The PCB fabrication process is a delicate and careful blending of human ingenuity and technological growth. Over the decades the industries have seen an exponential explosion of growth as demand for high-quality circuit boards in applications ranging from phones to computers has increased. No longer created solely (or even mostly) by hand, machine assembly has allowed countless companies to accurately and quickly craft high-quality circuit boards in short amounts of time to address hungry customer bases.
The foundation of a good printed circuit board starts with the design process. Board designers nowadays will use the aid of computer software to assist with crafting their circuit boards. Since these are incredibly small and filled with fine details, the smaller margin for error provided by machinery is invaluable. The space between conducting paths can be 0.04 inches or smaller. Once the design process is complete the next steps in prototype assembly, such as pasting and soldering, can begin.
Pasting is one of many processes required in quick turn PCB assembly. Even the most skilled artisans have a higher risk of error than a machine, making a successful industry one built on the backs of technological advances. A solder paste applier, high-speed chip shooter and pick-and-place machine all work together to create the circuits on the titular circuit board.
One of the most critical elements separating a high-quality circuit board from a poor-quality one is that of temperature curve in the PCB fabrication process. Before reaching the necessary 160 degrees Celsius the temperature rising rate should be controlled to just one to two degrees per second. If the temperature curve is not carefully checked the components risk melting and destroying the careful foundation of the circuit board.
Following pasting and temperature curves, soldering connects boards together and works to create the final product. While the human eye should be utilized to double-check for any mistakes, machines have streamlined the process to the point that the vast majority of work can be done mechanically. A single automatic line can both place and solder more components than even 50 hand solder operators. The thickness of the board determines the time it’s finished.
Heavy copper PCB is defined by having printed circuit boards with the copper thickness of three oz or more in either the inner and outer layers. Trace thickness is measured in ounces of copper, both then and now. While the majority of PCB designers will use one or two oz of copper, many manufacturers can provide six oz of thickness. Not a single element should be left out of place when creating the ultimate circuit board.
Utilizing The PCB Fabrication Process
People want high-quality circuit boards and they want them ready to go as soon as possible. With the advent of more advanced PCB fabrication processes, this seemingly monumental task is not just achievable, it’s almost easy. Machine-assembly lines can create any size orders for shops, able to craft circuit boards in a fraction of the time it would take hand placement to do so. A common turn-time is five days or less, though this can change depending on the complexity and thickness of the order. PCB manufacturing companies may have big shoes to fill, but technology will make sure it’s done efficiently.