Molex develops track-it traceability pad for product identification in high-volume PCB assembly lines

Molex Incorporated has developed the track-it traceability pad – a Printed Circuit Board (PCB) miniature identifier that is able to provide unambiguous product traceability of Work In Process (WIP) in any high-volume electronic PCB assembly situation. The track-it system is particularly well-suited for use in the medical industry, where stringent traceability requirements apply.

It is also suitable for use in any SMT PCB assembly where space is limited and traceability is required, including high temperature ceramic PCB assemblies. Typical applications range from high-value consumer electronics, such as digital cameras, notebook PCs, MP3 players, mobile phones and portable gaming devices, to in-car entertainment and navigation systems.

“The Molex track-it traceability pad is a very cost-effective alternative to the current manual label and barcode systems generally used in high-volume electronic PCB assembly to track work in progress,” explained Michael Power, Product Group Manager IPD at Molex. “These devices require minimal investment from the customer since no laser investment is needed as the code is already written. Additionally, the pads use minimal PCB real-estate for use in the smallest of applications. This is especially interesting in today’s environment of continuous miniaturisation and ever increasing complexity and board density.”

Measuring only 1.80 mm (0.071″) x 2.80 mm (0.110″) in size, the track-it device is a miniature metal pad, laser-etched with a unique 2D Data Matrix symbol that can be easily read by most commercially available optical scanners. These devices are available packaged on tape and reel for automated pick-and-place assembly on standard chip shooters in high-speed SMT lines. For customers running multiple lines, with different manufacturing locations and/or using multiple contract manufacturers, track-it provides the added peace of mind that no number can ever be repeated thus ensuring 100% traceability of the board content and manufacturing line or location.

During the assembly process, the Molex track-it pad is placed alongside other components onto the application PCB and solder reflowed. Each PCB thereby gains a unique identification, allowing the traceability data of all other components contained on the populated PCB to be logged against a unique traceability code number. The PCB identifier can then be incorporated into the identification of the final assembled device.

“As the track-it pad is metal and temperature resistant it can be placed on the board prior to reflow thus avoiding the additional high costs associated with Teflon labels,” add Power. “The track-it system is available for both standard reflow and high temperature reflow associated with ceramic boards.”


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