Printed Circuit Board Manufacturing

Sep 15th 2015 at 10:22 PM

This is the era of electronics, and in the future it will only be rising up by a few notches. Soon enough, the world will see a new age where everything is governed by chips and computers and programmed circuit boards. Speaking of printed circuit boards, they are basically programmed and planned assemblies of capacitors, resistors and other devices, which are used to govern the functions and operation of electronic gadgets. The design of PCBs allows gadgets to be what they are today. The manufacturing process of PCBs is cheap, and even the design portion is now governed by printed circuit board design software.

The first step of PCB manufacturing process starts from printed circuit board fabrication data that is generated from software called CAD. This fabrication data consists of Gerber or Excellon files which are read into the CAM software. CAM is the acronym for Computer Aided Manufacturing. It is the responsibility of CAM to perform the functions of Gerber or Excellon data input. Then this software verifies the input data. This software also takes care of deviations and scaling errors and compensates for them through inbuilt or defined protocols. Then it performs a process called panelization. A panel is basically a board where a number of PCBs are grouped together. There are two types of panels – one where the assembly is supposed to take and one which are bare boards. The assembly panels often see mounting on the components rather than PCBs for the reason that it is efficient. The delivery requirements govern which kind of panels are to be used – arrays or bare boards. After panelization, it is depanelization
that has to be done in order to obtain individual units of PCBs. This separation is done using a process similar to what is seen on postage stamps – using perforations along the edges of units. Once these perforations are in place, individual boards can be broken off like biscuits. Printed circuit board manufacturers make extensive use of this process.

The next step in this manufacturing process constitute of copper patterning. The computer aided manufacturing process generates a pattern to be fabricated onto the copper surface. This pattern is replicated on the PCB. Etching is then done to remove unwanted copper. There are various ways to accomplish this. Silk screen etching is a method that creates a protective mask by using etch-resistant inks. There is a process called PCB milling which uses a mechanical system of milling to mill the copper foil away from the substrate. There is a control program that governs the movement of this mill. A technique called laser resist ablation uses the method of spraying black paint over the copper foil which is then placed into the CNC laser plotter. Raster-scanning is done by the laser and later, through ablation, the paint which is not required is vaporized. Which method is adopted is purely dependent on the scale of manufacture and the required resolution of the end product.

For more information on custom circuit boards, visit PCBCart.com.

About The Author

James Whitehall is an expert when it comes to printed circuit board manufacturing and design. He loves writing interesting articles and blogs about the topic and recommends PCBCart.com as the name to trust if you are looking printed circuit board fabrication services and support.

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