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PCB Characteristics
Nov 15, 2017

PCB characteristics

Much of the electronics industry's PCB design, assembly, and quality control follows standards published by the IPC organization.

Through-hole technology

 

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Through-hole (leaded) resistors

The first PCBs used through-hole technology, mounting electronic components by leads inserted through holes on one side of the board and soldered onto copper traces on the other side. Boards may be single-sided, with an unplated component side, or more compact double-sided boards, with components soldered on both sides. Horizontal installation of through-hole parts with two axial leads (such as resistors, capacitors, and diodes) is done by bending the leads 90 degrees in the same direction, inserting the part in the board (often bending leads located on the back of the board in opposite directions to improve the part's mechanical strength), soldering the leads, and trimming off the ends. Leads may be soldered either manually or by a wave soldering machine.

Through-hole PCB technology almost completely replaced earlier electronics assembly techniques such as point-to-point construction. From the second generation of computers in the 1950s until surface-mount technology became popular in the late 1980s, every component on a typical PCB was a through-hole component.

Through-hole manufacture adds to board cost by requiring many holes to be drilled accurately, and limits the available routing area forsignal traces on layers immediately below the top layer on multi-layer boards since the holes must pass through all layers to the opposite side. Once surface-mounting came into use, small-sized SMD components were used where possible, with through-hole mounting only of components unsuitably large for surface-mounting due to power requirements or mechanical limitations, or subject to mechanical stress which might damage the PCB.

Through-hole     devices mounted on the circuit board of a mid-1980s home computer 

 

A box of drill     bits used for making holes in printed circuit boards.     While tungsten-carbide bits are very hard, they eventually wear out or     break. Drilling is a considerable part of the cost of a through-hole     printed circuit board. 

Surface-mount technology[edit]

Main article: Surface-mount technology

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Surface mount components, including resistors, transistors and an integrated circuit

Surface-mount technology emerged in the 1960s, gained momentum in the early 1980s and became widely used by the mid-1990s. Components were mechanically redesigned to have small metal tabs or end caps that could be soldered directly onto the PCB surface, instead of wire leads to pass through holes. Components became much smaller and component placement on both sides of the board became more common than with through-hole mounting, allowing much smaller PCB assemblies with much higher circuit densities. Surface mounting lends itself well to a high degree of automation, reducing labor costs and greatly increasing production rates. Components can be supplied mounted on carrier tapes. Surface mount components can be about one-quarter to one-tenth of the size and weight of through-hole components, and passive components much cheaper; prices of semiconductor surface mount devices (SMDs) are determined more by the chip itself than the package, with little price advantage over larger packages. Some wire-ended components, such as 1N4148 small-signal switch diodes, are actually significantly cheaper than SMD equivalents.

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A PCB in a computer mouse: the component side (left) and the printed side (right)

Circuit properties of the PCB

Each trace consists of a flat, narrow part of the copper foil that remains after etching. Its resistance, determined by its width, thickness, and length, must be sufficiently low for the current the conductor will carry. Power and ground traces may need to be wider than signal traces. In a multi-layer board one entire layer may be mostly solid copper to act as a ground plane for shielding and power return. For microwave circuits, transmission lines can be laid out in a planar form such as stripline or microstrip with carefully controlled dimensions to assure a consistent impedance. In radio-frequency and fast switching circuits the inductance and capacitanceof the printed circuit board conductors become significant circuit elements, usually undesired; but they can be used as a deliberate part of the circuit design, obviating the need for additional discrete components.