What Is A PCB?
A printed circuit board (PCB) is used in electronics to build electronic devices. A PCB serves two purposes in the construction of an electronic device; it is a place to mount the components and it provides the means of electrical connection between the components. In many modern devices the PCB forms an intrinsic part of the structure of the product.
Surface mount technology allows components to be soldered directly onto the surface of the PCB rather that soldered to it using traditional techniques. This allows for a greater density of components, which either increases the number of components in the same space or allows you to make the same board smaller. Surface Mount technology is much finer and therefore requires a higher quality of manufacture.
How Are PCBs Manufactured?
Printed Circuit Boards are manufactured through a combination of photo imaging and etching processes. The process outlined below is a general overview of how PCBs are manufactured. When they are manufactured in high volumes these steps are carried out differently to increase efficiency and reliability but it should give you a general idea.
Initially a schematic of the circuit is typically created using Computer Aided Design (CAD) software, a Gerber data file is then created which is converted using computer aided manufacturing (CAM) software to form the basic Printed Circuit Board layout. CAM software generates the artwork which is printed using a plotter, this artwork is used later in the PCB manufacturing process.
PCB materials such as FR4, Getek and Polymidec come in various sizes. These are pre cut into specific sizes. The dimensions depend on the amount of boards required and the layout of the circuit on them. For multilayer boards, each layer is simply added on top of another and then baked in the oven.
First the panels are coated using a light sensitive film, and the images from the artwork are then printed on these coated panels. The printing is acid resistant and thus allows the unwanted areas of the copper panel to be etched away, leaving only the parts forming the circuit.
The etched layers are then laminated together. They are pressed together with thin sheets of resin coated fiberglass at high pressure and high temperature. As the board cools the layers bond together.
The next stage involves drilling holes. These holes are positioned using the drill data from the Gerber data file. Some of the circuits on different layers will need connecting together, this is achieved using a process called “through hole plating”.
A solder mask is then applied as a coating to protect the circuit from any solder splashes applied during the final PCB assembly process. Naturally some of the circuit must be left exposed where soldering is required such as surface mount tabs, connection holes etc.
The printed circuit board is now virtually complete and just needs finishing off. This involves cutting the board to size, electrical tested for open circuits and short circuits as well as a manual eye inspection to ensure high quality.
What Is PCB Fabrication?
Printed Circuit Board (PCB) fabrication is the assembly method for circuit boards used in electronic and computer devices. The layers of the board are put together along with the specific surface pattern so it can be used in electronics manufacturing. Often firms that fabricate PCBs also make related products for their customers. Manufacturers of electronic goods can either fabricate in-house or contract this operation out to third party specialists. So many companies operate in this grey area and Hi5 Electronics can assist with a broader range of services if required.
The client can supply a design or Hi5 Electronics can design boards using the specifications provides by clients. The design provides information about what the board needs to do and the environment in which it will be used so Hi5 Electronics can develop and test an appropriate schematic.
Customers can also develop their own files and send them to the manufacturer, using a format known as a Gerber file. This is an industry standard for recording the specification of a PCB.
Hi5 Electronics use the Gerber file to set up and program our manufacturing equipment for PCB fabrication. The actual process varies depending on the number of boards that need to be produced. Custom products require small production runs and tend to be more expensive, whilst standard generic formats are cheaper to produce. Prototypes by definition are small in volume and therefore can be very costly.
Hi5 Electronics accept a variety of jobs and can offer a range of types of circuit boards to meet your needs. Additional services include design, and other product development activities to support you.
Why Make A Prototype PCB?
If you are going to place an order for a large volume of PCBs, you need to eliminate any mistakes or errors in the design and manufacture process otherwise you will have a lot of useless PCBs. Although by definition prototypes are much more costly to produce on a per unit basis, they are still relatively cheap when you consider only a few will be made. Identifying an error by first making a prototype is therefore a logical way to proceed.
It might be the case with complicated requirements that several prototypes are required to get to iterate towards the right solution. In other cases one prototype will be sufficient. We can advise you when we dsicuss your requirements with you.
The prototype should be manufactured as close to the volume process as possible and fully tested in its intended environment. At Hi5 Electronics we have extensive experience in perfecting the design and manufacture of PCBs using protoypes to ensure when it comes to the full manufacturing run of Printed Circuit Boards we virtually eliminate the chances of failure. Our skill and expertise both in house and from our suppliers give us the confidence to manufacture your products successfully.
How Do You Ensure Peak Performance?
Hi5 Electronics are accredited by a variety of industry bodies. Each has their own criteria to maintain professional standards in the manufacturing and production process.
Hi5 Electronics is proud to have ISO-9001 accreditation since 1997. This means we have documented procedures for all aspects of our business from PCB manufacture through to standard business practices surrounding sales and fulfilling orders. We operate a continual improvement model to ensure that we maintain pace with developments in the electronics industry and offer PCB fabrication services to the best of our ability. We also monitor our internal procedures to ensure we comply with them, thus ensuring we provide our customers with the highest quality PCB products and service.
Access UL Certification
UL Certification is about ensuring high quality and consistency. The UL Mark on a product means that UL (http://www.ul.com) has tested and evaluated representative samples of that product and determined that they meet UL requirements. UL periodically check products at the manufacturing facility to make sure they continue to meet UL requirements. Only products certified by UL may use UL Marks on or in connection with and under the terms of written agreement with UL.