What is the PCB Fabrication Process?

The printed circuit board (PCB) manufacturing process requires a posh procedure to confirm the performance of the finished product. Because of differences within the structure of the PCBs, some may require 20 or more steps during manufacturing.
PCB Fabrication Process

The printed circuit board (PCB) manufacturing process requires a posh procedure to confirm the finished product’s performance. Though circuit boards will be single, double, or multilayered, the fabrication processes used only differ after the primary layer’s production. Because of differences within the structure of the PCBs, some may require 20 or more steps during manufacturing.

The number of phases needed for producing printed circuit boards correlates to their difficulty. Skipping any step or reducing the procedure could negatively impact the performance of the circuit board. However, when successfully finished, the PCBs should act their tasks correctly as key electronic parts.

What are the Parts of a PCB?

There are four main parts of a PCB that are following:

  • Substrate: The primary, and most vital, is that the substrate is usually made from fiberglass. Fiberglass is employed because it provides a core strength to the PCB and helps resist breakage. think about the substrate because of the PCB’s “skeleton”.
  • Copper Layer: Counting on the board type, this layer can either be copper foil or a full-on copper coating. No matter which approach is employed, the purpose of the copper continues to be identical — to hold electrical signals to and from the PCB, very similar to your system carrying signals between your brain and your muscles.
  • Solder Mask: The third piece of the PCB is the solder mask, which may be a layer of polymer that helps protect the copper so it doesn’t short-circuit from coming into contact with the environment. In this way, the solder mask acts because of the PCB’s “skin.”
  • Silkscreen: The ultimate part of the circuit board is that the silkscreen. The silkscreen is typically on the component side of the board and is accustomed show part numbers, logos, symbols switch settings, component references, and test points. The silkscreen is referred to as legend or nomenclature.

Now that we’ve gone over the fundamentals of PCBs and PCB anatomy, we’ll rehearse the entire process of building a PCB.

PCB Fabrication Process Step by Step

The stages of the PCB fabrications procedure start with design and validation and persist via the fabrication of the circuit boards. Many steps require computer guidance and machine-driven tools to confirm the accuracy and forestall short circuits or incomplete circuits. The finished boards must undergo strict testing before they’re packaged and delivered to customers.

  1. Designing the PCB

The starting stage of any printed circuit board fabrication is, of course, the design. PCB manufacture and style always start with a plan: the designer lays out a blueprint for the PCB that fulfills all the necessities as outlined. The foremost commonly-used design software utilized by PCB designers could be a software called Extended Gerber.

When it involves PCB design, Extended Gerber is a superb piece of software because it also works as an output format. Extended Gerber encodes all the data that the designer needs, like the number of copper layers, the number of solder masks needed, and also the other pieces of component notation. Once a design blueprint for the PCB is encoded by the Gerber Extended software, all the various parts and aspects of the look are checked over to create sure that there aren’t any errors.

Once the examination by the designer is complete, the finished PCB design is shipped off to a PCB fabrication house in order that the PCB will be built. On arrival, the PCB design plan undergoes a second check by the fabricator, called a Design for Manufacture (DFM) check. A right DFM check confirms that the printed circuit board design achieves, at minimum, the tolerances needed for manufacture.

  1. Design Review and Engineering Questions

Another key step of the printed circuit board fabrication process involves checking the look for potential errors or flaws. An engineer goes over every part of the PCB design to confirm there aren’t any missing components or incorrect structures. After getting clearance from an engineer, the look moves to the printing phase.

  1. Printing the PCB Design

After all the checks are complete, the PCB design will be printed. Unlike other plans, like architectural drawings, PCB plans don’t print out on a daily 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper. Instead, a special quiet printer, called a plotter printer, is used. A plotter printer machine makes a “film” of the printed circuit board. The ultimate product of this “film” looks very similar to the transparencies that won’t be utilized in schools — it’s essentially a photo negative of the board itself.

The inner layers of the printed circuit board are characterized in two ink colors:

  • Black Ink: Utilized for the copper traces and for the circuits of the printed circuit boards
  • Clear Ink: Denotes the non-conductive areas of the PCB, just like the fiberglass base

On the outer layers of the PCB design, this trend is reversed — clear ink refers to the road of copper pathways, but black ink also refers to areas where the copper is going to be removed.

Each PCB layer and also the accompanying solder mask gets its own film, so an easy two-layer PCB needs four sheets — one for every layer and one each for the accompanying solder mask.

After the film is printed, they’re lined up, and a hole, called a registration hole, is punched through them. The registration hole is employed as a guide to align the films anon within the process.

  1. Patterning or Etching

The majority of printed circuit boards are manufactured by applying a layer of copper over the whole surface of the PCB substrate material either on one side or on each side. This creates a blank printed circuit board, with copper everywhere on the surface. From here the undesirable copper is dismissed by subtractive procedures.

  1. Photoengraving

The photoengraving process uses a mask or photomask combined with chemical etching to subtract or remove the copper areas from the printed circuit substrate. The photomask is made with a photoplotter which takes the look from CAD PCB software. Lower resolution photomasks are sometimes created with the employment of an electrostatic printer employing transparency.

  1. Lamination

Many printed circuit boards are made from multiple layers; these are mentioned as multi-layer printed circuit boards. They accommodate several thin etched boards or trace layers and are bonded together through the method of lamination.

  1. Drilling

Each layer of the printed circuit board requires the flexibility of 1 layer to attach to a different, this is often done through drilling small holes called “VIAS“. These drilled holes require precision placement and are most ordinarily through with the utilization of an automatic drilling machine. These machines are driven by computer programs and files called numerically controlled drill or NCD files also remarked as excellent files. These files determine the position and size of every drill the planning.

Controlled depth drilling is often wont to drill only 1 layer of the board instead of drilling through all the layers. This may be accomplished by drilling the individual sheets or layers of the PCB before lamination.

  • Blind Vias: When the holes connect a layer to the surface
  • Buried Vias: When the holes only connect interior layers and not the skin surface.

The walls of every hole (for multi-layer boards) are copper plated to make plated-through holes that connect the conductive layers of the printed circuit board.

  1. Solder Plating (Solder Resist)

Pads and lands which can require electronic components to be mounted on are plated to permit solderability of the components. Bare copper isn’t readily solderable and requires the surface to be plated with a cloth that facilitates soldering. In the past, a lead-based tin was wont to plate the surfaces, but with RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) compliance enacted newer materials are getting used like nickel and gold to both offer solderability and suit RoHS standards.

Areas that ought to not be solderable are covered with a fabric to resist soldering. Solder resist refers to the polymer coating that acts as a solder mask and prevents solder from bridging traces and possibly creating short circuits to nearby component leads.

  1. Silk Screen

When visible information must be applied to the board like company logos, part numbers, or instructions, silk screening is employed to use the text to the outer surface of the printed circuit. Where spacing allows, screened text can indicate component designators, switch setting requirements, and extra features to help within the PCB assembly process.

  1. Testing

In high-volume board production, a bed of nails tester or fixture is employed to form contact with the copper lands or holes on one or either side of the board to facilitate testing. Computers are wont to control the electrical testing unit to send a tiny low current through each contact point on the bed of nails and verify that such current will be detected on the acceptable contact points.

For small to medium volume production runs, a flying probe tester is employed to test electrical contacts. These flying probes employ moving heads to create contact with the copper lands and holes to validate the electrical connectivity of the board being tested.

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