Printed Circuit Board fabrication has come a long way. There was a time when, if a customer ordered 100 PCB’s that’s exactly what he got. 100 individual Printed Circuit Boards. My very first job in the industry, way back in 1978, was to Pin Rout hundreds of boards…all day, every day! We can of course still supply PCB’s as individual items but nowadays, many Customers prefer their boards supplied in Panel Form or, to use the proper jargon, as an Array.
In printed circuit board fabrication, the main advantage to having an array is to make automated assembly using Pick & Place machines faster and (so the theory goes) less expensive.
Basically there are three types of array: Scored, Routed or both of these together.
Scoring can be used mainly for square or rectangular boards and wastes less material than a routed panel as separate images can be butted together with no spaces between separate PCB’s.
Fig.1 shows a scored array of 20 PCB’s.
Routing can be used when the Printed Circuit Board has an irregular shape with cut-outs and such-like. Tabs have to be left in the array to keep the panel rigid enough for assembly and simply snipped out when required. See Fig.2 for a typical routed array pattern.
In both cases, the array is kept within a border (usually 10mm wide). This border will contain fiducial points for machine registration and tooling holes to fix the panel to the assembly machine. Fiducial marks are just copper “flashes”, usually about 1mm diameter. Fig.3 shows the fiducial points on the outer border.
Which method is used is up to the customer and of course we at Hi5 Electronics can advise any customers who aren’t sure.