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Pcb Manufacture

Pcb Manufacture

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Published by: pramodkb_cusat on Jun 13, 2010
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The PCB manufacturing process is very important for anyone involved in the electronicsindustry. Printed circuit boards, PCBs, are very widely used as the basis for electronic circuits.Printed circuit boards are used to provide the mechanical basis on which the circuit can be built.Accordingly virtually all circuits use printed circuit boards and they are designed and used inquantities of millions.Although PCBs form the basis of virtually all electronic circuits today, they tend to be taken for granted. Nevertheless technology in this area of electronics is moving forward. Track sizes aredecreasing, the numbers of layers in the boards is increasing to accommodate for the increasedconnectivity required, and the design rules are being improved to ensure that smaller SMTdevices can be handled and the soldering processes used in production can be accommodated.The PCB manufacturing process can be achieved in a variety of ways and there are a number of variants. Despite the many small variations, the main stages in the PCB manufacturing processare the same.
PCB constituents
Printed circuit boards, PCBs, can be made from a variety of substances. The most widely used ina form of glass fibre based board known as FR4. This provides a reasonable degree of stabilityunder temperature variation and is does not breakdown badly, while not being excessivelyexpensive. Other cheaper materials are available for the PCBs in low cost commercial products.For high performance radio frequency designs where the dielectric constant of the substrate isimportant, and low levels of loss are needed, then PTFE based printed circuit boards can be used,although they are far more difficult to work with.In order to make a PCB with tracks for the components, copper clad board is first obtained. Thisconsists of the substrate material, typically FR4, with copper cladding normally on both sides.This copper cladding consists of a thin layer of copper sheet bonded to the board. This bonding isnormally very good for FR4, but the very nature of PTFE makes this more difficult, and this addsdifficulty to the processing of PTFE PCBs.
Basic PCB manufacturing process
With the bare PCB boards chosen and available the next step is to create the required tracks onthe board and remove the unwanted copper. The manufacture of the PCBs is normally achievedusing a chemical etching process. The most common form of etch used with PCBs is ferricchloride.
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In order to gain the correct pattern of tracks, a photographic process is used. Typically the copper on the bare printed circuit boards is covered with a thin layer of photo-resist. It is then exposed tolight through a photographic film or photo-mask detailing the tracks required. In this way theimage of the tracks is passed onto the photo-resist. With this complete, the photo-resist is placedin a developer so that only those areas of the board where tracks are needed are covered in theresist.The next stage in the process is to place the printed circuit boards into the ferric chloride to etchthe areas where no track or copper is required. Knowing the concentration of the ferric chlorideand the thickness of the copper on the board, it is placed into the etch froth e required amount of time. If the printed circuit boards are placed in the etch for too long, then some definition is lostas the ferric chloride will tend to undercut the photo-resist.Although most PCB boards are manufacturing using photographic processing, other methods arealso available. One is to use a specialised highly accurate milling machine. The machine is thencontrolled to mill away the copper in those areas where the copper is not required. The control isobviously automated and driven from files generated by the PCB design software. This form of PCB manufacture is not suitable for large quantity but it is an ideal option in many instanceswhere very small quantities of a PCB prototype quantities are needed.Another method that is sometimes used for a PCB prototype is to print etch resistant inks ontothe PCB using a silk screening process.
Multi-layer printed circuit boards
With the complexity of electronic circuits increasing, it is not always possible to provide all theconnectivity that is required using just the two sides of the PCB. This occurs quite commonlywhen dense microprocessor and other similar boards are being designed. When this is the casemultilayer boards are required.The manufacture of multi-layer printed circuit boards, although it uses the same processes as for single layer boards, requires a considerably greater degree of accuracy and manufacturing process control.The boards are made by using much thinner individual boards, one for each layer, and these arethen bonded together to produce the overall PCB. As the number of layers increases, so theindividual boards must become thinner to prevent the finished PCB from becoming too thick.Additionally the registration between the layers must be very accurate to ensure that any holesline up.
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To bond the different layers together the board is heated to cure the bonding material. This canlead to some problems of warp. Large multi-layer boards can have a distinct warp on them if they are not designed correctly. This can occur particularly if, for example one of the inner layersis a power plane or a ground plane. While this in itself is fine, if some reasonably significantareas have to be left free of copper. This can set up strains within the PCB that can lead towarping.
PCB holes and vias
Holes, often called via holes or vias are needed within a PCB to connect the different layerstogether at different points. Holes may also be needed to enable leaded components to bemounted on the PCB. Additionally some fixing holes may be needed. Normally the inner surfaces of the holes have copper layer so that they electrically connect thelayers of the board. These "plated through holes" are produced using a plating process. In thisway the layers of the board can be connected.Drilling is then accomplished using numerically controlled drilling machines, the data beingsupplied from the PCB CAD design software. It is worth noting that reducing the number of different sizes of holes can help reduce the cost of the PCB manufacture.It may be necessary for some holes to only exist within the centre of the board, for examplewhen inner layers of the board need to be connected. These "blind vias" are drilled in therelevant layers prior to the PCB layers being bonded together.
PCB solder plating and solder resist
When a PCB is soldered it is necessary to keep the areas that are not to be soldered protected bya layer of what is termed solder resist. The addition of this layer helps prevent unwanted shortcircuits on the PCB boards caused by the solder. The solder resist normally consists of a polymer layer and protects the board from solder and other contaminants. The colour of the solder resist isnormally deep green or red.In order to enable the components added to the board, either leaded or SMT to solder to the board easily, exposed areas of the board are normally "tinned" or plated with solder.Occasionally boards, or areas of boards may be gold plated. This may be applicable if somecopper fingers are to be used for edge connections. As the gold will not tarnish, and it offersgood conductivity it provides a good connection at a low cost.
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