: For a turn-key order, these details will be used to complete your quote. Give a project name and timeline. In the "Box Details" section, enter "Turn-Key"
    In the "Special Instructions", note that this is for a turn-key quote.
  3. Payment Method: You can select "Other" or give us your credit card information (Visa, Mastercard, or AmEx) so we will have it on file. We will not charge it unless you authorize us to proceed.
  4. File Upload: The last step of the online order process. On this page you can upload your files (in a single .zip file, please).
  5. Call us: To complete your turn-key quote, we need to speak with you first. The online quote will only show labor costs. We will quote the materials manually.


For Turn-key pcb prototype assembly orders, the online
quote will only reflect the labor costs. Call, toll-free,
1-866-784-5887 to quote the pc board fab and other materials costs.

Don't forget to click the blue SUBMIT button at the bottom of the page.

You can also have us do a partial turn-key order for you. We can get the PCBs and you can send us the parts. We can do the opposite. Or we can get some of the parts while you supply the rest. Just use that Special Instructions box or give us a call.

You can get started on our assembly quote page.

We're here to help

Kitted vs. Turn-key assembly

Which is right for you?

If you're familiar with us, you probably well know what a kitted job is. Most of our orders come in that way. For those of you new to Screaming Circuits:

A kitted job is where you send us your files, all the parts and the empty pc boards. It's the easiest way to go. You quote the assembly only on our handy quote page - that will show you exactly what it's going to cost. Shipping is extra and if you need any non-standard or special services, they will be extra. But, for the vast majority of jobs, what you see in the on line quote is what you pay for the job.

Quote it, answer a few more questions, up load your files and ship us the kit. If everything is in order, we'll start your turn-time clock  then morning we get your kit. (check out our terms for exact information).


The turn-key is easier for you all around, but the quote process is a bit more awkward.

We like you to go through the labor quote process first, just like for a kitted job. Then go ahead and place the order but in the special instructions, clearly note that this is for a turn-key quote and not a kitted order. We'll give you a call, work out all the details and get back to you with a full quote in about a day.

Duane Benson
I need a latte

Random PCB Assembly Questions

Aensoldering120 We have a lot of information on our website. Hopefully it's mostly all useful by somebody, but even if it is, there's still a lot to wade through just to find the two or three factoids you are looking for. Sometimes I can't even find what I'm looking for. We do have the little search box up in the top right, but it doesn't always work like you would think.

For example: we received an email the other day asking what kind of flux we use for lead free. (We use no clean) I know that we use no clean solder and solder paste, but just for kicks, I put the word "flux" into the search box. I got nothin.

On our capabilities page, we do say that we use "no-clean" but we say it in reference to solder type, not flux. As far as I could see, we didn't use the word "flux" anywhere on our web site. Well, that's not so smart. Somebody want to fix that for me?

Duane Benson
Must flux website