Inside every piece of consumer hardware bought by hundreds and thousands of people every day, one will find electronics. These tiny mechanisms make up the brain and the heart of every device and appliance. For those who are thinking about starting their own hardware business, they’ll have to have a great team that can design and produce custom electronics for them. An electrical engineer, specifically, will know how the process works. Still, it can be helpful for businessmen themselves to know how the process goes.
In this article, you’ll learn about the first phase of PCB assembly. Read on to find out what happens at each step of the process. As an overview, the following are the main steps involved in the manufacturing of printed circuit boards:
• Applying Solder Paste
• SMT Pick and Place
• Infrared Reflow
• Inspection / Quality Assessment
• Thru-Hole Component Insertion
• Wave Soldering
• Functional Test / Final Inspection
• Production of the PCBs
But before getting into a comprehensive look on these steps, what is a PCB? PCB stands for printed circuit board. It is the flat fiberglass board found in most devices and appliances. It houses the traces connecting different components and pads. It is made of epoxy and laminated fiberglass, ensuring durability, copper traces for conduction, and solder mask (often green in color) to ensure the solder remains in place.
PCBs are manufactured using automated fabrication processes today. In the old days, they were manually crafted, which was not only laborious but also time-consuming. Customers have a wide variety of options and lots of layers to choose from, which can cater to specific requirements. There are also variations in the steps involved, which depends on the type of board being created.
Here are the steps on PCB assembly:
Application of the Solder Paste
The first step in PCB assembly is applying solder paste onto the board. This is made of lots of small balls of metal, known as solder, mixed with flux, a chemical designed to aid in the melting and bonding of the metal. The solder paste has a grey appearance and has to be placed in very accurate locations on the board, and in very precise amounts.
In manufacturing plants and factories, the process is done professionally using solder stencils, automated machines and precision fixtures. The stencil is made of a thin sheet of steel that has small holes in it where the paste is able to pass through. The stencil is then placed over the board, allowing the paste to be squeegeed through the stencil. After removing the stencil, the solder place will already be placed in the correct locations.
SMT Pick and Place
The second step in PCB assembly is using the pick-and-place machine. This is an automated machine that takes and places various components on their corresponding positions on the PCB. SMT – surface mount technology – refers to the process of placing components ONLY at the surface of the PCB. These days, majority of devices and appliances that utilize non-connector components use this technology. This is because this method, using the pick and place machinery, is a lot faster, more accurate, and can operate round the clock. In comparison to manual laborers who are a lot slower, need frequent rest breaks and encounter many errors, it’s easy to see why SMT has become the technology of choice in the present generation.
These two initial steps are very essential, and getting them done just right is crucial in the overall results at the end of the manufacturing process. Now, you’re a lot more knowledgeable about the first phase of PCB assembly.