In the world of electronics, there have been few advancements as important as the creation of the printed circuit board. More than anything else, it made all of the electronic devices that many of us could not live without possible. Their importance is only growing. Five decades after they were first developed, in 1995, the industry was worth about $7.1 billion. In 2000, that number was $10 billion. As of 2012, that figure had skyrocketed to $60 billion across the globe. The printed circuit board assembly process has also changed over the years. Prototype printed circuit boards (PCB) have become easier and easier to design and manufacture. Here are some tips to working with the PCB fabrication and assembly process:
- Be organized and make a plan. There are a lot of electronic kits that help people work on a printed circuit board assembly. When a kit is used, all of the planning is taken care of already. When you are designing a prototype PCB assembly, you need to work out all of the details and plan yourself. A good habit to get into is to list all of the steps that it will take to create your PCB. As you work your way through the steps, check them off. People who are very organized and methodical in their preparation are the ones who have the best experience with PCB fabrication.
- Plan how you will populate your circuit board. The printed circuit board assembly can become very crowded very quickly. If you map out how you plan to put the various components on the board, you will do yourself a big favor. Begin by putting the lowest components on your board. For the most part, people find the most luck when they start with the resisters. The larger components should be put on later in the PCB assembly process.
- Tweezers are your friends. When you are working on your printed circuit board assembly, a good pair of electronics tweezers can be your best friend. Whether you are working with through holes for your PCB or are handling surface mounted components, the work is much easier when you have your electronics tweezers by your side. You will have an easier time placing your components where you want them to be.
- Get yourself a tool to bend your lead. Lead bending tools are often used at give aways at trade shows and conferences but they can be very handy when you are working on a circuit board assembly. When you are able to bend your lead components to the configuration that you are looking for, it will become a lot easier to get them to adhere to the board in a tight, tidy and neat way. This will make a big difference in the performance of your PCB.
- Take advantage of a magnifying glass or a jewelers loupe. It does not matter if your vision is perfect, using something such as a magnifying glass or a loupe used by jewelers can make the soldering process go a lot better. This will make it possible to handle PCB inspections on the piece you are working on as you are working on it.
- Poster putty can be used as an extra set of hands. When you are working with really small products and items, you can use poster putty to steady your board as you work on it. Some people are concerned about what residue the putty leaves, and you should take care to clean the board when you are through using the putty, but it leaves a very negligible amount of residue and can go a long way in keeping your board where you need it as you affix the components.
- If you need insulation, you should consider hot glue. Do not use this on areas where you know the components will generate a lot of heat but anywhere else that you need insulation, hot glue can be just the thing to get you what you need. It also works well to waterproof those areas and is easy to work with.
When working on a printed circuit board assembly, these simple tips and tricks can make the process easier and produce great quality printed circuit boards.