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Handling and Shipping Electronics

electronics shipping

The next time you need to ship a product to your customers, it will need to be packaged and handled properly to ensure the product will not be damaged in transit. With electronic components and PCBAs, you can’t just head over to your local shipping office and expect them to stock all the right materials. You’ll need a specific set of materials that provide environmental protection and prevent damage during transit. To help ensure you protect PCBAs and components during shipping, here are some of the packing materials you’ll need.

Who Needs to Pack Assemblies For Shipping?

If you’re ordering through an assembly house and expecting to receive products packaged for store shelves, your assembly house will be required to handle packaging and shipping. Most end products will be packaged in an enclosure and shipped to a warehouse or distributor before making their way to the end customer. Companies with in-house assembly operations or contract assembly facilities don’t always ship completed products, instead shipping PCBAs to be packaged for release to market.

If you’re packing assemblies, then you will need the set of materials outlined below. A quick note: all of the materials outlined below are anti-static materials. These materials are intended to provide protection from ESD, especially from human touch. Some of these materials also double as storage materials for electronic components, so they can be used to pack consigned parts to be shipped back to customers.

ESD Bags and Moisture Barrier Bags

If you need to ship an assembled board without its enclosure, or you need to ship loose parts, use ESD-safe bags. These bags can withstand high voltages that would be expected from ESD from the human body, so they can protect electronic components that might be ESD-sensitive. These bags can also provide protection against moisture exposure, which is important whenever an assembly contains components with an MSL rating. Make sure you check the moisture protection rating on these bags if moisture will be a danger to the product.

ESD protection bag

The metallic ESD-safe bags could also be vacuum-sealable. These would typically be sealed with components that have some moisture sensitivity, but they could also be used with assemblies. When moisture sensitivity is a concern, it is also a good idea to include a moisture indicator card and a desiccant pouch.

Padded Containers

Larger assemblies, or systems that contain large mechanical parts (e.g., heat sinks), should be shipped in some kind of padded container. There are multiple options for padded containers available from industrial packaging supply companies. These containers are normally made from a small cardboard box, but the padding and box will not provide moisture protection. If moisture protection is needed, then the assembly should be placed in a moisture barrier bag.

ESD protection padded container

Anti-static padded containers

Packing Peanuts and Bubble Wrap

Foam packing peanuts are notorious for accumulating static charge, which could then discharge into a sensitive component and damage an assembly. Luckily, if you plan to fill in space in a box but you don’t want to spend money on a padded container, you can purchase anti-static packing peanuts. While technically an anti-static ESD-safe material, it’s still important to place an assembly or parts in an ESD-safe bag for maximum protection against ESD during handling.

electronics shipping

Anti-static bubble wrap bag

For an extra bit of mechanical protection, bubble wrap can be used on larger assemblies. Bubble wrap comes packaged in large rolls or as small baggies. Anti-static bubble wrap is preferable to packing peanuts as it comes in large rolls, so it is easier to store. It also costs much less than padded containers while still providing the same protection level.

Where can all of these materials be purchased? Industrial supply companies tend to keep all of these items in stock and they may be able to provide volume orders for larger assembly operations. Even if you’re a smaller company, it is a good idea to keep these materials around in case you need to ship loose components and boards to an assembly house or a customer.

Packaging is an important final step in electronics assembly, so make sure to call out any required packaging practices in your PCB design documentation using OrCAD from Cadence. Only Cadence offers a comprehensive set of circuit, IC, and PCB design tools for any application and any level of complexity.

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