A solder sample is non-usable board that represents a usable PCB during test processes. It can be used to test virtually every process on the assembly line. Although many manufacturing engineers may take it for granted, this extra fab – which is identical to the usable board in every way – is essential for streamlining production, improving an assembly’s quality and dramatically impacting cost.
As its name suggests, the primary use of a solder sample is to test the processes involving solder, including oven profiling, wave soldering, and selective soldering. Oven profiling is the processes of setting the reflow oven at the correct time and temperature for a perfect solder. It's one of the most sensitive steps in the assembly process, and it's been proven to cause the most defects on a PCB assembly. Instead of subjecting one or more usable boards to undue stress in order to perfect an oven profile, a manufacturing engineer can use a solder sample with the risk of damaging a board. This prevents the costs of using good boards for testing, as well as any costs associated with defects and rework. This goes for every soldering process.
A solder sample can serve this same purpose for virtually every step in assembly:
Making measurements for fixtures
Setting conveyors for board size
AOI & AXI inspection
Setting dummy components for the pick-and-place machine
Testing solderability of components
In short, a solder sample helps set up processes on the floor, and helps manufacturing do its job better and faster.
Just do it
As bare PCBs and assemblies become increasingly smaller, denser, and more complex, pre-assembly tests are becoming more important. The margin for error is simply higher. The more steps a contract manufacturer can take to standardize its processes and reduce error, the faster and less costly a job can be.