PCB Frequently Asked Questions

What Is A PCB?

A printed circuit board (PCB) is used to build electronic devices in electronics. Many modern devices use the PCB to form an intrinsic part of a products framework, but a PCB primarily serves three purposes in the construction of an electronic device; 

  1. It forms a place to mount the components assembly
  2. It provides the means of electrical connection between the components. 
  3. It reduces amount of space required to house all the electronics and eliminates excessive wiring

Advanced surface mount technology now allows components to be soldered directly onto the surface of the PCB rather than soldered in to it using more traditional techniques. Surface mount technology requires high quality PCB manufacturing as it is much finer and allows for a greater density of components. The product can be made then with a smaller board or simply allows you to fit more components into the same space depending on the product requirements.

 

How Are PCBs Manufactured?

Printed Circuit Boards are constructed through a combination of etching and photo imaging processes. When they are manufactured in high volumes these steps will vary to reflect the increase in efficiency and reliability but is mostly the same process.

  • A schematic of the circuit is created via specialist computer software
  • A Gerber data file is created and converted to form the basic PCB layout
  • A plotter prints the artwork ready to be used later in the process
  • The panels are coated with film before the artwork is printed on them
  • The etched layers are then laminated together (where multilayered boards are required) before being pressed together at high temperature and high pressure
  • Holes are drilled using the data from the Gerber data file
  • A solder mask is applied as a protective coating
  • The exposed copper pads  used to connect the components are protected with a suitable surface finish (Silver, Gold, Tin or organic finish)
  • The board is cut to size, electrically tested before final inspection

 

What Is PCB Fabrication?

Printed Circuit Board (PCB) fabrication is the assembly method for circuit boards used in electronic and computer devices. For it to be used in electronics manufacturing, the layers of the board are combined with the specific surface pattern, and connection points for mounting suitable components.

 

Why Make A Prototype PCB?

It is recommended to make a prototype to eliminate errors in manufacturing before the product is mass-produced. Identifying mistakes this way gives the customer assurances that the final finished product will be exactly what they required. This is especially important should you be dealing with big orders or large volume of PCB’s that could be rendered useless if an error goes undetected after the initial design process is undertaken.

The PCB prototype should ideally be manufactured as close to the volume process as possible and fully tested in its intended environment for the protection and satisfaction of both the buyer and the seller.

 

How quickly can I have my Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs)?

If you need a prototype completed urgently, we offer an premium express service to produce this, in some cases, on the same day. After receipt of Gerber files, completion can be within 8 hours start to finish and our expected lead time is 5-7 days depending on the size of the order and build complexity.

 

Do you offer a variety of PCB finishes?

Yes, as standard we use ENIG (Electroless  Nickel Gold). Other PCB coatings available upon request are HASL (Hot Air Solder Level) and Immersion Silver.

 

Can I have my PCBs left in a panel for assembly?

Yes, for most circuit board sizes we prefer to supply panels with an array of multiple PCBs left in the panel, either by scoring or routing out with pips. Both these options have the benefit of aiding production assembly, as there is far less handling and the boards on the panels are more suitable for assembly equipment.

 

Can you do complex curved outlines on your PCBs?

Yes, using a CNC and laser routing machines we can create any shape required, including curves, slots and cut outs upon request.

 

What is the smallest hole size achievable on a PCB?

The smallest finished hole size is 0.3mm and will be specified by the PCB designer.

 

What is the largest PCB I can have?

We make panels to suit your requirements, ranging from 5mm square through to 450 x 300mm (18 x 12 inches),  as standard, which has a useable area of 17 x 11 inches.

We also work with a number of trusted partners that make much larger boards if required and would be happy to arrange this for you.

 

What is the smallest PCB I can have?

Board sizes vary, dependent on customer requirements with the smallest board that we have made being only 5mm square. We would be happy to discuss requirements with you.

 

Can I get my PCBs in different thicknesses?

Yes, printed circuit boards come in a variety of thicknesses to accommodate the requirements of products and specifications of each. Standard thicknesses include 0.4mm to 1.6mm in 0.2 steps, as well as 2mm, 2.4mm and 3.2mm.

 

Can I have my PCBs in a choice of colours?

Yes, we have selected a range of board colours to reflect the importance of the final appearance of the PCB board, these include: Green, Blue, Black, Red and White. (other colours are available to special order).