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Determine the structure of PCB

There are four main parts to a PCB:

  • Substrate: The first, and most important, is the substrate, usually made of fiberglass. Fiberglass is used because it provides a core strength to the PCB and helps resist breakage. Think of the substrate as the PCB’s “skeleton”.
  • Copper Layer: Depending on the board type, this layer can either be copper foil or a full-on copper coating. Regardless of which approach is used, the point of the copper is still the same — to carry electrical signals to and from the PCB, much like your nervous system carries signals between your brain and your muscles.
  • Solder Mask: The third piece of the PCB is the solder mask, which is a layer of polymer that helps protect the copper so that it doesn’t short-circuit from coming into contact with the environment. In this way, the solder mask acts as the PCB’s “skin”.
  • Silkscreen: The final part of the circuit board is the silkscreen. The silkscreen is usually on the component side of the board used to show part numbers, logos, symbols switch settings, component reference and test points. The silkscreen can also be known as legend or nomenclature.

How to process the PCB prototyping?

Although the design and manufacturing of a printed circuit board assembly can be generalized as schematic capture, PCB layout, and circuit board fabrication and assembly, the details of each step are very involved. We’ll take a look here at some of the more specific aspects of each of these steps.

Before you can start the design of the board within the CAD tools, you have to make sure that you have the library parts to work with first. For the schematic this means creating logic symbols for the parts that you will be working with; resistors, capacitors, inductors, connectors, and integrated circuits (IC’s). With these parts ready for use, you can then begin to organize them on the schematic sheets within the CAD tools. Once the parts are roughly placed, you can then draw in the lines of connectivity between the pins of the schematic symbols.

What are the best practices of PCB design?

It’s important to communicate with the PCB or flex application engineer during the beginning of any PCB design job and discuss everything you need or require for your project. Open and constant communication with your PCB provider ensures that you’re both on the same page, which can reduce the need for multiple extensive revisions.

When you submit a design, you also need to have the right board size, trace width, materials, component placement, and tolerances. Plus, in the case of flex,  you’ll need to determine whether the design is static, partly flexible, or dynamic.

It’s also important to consider the environment in which the product has to function. Is the printed circuit board or flex circuit designed for a non-extreme environment, such as your cell phone, or the highest of extremes, such as an explosion?

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