Why there are missing components on stock devices’ boards?

The reason for this post is a friend of mine. I won’t reveal his personality and I will call him Peter.

Let me tell you the long story short…

About a week ago Peter came at our office frustrated and he told me something like:

Emil, dude, I know you don’t have much time, but yesterday I received one stompbox (guitar effect) from eBay and I doesn’t sound as I expected. I opened it and I think I am defrauded!!! There are missing elements from the board!!! It’s awful!!! I want to pay you to set them up.

I immediately guessed what the deal was and I explained him. In order to tell you I made few images of what Peter has seen.

Namely, the elements really were not soldered on the board!!!

You probably never asked yourself this question or you never paid attention, but in many cases, when you open a factory devices and look at the boards, you’ll see really missing components. There are white stamp, but they are not soldered.

First of all I want to reassure you. You are not screwed up!

The reason to do the boards in such way is that the manufacturers save money. This does not mean that they are lying. Normally a device may have several models or variations with different features and functionality. In our case the manufacturer Blackstar (an amazing company) has a product line of 6 similar effect pedals.

If we look at them the only difference we see is the signatures and the paint color. If we take a look inside we will find that they use one and the same PCBs (Printed Circuit Boards), but the variants are done by placing or not placing some electronic components.

How does it save money?

Simply, only one variant of the PCB is produced instead of 6 different. This makes it possible to order big quantity in production and to get discount. As you cans see this is applicable for the enclosures, the potentiometer knobs, and other details as well. The variation approach is widely used in prototyping as well. If you want to test several concepts or variants, you can make the design in such way, that you may switch between the variants by just toggling some components. This saves both – money and time.

And what was the mystery at the end?

Peter just bought the wrong model of the effect.

Emil Kirilov

My name is Emil and I’m engineer in electronics. The past 10 years I used to work as a firmware and software developer in established companies. About 8 years ago I found the entrepreneurial spirit in me and I decided to start my own business in parallel. After several unsuccessful approaches during the financial crisis, I settled down and spent several years in learning how to develop business. Assuming the limited resources, I focused on the lean approach and customer driven business models. 3 years ago I found out that I’m in love with the physical products and I joined the company of friend of mine called Zekeng. We finished several products together and I finally decided it is time to leave my job and dedicate to this company and its growth.

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