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What is the PCB Shelf Life? Extending the Life of PCBs

The PCB industry is one of the most important domains for a country’s economic growth and sustenance. However, in the old times, nobody cared about the PCB shelf life at all. It had many reasons.

Maybe due to a lack of knowledge and fewer resources, producers were unable to comprehend PCB shelf life and consider its significance for the improvement of PCBs as well.

The PCB parts come together to develop a highly efficient and industrial PCB with an optimum shelf life. We are going to dig deeper into the role of PCB shelf life for the products and the users through this post. Let’s get started!

Is there any PCB Shelf Life?

If you are a PCB buyer, then make sure that you inquire about the PCB shelf life from the producer. So that you can have a vivid idea about this thing, and it can make your user experience worthwhile in the future as well.

At this point, you must know that not every PCB has the same shelf life. The PCB shelf life depends on the surface finish used for the PCBs. Some surface finishes have long shelf life while others don’t. 

PCB Assembly to Extend PCB Shelf Life

When a producer delivers the PCBs to the respective clients, one important thing to do is to include IQC for the PCB assembly. However, in some cases, if there is a problem with PCB assembly or a producer is delaying it due to some reasons, then it is advisable to secure the PCBs into small packages. For this, vacuum packages prove to be handy because they prevent moisture from seeping into the PCBs and deteriorating them gradually. 

Time for Assembly After Packaging

Bare PCB Shelf Life
Bare PCB Shelf Life

So you have packed your PCBs but what now? This is important when we talk about the PCB shelf life. One crucial thing to do after packing your PCBs is to consider their assembly, which must take place in a half year right after the packaging. The PCB surface finish that goes well with PCB shelf life is HASL. However, if you are using OSP and silver surface finish, then it will alter the PCB shelf life, which gives you just one month for PCB assembly after packaging. For tin and gold surface finish, the duration of assembly is only two months. 

Why Does the PCB Shelf Life Matter?

Now, since we are deciphering PCB shelf life, we need to know why it is important to consider. One major risk that the PCB production process faces is the complications in the soldering and developing strong solder joints to attach the PCB parts on the boards.

If oxidation takes place, this soldering gets compromised, which is not good for the health of circuit boards. The solder joints become weak due to this oxidation as well. Therefore, to prevent this from happening, producers consider using PCB components with the same PCB shelf life as boards.

The packaging of PCBs during this process also allows them to last and remain intact for at least two years. But it still depends on the type of PCB surface finish that you are using. Different surface finishes will provide different PCB shelf life. If you are relying on a lead-free surface finish, then your PCBs will have a PCB shelf life of 2 years, while for others like OSP, the shelf life is up to 6 months maximum.

Also, most of the solders and adhesives used in PCB production or PCB assembly also create their influence on the PCB shelf life on the whole. 

Managing Materials & Components for Better PCB Shelf Life

In this section, it is important to learn about the role of your PCB producer in terms of maintaining and adhering to the PCB shelf life. Due to this reason, you will be able to evaluate their performance on the basis of PCB production, material procurement, and assembly of PCB components. A good PCB producer is one who smartly keeps a record of the PCB’s shelf life.

This step comes in handy for customized PCBs where producers can stick to the prototypes and designs and provide their clients with more insights regarding the PCB’s shelf life. When it comes to this, we at VSE are the experts in handling PCB component arrangement and developing different PCBs as per various shelf lives as per your needs. Below you will find how we are able to procure industrial-grade PCB components that improve the PCB shelf life for our customers. 

  • We rely on FIFO inventory control to avoid stocking complications in the time of need.
  • Our workers follow the guidelines of component labeling to avoid confusion and mishandling. 
  • We stock strategically to prevent PCB wastage. 
  • We make sure to completely dispose of the PCB waste with less harmful techniques to prevent compromising environmental damage.
  • Our solder pastes are cooled in separate cold storage through proper and consistent monitoring and sustenance. 

Extend the PCB Shelf Life in Storage

We cannot forget the fact that PCBA storage is an important factor in the well-being of industrial PCBs. Due to this reason, for the extension of PCB shelf life, we need to avoid mishandling PCBs on all counts. Also, protecting them from weather conditions like excess moisture can help in this regard.

Another factor that proves to be handy for this is your choice of PCB producer. There is no point in hiring such a PCB producer who procures good materials for production but lacks in working with the PCB shelf life. Therefore, the quality of a PCB producer matters a lot here. 

What Affects the PCB Shelf Life?


You must know what factors influence the PCB’s shelf life so that you can have a clear idea about what factors are not healthy for your PCBs at all. Below you will find them! Let’s go!

  1. Components. Always adhering to quality components will improve the PCB’s shelf life. At the same time, cheap and low-quality PCB components will just reduce the PCB shelf life through consistent deterioration. Other than this, substandard PCB parts are also a reason behind full PCB failures and poor electronics performance as well. 
  2. Surface finishing. The choice of surface finish for your PCBs also creates an impact on their life length. For instance, HASL has more PCB shelf life as compared to OSP and others. 
  3. Soldering. The type of soldering you are doing for your PCBs also creates its influence on the PCB shelf life, so it will be better that you fully research the soldering types for PCBs and their relationship with the PCB shelf life as well. 
  4. Conformal coatingIt creates a positive impact on PCB shelf life and protects your setups from weather damage, technical complications, and other issues. It is better to rely on a good type of conformal coating to prevent PCB shelf-life challenges. 
  5. Handling. Issues in handling your PCBs can reduce their shelf life because human sweat, dropping off the PCBs, harmful chemicals, low-quality solder pastes, and debris all can damage the PCBs. Experts believe that PCB producers need to devise ways for proper handling of PCBs to keep their shelf life intact as much as possible. 
  6. Shipping conditions. How you’re shipping your PCBs also matters here. Unmonitored and reckless PCB shipment can damage the structure and might also detach the PCB components on their way to your customers and clients. 
  7. Storage environment. The temperature of your PCB storage room can also impact them; therefore, always stock the PCBs in an optimum environment to avoid damage as much as possible. 

Dangers of using expired PCB

1.    Cause oxidation 

Problems in oxidation eventually damage the entire PCB structure. It also does not let you completely solder the PCBs, and gaps are still left during the process. Therefore the components don’t get fully adhered to the boards, and chances are there that they will drop off too. Experts believe that if we use useful and viable PCB surface finish, then this problem can be solved easily. However, one thing important to note here is that these PCB surface finishes come with different PCB shelf life.

Therefore, it will be better to use an appropriate PCB surface finish that will join the parts strongly with the boards, and they will be able to sustain unfavorable conditions as well. 

2.    Absorb moisture

The major problem with expired PCBs is that they interact with moisture, and they can cause electrical failures and short circuits at the same time. It will be just like how popcorn jumps in a pan. Moisture in the PCBs is also a reason for delamination, which is not good for the proper functioning of PCBs. Baking can be a good option to prevent this, but still, we cannot use this method on all types of PCBs.

However, if we use a sufficient amount of OSP, then this can be easily solved. One important tip here is that if you are going to use OSP, then make sure to complete the reflow process as soon as possible, or else if you delay the reflow, it will complicate things for you. 


There is no doubt that PCB shelf life is an important factor in the well-being and improvement of circuit boards. So that they can perform well for our consumer electronics, we hope that we were able to shed light on PCB shelf life for you in this post. We have also discussed some crucial factors that influence the shelf life of PCBs. 




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