How a Printed Circuit Board is manufactured from A to Z

Blog Post created by James_Taylor on Jan 25, 2018

Whether you are just curious about electronics in general or you want to reach the point where you are able to design / build an electronic assembly, you will surely find this article useful. Sooner or later you will most likely have to deal with Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs). For this reason, you should seek for the answers to the following questions:

  • What a Printed Circuit Board is?
  • H ow is a PCB designed?
  • How is a PCB built?

PCB manufacturing is a complex process that includes a multitude of pre-production and actual production services. Starting with low-volume/high-volume production and continuing with the final assembly, validation, testing and quality control. There is a huge difference between low-volume and high-volume production: one includes low setup costs while the other includes start-to-end facilitation. Here you will find the answers to the previous questions:


What a PCB is?

A PCB is the one that mechanically supports several electronic components (which – otherwise – would chaotically scatter through the device) and also performs most of the electrical connections between these components. The printed wiring is made of a plate, created from good electrical insulating materials (such as textolite, glass-textolite, ceramics, plastics etc.). Depending on the type of the components used, there are several types of PCBs users can meet through-hole (THT), surface-mounted devices (SMD) and mixed. Through the hole, components can dissipate a larger amount of heat than SMD components (which represent light components that work with very low power, the reason why they are glued directly to the printed wiring path).

How is it designed?

Designing a PCB means setting the layout of the printed wiring that is used to determine where the printed wiring paths will be placed. This way, you will be able to connect the electronic components exactly as in the electrical circuit. Realising a PCB layout is a very thorough, delicate process and it requires lots and lots of attention and skill. A printed wiring needs to connect the electronic components according to the electrical scheme. If the layout is not correct, the PCB won’t function properly due to the occurrence of various electronic phenomena. This layout was designed manually with pen and paper. Nowadays, there are special software programs that allow users to design PCBs faster and more detailed.

How is it built?

A PCB that’s not yet finished is a plate of insulating material with a sheet of metal (generally copper) bonded to one or even both sides. PCBs can have one single layer or multiple layers, and this is the one factor that separates the possible manufacturing methods. Direct plating is the industrial way of producing PCBs. This method requires high-tech machinery and can be more expensive than other manufacturing methods. Another way of building PCBs would be by copper removal. This is a lengthy process that is mostly used for creating prototypes. Direct etching and silkscreen are used for limited mass production work. Finalizing the PCB includes cleaning it, tin plating and drilling. Drilling can be done either manually or automatically.