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What is PCA PCB?

PCA and PCB are used interchangeably in the PCB industry. Electronic devices serve multiple functions and as such, need circuit boards. It is crucial to understand the difference between PCB and PCA. This article seeks to provide more knowledge about PCA PCB

What Does PCA Mean?

A PCA refers to printed circuit assembly. Furthermore, a PCA is a printed circuit board populated with electronic components. What makes up a PCA is the presence of electronic components. Without these components installed, this board is a mere printed circuit board. PCA PCB is widely used across several applications.

Generally PCBs offer two functions. The first is to enable the installment of electronic components on designated locations on the external layers. The second function is to offer reliable electrical connections between the terminals of the components. PCAs are primarily distinguished by the absence or presence of attachments on the circuit board.

These components allow your PCB to function well. Also, the assembly of components on your circuit board is what results in PCA. PCA also refers to printed circuit board assembly (PCBA).  Printed circuit assemblies involve the whole process of passing a bare board through SMT or PTH processes. With these processes, the electronic components are carefully installed and soldered on the bare circuit board.

Difference Between a PCA and a PCB


PCB is a bare circuit board while PCA is a finished board. PCA comprises several electronic components like diodes, transistors, capacitors, and more. Also, these components are critical for the functioning of a circuit board. A PCB is a bare circuit board before electronic components assembly. Once a bare board has an electronic component soldered on it, it becomes a printed circuit assembly (PCA).

It is crucial to understand that PCB manufacturing is different from printed circuit assembly. While PCB manufacturing involves various processes like PCB design and PCB prototyping, the PCB assembly involves installing components on a board.

Once a PCB is fabricated, there is a need for the placement of electronic components. In addition, PCA can be through hole or surface mount. However, these two processes involve the mounting of electronic components on the circuit board.

PCBs and PCAs are the outcomes of two various steps of the same process. Also, a printed circuit board isn’t functional until it features electronic components. The manufacturing of bare circuit is simpler than producing a PCA.

Why you Should Clean a PCA

Electronic assemblies manufacturing involves several series of chemical processes. Also, the steps involved in these processes can leave toxic materials on the PCA. These toxic materials can compromise the reliability of the assembly. To remove these harmful residues, cleaning is often required. This helps to enhance reliability. Also, cleaning aids inspection.

Customers usually request for the cleaning of the PCA to ensure cleanliness and proper testing.  Furthermore, PCBA processes are in two categories. These include those that integrate a cleaning process and those that don’t integrate a cleaning process.

Cleaning the parts is important after and before soldering. Improper cleanliness can result in solderability problems. Furthermore, proper cleaning can enhance good adhesions, prevent corrosion, and avoid leakage paths.

Applications of a PCA PCB

A PCA PCB is a circuit board that already has electronic components installed on it. Bare PCBs don’t offer any function in electronic applications. Also, it is the presence of electronic components that make a PCA PCB functional. PCA PCB comprises electronic components like diodes, resistors, transistors, and more. Also, a PCA PCB is widely used in several applications like:


A PCA PCB plays a significant role in the designing and manufacturing of medical devices. These boards are available in devices like heart monitoring machines, X-ray machines, etc. Also, they are available in advanced machines used in the medical industry.

Consumer electronics

This is one of the common applications of a PCA PCB. You will find printed circuit assemblies in consumer electronics like televisions, smartphones, smartwatches, and radios. PCAs serve as the foundation for these electronic devices.


The automotive industry relies on PCA PCB. Some parts of vehicles feature a wide range of electrical and electronic parts which offer more functionality. Printed circuit assemblies have several uses in this sector. You will find PCAs in the navigation system and control systems. Some modern cars feature built-in sensors which help proximity monitors to judge distances and monitor blind spots.

Industrial applications

PCAs are widely integrated in manufacturing facilities and production lines. Also, PCAs are available in assembly machines, power inverters, ramps, and power supplies. The industrial sector require printed circuit assemblies designed to their needs. Also, high power and durable PCAs are commonly used in this industry.

Types of PCA Process

Panasonic MEGTRON M R-5735 PCB

The outcome of the assembly process is the printed circuit assemblies. Also, the assembly of electronic components on a bare circuit board is a process. However, there are different types of assembly process. This process includes surface mount assembly, through hole assembly, and mixed technology.

Surface mount technology

This assembly process involves mounting surface mount devices directly on the surface of a bare PCB. Also, surface mount technology involves the use of pick and place machine to mount components on PCB surface. Also, SMT features an automatic mounting process from solder paste printing to reflow soldering.

Furthermore, SMT is commonly used for modern devices. This is because it helps in designing smaller and more compact electronic devices.

Through hole technology

THT is an assembly process that involves the mounting of components using plated through holes. These holes are drilled to allow components pass through them. This assembly process existed before the advent of surface mount technology. Also, THT created strong bonds between the board and THT components. Therefore, it is an ideal choice for assembling boards that will undergo environmental and mechanical stress.

Mixed technology

Some PCB assemblers integrate both surface mount and through hole technologies. This type of assembly process combines the strength of both SMT and THT. Therefore, it offers the benefits of both mounting technologies.


PCA PCBs are widely used across several industries. Also, printed circuit assemblies serve as the building block of most electronic devices. There is a huge difference between PCA and PCB. Some people use these terms interchangeably. This article has explained the differences between these two terms.