Printed Circuit Board Assembly
Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs) are across many industrial and consumer electronics, used in products ranging from remote controls to military weaponry. The versatility of PCBs comes from their lightweight, compact, and flexible construction, which can be adapted to suit circuits of any complexity. Though PCBs are relatively commonplace, their complexity makes it critical to source new circuit boards from reliable suppliers. Printed Circuit Board Assembly (PCBA) services harness these complexities.
PGF Technology Group offers comprehensive Printed Circuit Board Assembly services that help our customers fully realize their designs. We have extensive experience working with customers in a broad range of highly innovative industries, including Aerospace, Automotive, Industrial, Medical, and more.
PCBs themselves consist of a copper layer sandwiched between a non-conductive substrate. The copper is etched into intricate electrical pathways, allowing current to move between components on the board. During the PCB assembly process, electrical components are added to this board using either surface or through-hole mounting.
Although the equipment, components, and mounting processes vary significantly between these two assembly methods, we have extensive experience in both techniques. Additionally, we often combine SMT and through-hole technologies for hybrid technology projects.
- uses surface mount technology (SMT) to mount components on top of the board
- the simplest way of installing electrical components
- makes it easier to utilize both sides of the board
- uses a pre-drilled hole in the board through which a component can be inserted and soldered into place
- used for large components or any component otherwise incompatible with SMT
Layers of a Printed Circuit Board
The silkscreen is a screen-printed layer that provides assembly and reference information for the PCB. The silkscreen is usually white text on the green solder mask.
The solder mask is responsible for a PCB’s characteristic green color. The mask is a thin polymer coating that protects the traces and prevents solder bridges.
Every PCB contains one or more copper layers, including the etched pathways (traces) that form the circuit.
The substrate is a non-conductive material bound to the copper layers. It serves to insulate electrical traces from one another.
Types of Circuit Boards
PCBs come in numerous forms of varying complexity:
The most straightforward and most affordable PCBs consist of one copper layer laminated to a non-conductive substrate layer. One side of the board contains all pathways.
A more versatile option, double-sided PCBs incorporate circuitry on both sides of the PCB. These boards have three total layers, consisting of two layers of copper on either side of a non-conductive substrate.
The most complex and expensive, multi-layer PCBs enable intricate circuitry that would be impossible to contain to one or two layers. Multi-layer boards use alternating copper and substrate laminated layers together into one dense assembly. These boards allow for maximum component density by moving some traces to the board’s interior, freeing room for additional SMT components on the exterior.
SMT Assembly Process
Production methods for PCBs vary depending on the electrical components required. Many PCBs use SMT primarily or exclusively since surface mount assembly is fast and easy to automate. In general, PCBs undergo numerous production stages, such as:
Using state-of-the-art machinery, PGF Technology Group can handle surface mount, through-hole, and mixed-technology applications. We also offer integrated electromechanical assembly services for customers seeking larger sub-assemblies or complete products. Electromechanical assembly, or a Box Build assembly, combines the completed PCB with corresponding electronic components and harnesses to yield a functional product.
Using PGF Technology Group for one-stop, end-to-end assembly of PCBs will ultimately improve the overall quality of the circuit boards, shorten time-to-market, and reduce overall production costs. Our advanced capabilities adhere to the highest industry standards available.
We work with a wide array of PCB materials, including:
- FR-4 Glass-Reinforced Epoxy Laminate
- Mylar® Film
- Phenolic Laminates
- Polyimide (PI)
Printed Circuit Board Assembly Process
The PCB assembly process can look very different depending on the type of PCB and the order volume. Our PCB assembly process at PGF Technology may include the following steps, depending on the client’s needs.
The additional X-Ray Evaluation and Ionograph Testing services represent some of our most significant advantages over our competitors. Many companies cannot provide these capabilities that are necessary for immaculate boards. For example, our medical clients leverage our ability to measure contamination down to ppm on a single square centimeter. In sum, quality determines success, so we invest in quality determiners.
From receiving to assembly to testing to shipping, our facility is prepared to process projects with attention and dedication.
Automated assembly is ideal for components that are difficult to solder by hand and high-volume production runs. It is the fastest and most efficient means of producing consistent circuit boards.
Reflow soldering is the most common method used for efficiently soldering SMT-mounted components. The process uses a reflow oven to melt solder onto a pre-heated and pre-soaked PCB.
Wave soldering is another efficient method that involves applying flux to an entire PCB surface, heating the board, and then applying molten solder to the whole heated board. This process has been greatly dismissed due to the addition of selective soldering.
Selective solder is a more precise variation of wave soldering used to apply flux locally rather than the entire PCB. Instead of using a “wave” of molten solder, it uses nozzles to apply solder exactly where needed.
Hand Insertion & Soldering
Hand insertion and soldering may be used when project constraints require manual through-mounting.
Point-to-point wiring is a labor-intensive manual assembly method that involves hand-mounting and soldering all components on a circuit board. This process is used as an alternative to PCBs in specific applications, including repairs to vintage electronics.
Automated Optical Inspection (API)
This automated inspection process uses cameras to scan the PCB for defects and quality issues.
Solder Paste Inspection (SPI)
The SPI process closely inspects solder paste deposition before part placement.
Ball Grid Arrays (BGA)
Ball Grid Arrays are used on highly complex PCBs to mount microprocessors and other integrated circuit components. BGAs provide more interconnection pins to facilitate faster and more reliable component connections. While BGAs and micro-BGAs provide superior performance, they are also exceedingly difficult to solder. Incorporating BGAs and micro-BGAs into your PCB assembly requires partnering with an expert EMS provider like PGF Technology Group.
Printed Circuit Board Assembly Applications & Industries
PCB assembly is used across virtually every industry. Consumer electronics such as computers and televisions use PCBs, as do drones used by the military, CNC machinery used in the manufacturing industry, and imaging equipment used in hospitals. A sampling of the industries that rely on PCB assembly includes:
Where You Might Find PCBs Assembled by PGF Technology Group
We’ve worked with an expansive range of industries to assemble highly complex PCBs. Examples of our PCBs out in the world include:
PGF products and assemblies can be found in sonar systems, satellite tracking devices, and collision avoidance products.
Many of our assemblies are strategically built into assembly plant robotic cells, nut-running systems, heavy-duty machinery and controls, seating, testing, and countless applications around cars and mobility products.
Our assemblies are used in operating rooms, simple medical devices, endoscopy applications, pathology stations, instrumentation, and other medical products.
Logistics and Manufacturing:
PGF assemblies help to operate machine tools, material handling equipment, laser technology, and vision systems used in logistics and manufacturing applications.
Research and Development:
PGF is always on the cutting edge, working closely with university labs and R&D centers to create the next generation of technology. Whether creating the PCR cameras to identify the existence of COVID-19 or finding new ways to position tools in 3D modeling accurately, PGF is a leader and partner.
The rise of electric vehicles created a demand for longer battery life. PGF is at the forefront of manufacturing and assembling a new generation of products that will speed the charging time and prolong the battery life cycle for many mobility applications.
We help our customers develop innovative products for the after-market sector. You will see PGF assemblies in many product improvements currently used on the market across industries.
Premium PCB Services at PGF Technology Group
At PGF Technology Group, we consider ourselves a partner and specialist, not just a supplier. We work tirelessly to customize every aspect of the PCB manufacturing and assembly process. We support all assemblies with comprehensive testing services to ensure that every product we ship is premium quality.
To learn more about our full-service assembly capabilities, contact PGF today.
Download our eBook, Key Considerations for Medical PCB Assembly or The Shortcut to Success: A Road Map to PCBA Prototypes for overviews of the important considerations for assemblies!Get Your eBook Now