Before we can talk about what you need to know about PCB design and manufacturing, we will tell you a bit about the essential components of every printed circuit board. Take a look at the list below to discover what you should consider when deciding on the features of your PCB.
Each circuit board contains layers, and the number of layers you will select depends on your desired application. The general rule is that the PCB gets more complicated, the more layers you pick. That is why it may take a bit more time to construct boards with more layers, although reputable companies will still manufacture them quickly.
Here are some common choices that people go with when assembling their PCB:
•Two layers – a relatively easy to make board used for simple products, such as toys;
•Four layers – a solution that many people use for the Internet of Things (IoT) items;
•Six to eight layers – you will see these in tech-related devices, such as smartwatches and smartphones.
The manufacturers will also accept boards with a single layer as long as you are sure that you are looking for the simplest solution. You can again go with more than eight layers, but make sure that your application needs so many. Otherwise, you are paying more for no valid reason.
Size and Thickness
The next thing you will want to decide is the size and thickness of your board. As for the size, the only important factor to consider is that it perfectly fits your application. That is why you should consider the size of your product and measure the space where you plan to place the PCB.
It is vital that you accurately measure the dimensions as there is not a lot of room for a mistake if you want your product to work correctly.
When it comes to Thickness, it can vary from about 0.5mm up to 2.5mm. You should consider your application and decide accordingly, but the average Thickness is around 1.2-1.8mm.
Other Things to Consider
Here is the list of other components and features you may consider when ordering a PCB:
•Material – the common choices include standard FR4, FR4-TG170, and halogen-free materials.
•Color – you can have your solder mask in red, green, yellow, blue, etc.
•Surface finish – lead-free or leaded HASL, different types of immersion silver, gold, and tin are all available.
•Copper weight – you can choose the required Thickness per layer, and it can vary from 0.5 ounces to four ounces. Copper is used because of its high conductivity.
The design process starts with circuit design. The first thing you need to do is to come up with a document that is called a schematic. You can imagine it as a blueprint that will show all components in detail and how they will communicate.
You design circuitry on a PC by using professional software, such as Quadcopter, Altium, ExpressPCB, or many others available online. Keep in mind, most of these tools are the paid version, which means you will have to buy them if you want to design the PCB yourself.
Now, what you need to know about PCB design and manufacturing are the specifications for each component you want to include on your board. The schematic can be of great help for the next step, which is the PCB layout.
Allocating Components to Their Locations
Each component needs to have a precise location to place it during the manufacturing process. That is why creating a layout of your board is a vital step in PCB design. It may be a tricky task because you need to find the best way to fit all components and explain how to connect them. That is why it is more challenging to assemble a PCB that has more layers.
The majority of designers go with the tactic of separating different areas for components of various purposes. Power supply-related components go in one section, audio output in another site, and so on. Grouping is vital as it can save space and keep noise and interference under control.
It is essential to consider LEDs, connectors, audio jacks, and other items that are vital for user experience. You want to maximize the usability so that you can use the PCB effortlessly. The final step is producing a Gerber file, a standard format in the printed circuit board manufacturing.
You may think designing a PCB is easy, but it is tricky to place all the components correctly. You need to avoid interference and other potential issues while maximizing user experience, and that is reason enough to let the job to a professional company.
Once you have the design of your PCB ready, it is time to manufacture it. The easiest way to do this is to send the Gerber file to the manufacturer and let them do their magic.
They will use the layout to assemble the PCB and turn the idea into reality. If you choose a professional manufacturer, the chances are they will have all the required materials ready. That will eliminate the need to order the materials and wait for their delivery. Instead, they can immediately proceed to manufacture.
Mounting PCB Components
The primary task during the assembly process is to mount the components on the surface of the board. The following two methods are used to do that:
•Surface mount technology (SMT) is incredibly convenient when you need to manufacture a high number of PCBs. Reliable and quick professional tools handle the mounting to ensure there is no room for human error while accelerating the Process.
•Through-hole – some prefer sticking to the method of manually mounting components to the surface of the board, but this often takes more time than SMT.
It is interesting to note that SMT doesn’t support all components. If the item you choose is not a standard size or some other way, you may have to install the feature manually. That is why the companies often use the combination of the above methods.
When the time comes for soldering, the manufacturers will resort to one of the following:
•Reflow – this technique is excellent for making components connect to the board permanently.
•Wave – this type of soldering is convenient when mounting the details manually.
•Iron – mass manufacturers rarely use this soldering form.
Finally, the manufacturer will probably manufacturer only a sample of the board to test its quality. After thorough testing and necessary modifications, mass manufacturing will start.
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