August 22, 2018
  • Information is Everything

What Are the Steps Involved in PCB Manufacturing?

If you want to bring a unique idea to life, then you may be wondering how manufacturers create printed circuit boards.

Today, we’re going to review the steps involved in PCB manufacturing, so you can see what goes on behind the scenes on your prototype design.

What is a printed circuit board?

A printed circuit board, or a PCB, is a board that forms the base of your wired electronics. The small lines, dots, and boxes you see are components which tell your device what to do as they communicate through the thin strips of metal you see in the picture above.

The nine steps involved in PCB manufacturing

Quality PCB design ensures your device functions well. Here are the steps involved in your unique PCB design:

1. The design stage

Your circuit board is created in software explicitly designed for PCB layouts. Once this layout it approved, it undergoes tests to make sure there are no errors and that everything runs as expected. The size of the circuit board is also confirmed at this stage, to ensure it meets the requirements of the end device.

2. Plotting the film

The approved PCB design is printed out using a plotter, which generates an image of the final design. This film serves as a template for your final printed circuit board.

3. Preparing the copper

In this step, the copper proportion of the film has to be transferred to clean material. Once it is in place, light-sensitive film is placed over the board, which fixes the copper in place with a burst of light. Cleaning removes any excess copper, and then it moves on to the next stage.

4. Checking the layers

Checks are completed on the board’s layers and then a machine double checks for any construction flaws. Once the board gets the all clear, the layers are attached to each other.

5. Drilling fine holes

Holes are drilled into the board using a computer, which makes sure there is no damage during the process. These holes are used later to fix the components that make the board work, so it’s vital they are drilled correctly.

6. Chemical baths

After the holes have been drilled, the board is placed into chemical baths which leave behind a very thin layer of copper, which enters the drilled holes. Then, the board is treated with an extra layer of photo-resistant material.

7. Electroplating

Another fine layer of copper and tin is applied to the board. Tin protects essential copper, while any excess copper is removed from the board.

8. Soldering

The board is cleaned and treated with light which goes through a solder film. The board is heat treated to harden the solder mask. The board is then chemically plated with a precious metal, such as silver or gold.

9. Printing and testing

Important information is silk-screen printed onto the board, and then it passes to the testing stage, where its function is tested to see if it clearly matches the PCB design brief.

Bring your ideas into reality

As you can see, printed circuit board manufacturing is a delicate job that requires a well-communicated PCB design plan as well as a team with the knowledge and expertise to create a flawless output.

Talk to your local technology design engineer to bring your ideas into reality today.

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