Electronic – Export restrictions when sourcing parts for PCB assembly in foreign country


If a company has a PCB design and wishes to assemble them economically, a natural choice is China. Some Chinese companies are asking for the parts (or some of them) to be shipped to them. This means buying the parts locally, shipping them (export), having them assemble the PCBs and shipping back (import).

In a specific case, the design company is in the USA, and the assembly house is in China. The design includes a Texas Instruments RF chip (CC113L) and a MCU (MSP430). Actual quantity is 1000.

What regulations do you need to comply with for this 'temporary export for fabrication purposes' and do you know of any special considerations to take into account?

PS. For the 'off-topic' sheriffs of the site, please allow me to reference a couple of reasonably high voted similar questions, with the hope of giving this question a little time to live.

Best Answer

(This is not legal advice, just my understanding as someone who deals with this stuff professionally).

If something is ITAR controlled you must not export it (or even detailed documentation regarding it) without the proper paperwork (probably a permit). Some kinds of sensors and other things are covered, as well as actual munitions. Likely if you're dealing with that sort of thing (precision inertial guidance systems, space-related technology, night vision technology, etc.) you'd probably already know it. Even if you import something from a country A you can't necessarily send it back to country A for repair without proper documentation. Handing a sensor across the table at Denny's in Idaho to the wrong person could land you in jail, as a deemed export. Sending your drawings for a quote could be a big mistake. Silly, perhaps but the potential penalties are severe (premeditated murder might be treated more lightly than an infraction). That's the US State Department.

There are also restrictions imposed by the US Commerce Department which may target specific companies or items based on what they are, who they are, or the end use.

Big companies tend to have a compliance department that deals with this.

In practice, ordinary bits like MCUs and such like are not a problem, and in fact can probably be procured more cheaply in China than sending them yourself (I tend to worry more about the quality of passives). High end FPGAs might be an issue, as well as things that can be used to build high-end radar systems and wide dynamic range accelerometers.