Printed Circuit Boards (PCB) are what mechanically supports and electrically connects electronic systems with the use of conductive pads, tracks, and features engraved on copper sheets laminated onto an insulated substrate. PCBs are what modernized miniaturization technology and pushed the boundaries of technology even further.
PCB Fabrication can be simplified in two steps: (1) Design and (2) Manufacturing.
The design process holds a vital part in the fabrication process for it is where one fundamentally thinks and mentally creates the product. This is where everything begins and in the field of PCBs; after all, the design is what defines the functionality and capacity of the circuit board. With the help of a Computer Aided Design (CAT) system, an engineer is able to create a precise technical outline that will later be perfectly followed by the production computers and machinery.
Each CAT system utilizes its own format so the industry has standardized the file types used for the design layouts. These layouts contain very precise digital images where dimensions, solder marks, track widths, spaces between tracks, pads around the holes, hole sizes, and capacity are indicated. The data is double-checked and once cleared by multiple engineers (verified to have met the manufacturing requirements), it will be used to control the machines that will make and test the PCB.
Actual production begins inside controlled and specialized automated factories which follow strict industrial standards for production. Inside these specialized factories, the presence of dust (the leading cause of short circuits in PCB) and unwanted light (which damages the photosensitive raw materials) is strictly monitored to prevent defects from ever appearing on the product.
Specialized machines and computer programs handle the vast majority of tasks involved in industrial PCB fabrication, while the rest is done by the hands of well-trained and experienced workers. The highly automated systems and production lines allow for even the most marginal of errors to easily be avoided and despite the high production numbers, defects have become almost non-existent. Production quality has increased, along with industrial standard specifications and competitive markets, it allows for lower production costs along with improved long-term reliability.
Despite having almost non-existent errors, with the best factories boasting a 99.9988 percent production quality, defective PCBs still make their way through manufacturing. To prevent shipping defective products, PCB fabrication companies install multiple test stations through the production line to check for even the smallest of errors. Every product is given an electronic tag and is carefully observed from the beginning to the end of its journey through the factory, with its every move documented and stored for future reference.
In the last step of the manufacturing process, a team of inspectors give each piece of PCB a final manual check. Using a magnified assembly panel, they look for any cosmetic defects like scratches and discolorations. They also measure the panel and compare it to a mechanical layout to check hole diameters. Once everything has been checked, a release note is added to a vacuum sealed, dust and moisture-free container where the finished product is to be stored; the package is bubble-wrapped then boxed and shipped off to the customer wherever he may be.
The printed circuit board starts out as an electronic, intangible computer image and is turned into sheets of copper drilled with exact dimensions then covered with insulating materials engraved by cutting-edge machinery. The core PCB fabrication process has remained constant for quite some time but is continually modernized through the years since the PCB was first successfully used in a radio in 1942.
New materials, production innovations, industrial standards, and heightening demand continually bring people closer to tomorrow’s technology.
To prevent shipping defective products, PCB fabrication companies install multiple test stations through the productio.