TechnologyWhat is PCB Design and What Are the Steps...

What is PCB Design and What Are the Steps of Producing PCB?

PCB stands for Printed Circuit Board. PCBs are the backbone of all major electronic devices. Along with all computational electronics, PCBs are also used in calculators and digital clocks.

In simple words, the role of PCB is to guide electricity about where to go. As a result, it brings electronic gadgets to life. Each piece of PCB has a unique role. The best option for circuit designers is to visit a PC board shop and discuss their PCB manufacturing demands.

It’s crucial practice before PCB design. Moreover, the designers will not make errors during the design stage. In this article, we’ll share the importance of PCBs and the step by step process of how PCBs are produced.

Importance of PCBs

Importance of PCBs

We live in a technology era where people prefer to use smart and lightweight devices. Luckily, PCBs allow products to be more portable and smaller. PCB circuits don’t take up much space.

Therefore, the end products are much smaller. Moreover, they’re durable and can withstand moisture, heat, and even physical force.

These circuits are perfectly safe. It means there is no chance of getting an electric shock from the device containing PCB. Finally, these circuits are economical.

PCB Manufacturing Process – Step-by-Step

Without wasting any time, let’s dive into the manufacturing process of PCB.

1 The Design

The best practice is to have a design of a board before starting to manufacture the PCB. You can use this design for further processing. There are so many software tools, mostly pcb design software like Altium Designer and Eagle is used in the design process. Moreover, you can get the details of internal and external layers by using a trace width calculator.

2 Printing the Design

Now, you have a PCB design ready for printing. You can print it with a special printer called plotted printer. After printing, you can get details of all layers of the board. You’ll see two ink colors on the inside layer of the board.

  • The clear ink shows non-conductive areas
  • Black ink shows conductive copper circuits and traces

Remember, the color will also be the same for the outer layer, but their meanings will be reversed.

3 Create a Substrate

Here the PCB will start to form. A substrate is an insulating material that holds components to the structure. Epoxy resin and glass fiber are passed through an oven to be secured. On both sides of the layer, you’ll see copper is pre-bonded.

4 Print Inner Layers

The design is printed on the body of the structure. Photo-reactive chemicals form a photo-sensitive film that gets hard when exposed to UV light.

As a result, it covers and protects the structure. PCB designers can align the blueprint and actual print of the board. To make the alignment process smooth, holes are drilled into the PCB.

5 Remove Excess Photoresist and Unwanted Copper

After the alignment process, both the resist and laminate go under the UV light. As a result, the Photoresist gets hard. The black ink doesn’t allow hardening of areas that will be removed later. After that, the board is washed with an alkaline solution, and excess Photoresist is removed from the board.

Moreover, it is necessary to remove unwanted copper from the board as well. You can use a chemical solution similar to alkaline to clear the unwanted copper. The solution will ensure that Photoresist remains intact.

6 Inspect Layers for Alignment

In this process, the manufacturers need to inspect new layers for alignment. Holes drilled in step 4 will be used here to align inner and outer layers. In this step, you can correct errors because you won’t be able to do that later.

7 Start the Laminating Process

When layers are fused together, the board will get shaped. In the laminating process, clamp the layers with metal. Here the layers of epoxy resin (substrate) and copper foil are applied.

8 Press the Layers

Now you might wonder how to press the layers together. You can do it with a mechanical press. Pins keep the layers aligned and secured. Remember, pins can be removed later.

The limiting press will then apply heat and pressure on layers. Epoxy present in layers will melt and fuse layers.

9 Start Drilling

In this step, a computer-guided drill can drill holes in the layers. If any copper is left behind, it will be removed after this step.

10 Plating

Here, you can plate the board. Once the solution fuses all layers together, wash the board with a chemical solution. This chemical solution coats the board panel with a copper layer. This copper layer then seeps into the drilled holes.

11 Apply Photoresist to the Outer Layer

It’s similar to step 3, where we applied Photoresist to the inner layer. Here we’ll apply it to the outer layer. You can remove the unwanted or excess Photoresist. Again use a thin copper layer for board plating as we did in the previous step.

12 Etching

This step helps in establishing the PC connections. Use a chemical solution to remove unwanted copper from under the resist layer.

13 Apply Solder Mask

Ensure that you clean all the panels before applying the solder mask. Along with the solder mask film, epoxy is also applied. Solder mask applies a green color on a PCB. UV light removes the unwanted solder mask.

Apply Solder Mask

14 Silk-screening

It’s another critical step because it prints critical information onto the board.

15 Surface Finish

Depending on the requirement, the PCB manufacturer either uses a solderable finish or any other plating material. It increases the bond of layers.

16 PCB Testing

It’s the final step. Without this step, PCB can’t be considered complete. An expert electrician performs an electrical test on the board. It will ensure that the PCB follows the original blueprints and functions according to needs.

Conclusion

Now you can see that printed circuit board manufacturing involves lots of effort. If you want to ensure that the manufactured PCB is according to your requirements and fulfills your needs, you must choose a reliable electronic design and PCB manufacturer. Arshon Technology is expert in this field, and we can help you design PCBs according to your needs.

Author: Anna Mohammadlou IoT Hardware Designer at Arshon Technology Inc.

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