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Exploring the Facts of PCB Printing Services

PCBs (Printed Circuit Boards) are becoming pretty popular in the 21st century. With the demand for smaller, powerful gadgets increasing, manufacturers are turning to PCB to make this devices a reality. Printed Circuit Boards connect each component found inside an electronic gadget, helping it function accordingly. Due to their compactness and versatility, PCBs have become pretty popular in light production companies, electronic companies and so on.

However, even though PCBs are tiny, they are pretty tricky to manufacture as you need to remember tricky factors such as impedance control and copper weight. Therefore, most people turn to PCB manufacturing companies to build their PCBs. But what Printed circuit board printing services can you get out there? And what are the benefits of turning to PCB manufacturers to make your PCB?

PCBs in a Nutshell

PCBs are typically built using bare boards made out of copper. The PCB manufacturer then utilizes high-tech gadgets and other components such as Gerber files to curve the client’s design on the copper board to develop a Printed Circuit Board.

In case the PCB encompass multiple layers, the PCB Manufacturer must then line up the layers and then bind them to attain a secure fit.

The process takes up a lot of time, and PCB manufacturers have to be extra careful to avoid messing up the design handed over to them by the customer. What’s more, it is possible to break down the entire process into multiple stages, each of which is pretty crucial to attaining the end product.

Printed Circuit Board Services

What the Manufacturer needs from you

Gerber Files

Before providing any PCB services, the PCB manufacturer has to request for a Gerber file. These open ASCII files contain details on every Physical PCB layer on your board design be it a hobby design or a complex design. PCB objects, for example, silkscreen images, solder mask, vias, and copper traces, are all well represented using a draw code or a flash. They are then defined using vector coordinates.

After undertaking a file check, manufacturers then utilize these crucial files to translate your PCB design into an actual PCB at an affordable price.

Generating a Gerber file

Generating Gerber files is pretty easy because the only tool you will require will be a PCB designing software. However, the process of developing the actual correct design tends to vary depending on the software you will utilize. What’s more, these files do not have to bear unique names. However, they all have a standard extension, for example, .gbr or .gb.

Once you have made your Gerber file, you can then advance to the next stage.

PCB Fabrication Services

If you are having trouble producing your PCB from scratch, you can easily find a manufacturer online to generate a custom PCB for you. Of course PCB fabrication is not free and you will have to pay some amount of money, but the outcome is worth every penny.

In most cases, the PCB manufacturer will ask you for the following parameters before processing your PCB order:

The Parameters

–          Board type – The Manufacturer will need to learn details on the board type that you want

–          Size – Here, you will have to provide the PCB’s maximum length and width. Using this information, the PCB manufacturer will easily figure out the maximum size of your PCB

– Number of PCB being produced – here, specify whether you want a single board or if you want your PCBs produced in batch production form.

–          Layers – You specify the number of layers the PCB will have. For example, if you want your PCB to bear one layer, then you can simply request for a one layer PCB.

–          Base Material – Here, specify the type of base material that you want your Manufacturer to utilize. For example, you can opt to work with aluminum or rogers. Some companies will also ask whether you want a metal core or a plastic core.

–          Board Thickness – Specify the parameters that describe the printed circuit board thickness. Using this information the PCB manufacturing company will figure out the right copper weight to use.

–          Min spacing/track – Here, you must clearly state the minimum track spacing. Using this information, the manufacturer can figure out the trace width to utilize.

–          Min hole size – Specify the minimum hole size to help the Manufacturer during the drilling process.

–          Solder mask – Here, provide details regarding the type of solder mask that you want to be utilized on your PCB

–          Silkscreen – silkscreen comes in two varieties, white and black. You can opt for either of the two. Or you can choose to utilize your Printed circuit board without a silkscreen.

–          Surface finish – choose the surface finish that you want your Manufacturer to utilize on your PCB.

Other Details that might come in Handy

You can also opt for a lead or a lead free PCB. Doing so helps your PCB manufacturer known the type of solder paste to use on your circuit boards and the lead time needed to produce your PCB.

A Gerber file should also accompany all these details to help the Manufacturer get your design right in the PCB fabrication process.

Using these details, a PCB manufacturing companies such as PCB partner can easily print out your PCB order using high-tech machines with remarkable precision. However, you should always double check on the Manufacturer’s experience before handing out the contract. Doing so will ensure that you get a high-quality finished product in return while avoiding hidden costs and scam companies. You can also contact the PCB manufacturing company via a message or through a phone call. Using this methods, you can easily discuss critical issues such as the price of developing your PCB and how long it will take to receive your board.

Exclusive Services

Some companies will offer exclusive services which feature special requirements meant to make more advanced circuits and more efficient PCBs. These exclusive solution, however, do not come at a low cost, therefore be keen when making such an order.

Other services offered for the Printing of Printed Circuit Boards

PCB Drilling

The PCB drilling process tends to be the most tiresome, time-consuming, and expensive phase of the PCB manufacturing process. That is because PCB manufacturers have to carry out this stage carefully to ensure that they develop a high-quality PCB.

The PCB holes can be generated via electrochemical etching or via punching, laser cutting, or drilling. However, most PCB manufacturers tend to favor a combination of electrochemical etching and chemical milling to carry out this process.

Solder mask PCB Assembly and Printing

After Printed Circuit Board Fabrication, the traces of copper left on the PCB are prone to corrosion and oxidation due to exposure to the environment. The best way to shield your PCB against these issues and boost its durability is by placing a protective layer on the PCB known as a solder mask layer.

Solder Mask

A solder mask is a pretty thin layer made out of polymer. Manufacturers utilize this layer to help shield a PCB from:

–          Short circuit

–          Oxidation

–          Environment influences

–          Dust et cetera

A solder mask is pretty crucial in terms of helping boost the durability of a PCB. However, the solder masking process can be pretty tricky to carry out. But the good thing is that you can easily find a PCB manufacturer to carry out this process.

Types of Solder Mask Services Offered

There are several solder mask services offered in the PCB market today. These services include:

–          Bottom and top side masks – These solder masks are utilized mainly by engineers to help them identify various openings on a Print Circuit Board.

–          Epoxy liquid – If you are looking for an affordable solder mask, then this should be your first option. Epoxy is an excellent polymer, and it offers great protection to your PCB at a reasonable cost.

–          Liquid photoimageable – LPI or photoimageable is a solder mask that is a mixture of two different liquids. The liquids used to make this solder mask are stored separately and are only mixed right before they are applied to the PCB to ensure longer shelf life.

–          Dry film photoimageable – Dry film photoimageable is a solder mask that best suits high-density wiring Printed Circuit Boards. That is because these solder masks do not flood the prior put through-holes. It is hence pretty efficient.

Surface Finish

PCB Manufacturing with Immersion Gold-ENIG Surface Finish
PCB Manufacturing with Immersion Gold-ENIG Surface Finish

In most cases, the solder mask utilized on a PCB tends to leave behind exposed copper areas on the PCB. These areas have to be plated using a suitable surface finish so as to lower the chances of oxidation. PCB manufacturers worldwide are now offering surface finish services to help clients cope with this issue easily.

Also under this category, some manufacturers are now offering copper plating service. These services help boost the thickness of a PCB making it more rigid and efficient.

Surface Treatment PCB Assembly Services

Printed Circuit Board surface treatment refers to the crucial process of creating a surface layer on a PCB artificially. The reason why this process is vital is that it helps to boost the electrical and soldering properties of a PCB.

Many surface treatment services exist. Here are some common surface treatment services that you can find:

Hot air Solder Leveling or HASL

HASL is a simple process whereby a PCB manufacturer coats your PCB using molten tin-lead solder. They then flatten the molten tin lead using heated compressed air to form a layer resistant to copper oxidation. Moreover, this layer is resistant to copper oxidation, making a PCB more efficient and durable.

During this process, the following parameters have to be mastered:

–          Lifting speed

–          Dip soldering time

–          Air knife pressure

–          Air knife air temperature

–          Welding temperature

Organic Protective film or OSP

OSP or organic protective film works by spraying organic chemicals on a Printed Circuit Board to provide a protective layer. An OSP layer has to bear the following characteristics for it to work:

–          It should be shock resistant

–          It should have oxidation resistance properties

–          And lastly, it should have moisture resistance properties

Immersion Silver

Typically silver bears stable chemical properties. Therefore, Printed Circuit Boards that have undergone the immersion silver process tend to have excellent electrical properties even when exposed to pollution, humidity, and heat.

Immersion tin

After inserting organic additive into a tin immersion solution, the layer of tin that comes out of this mixture tends to overcome common issues caused by tin and tin whisker migration. With these issues out of the way, the circuit board tends to have better solderability and thermal stability.

Conclusion

Printed Circuit Boards have become a primary component of the 21st century. Almost every gadget you come across now bears a PCB, be it a computer, a street light, or even a flashlight. But, even though these components are crucial, manufacturing them can be challenging for many people. However, with the emergence of multiple companies bearing skilled engineers willing to manufacture Printed Circuit Boards for various clients, this issue is starting to become extinct. Therefore, if you want to print a PCB or add new features to your PCB but do not have the equipment to do so, remember that you can easily find a manufacturer to help you out even though it won’t be for free.