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How to create printed circuit boards

To create a Printed Circuit Board (PCB), you need to draw holes, pads, and wires for your circuit. This skill is called PCB design and is highly useful.

When you’re done, send the design to a manufacturer or you etch it yourself.

Sounds hard? Don’t worry, there are many free tools out there that will help you do this.

Below I’ll give you an overview of what you need to do.

Step 1: Create Or Find A Circuit Diagram

Before you start drawing wires and stuff, you need to know what circuit you want to build. So you need a circuit diagram.

You can either find one that someone else has made, or you can design your own from scratch.

I recommend starting with something simple. Like a blinking LED.

Once you have your circuit diagram, move on to step 2.

Step 2: Draw Your Schematics

First, you need to install a PCB design software.

I highly recommend KiCad for making your PCB. It’s free and it’s really good. I’ve also created a step-by-step KiCad tutorial for beginners.

Create a new project. Then draw the schematics from the circuit diagram you found in Step 1.

When you think you’re finished, run the Electrical Rules Checker (ERC) to see if you’ve made any typical errors.

Step 3: Design Your Board Layout

Now it’s time to draw the board. You need to transfer your schematic diagram into a drawing of your printed circuit board.

This isn’t as hard as it might sound. Because the software will compare what you are drawing to the schematics file. And it will help you create the same connections.

An important decision here is what footprint you should choose for the components. Through-hole or surface mount?

Through-hole components are the easiest to solder. I recommend through-hole for beginners. Surface mount components are smaller, so they take up much less space. But smaller also means it could be harder to solder. That said, it just takes a bit of practice to get used to surface mount components. So if your up for the challenge, then go for it.

Take your time, and make sure it looks good 😉 Follow the design guidelines for drawing circuit boards.

When you’re done, run the Design Rules Checker (DRC) to see if you’ve made any errors.

Step 4: Get Your PCB Made

When you’re finished drawing your PCB design, you need to get the design made. You could etch your PCB at home, but my preferred way is to just order a PCB from one of the many PCB manufacturers out there.

It’s really not expensive. For example, it’s not uncommon to see offers of 5 copies of your board for less than $5 USD! And you don’t have to mess around with chemicals on your own.

These are some of my favorites:

  • OSH Park (Based in the US)
  • Seeed Studio (Based in China)
  • PCBWay (Based in China)

The classic way of sending a board layout to a manufacturer is by creating Gerber files from your design. But some (ex. OSH Parks) also accept KiCad files directly so that you don’t have to do any conversion.

Step 5: Order Components

It usually takes a bit of time before your PCB is ready. So while you wait, make sure you have all the components you need. There’s nothing worse than to receive a fresh PCB, just to realize you are missing some key components!

I’ve put together a list of shops where you can buy electronic components online. The shops listed I’ve either used myself, or I know someone who has used them.

Step 6: PCB Assembly – Soldering the Components to the Board

You have your circuit board, fresh out of the printer. You have ordered and received the component. Now it’s time for the most exciting part – PCB upbringing!

Prepare your workbench and get your soldering tools out. Lay out the components and the PCB on your workbench.

Have your computer with the PCB Design close by so that you can check the orientation and value of components if needed. If that’s not possible, print out the schematic with values and the board layout.

Make yourself a cup of coffee, then get start soldering!

Questions?

What are your biggest concerns, doubts, or questions around PCB design? Is there something stopping you from making your first PCB? Let me know in the comment field below!

Introduction: DIY Customized Circuit Board (PCB Making)

It is so easy even a 12 year old kid can make one . ^_^ .

P.C.B. (Printed Circuit Board)

What are PCBs ?

PCB (Printed Circuit Board) is used to mechanically support and electrically connect electronic components using conductive pathways, tracks or signal traces etched from copper sheets laminated onto a non-conductive board. Components are connected through the conductive material below a non conductive board, the common conductive material used in packaged PCBs are usually copper, since copper is cheap and common.

Why Use Customized PCBs Instead of Ready Made Project Board?
First, because the board will be more compact because your design as well is made to be compact. Second, it’s more convenient to use, since you can decide where to put space on your board. And last, the board will be stronger unlike those ready made project boards are full of holes everywhere, making ready made boards weaker.

How Do We Make Them ?

How does the procedure work?

The video below is not mine!!

Attachments

Step 1: Tools & Materials

Here are the tools and material that you are going to need.

Tools:
– Mini Drill (Dremel)
– Flat Iron
– Laser Printer / Photocopying Machine
– Latex Gloves
– Eye Protection

Materials:
– Etching Solution (Ferric Chloride)
– PCB Board
– Fine Tipped Marker
– Ruler (optional)
– Magazine Paper / Glossy Paper
– Plastic Tweezers / Plastic Straws
– Small Piece of Cloth
– Sanding Paper

Step 2: Making Your Circuit Board Design

If you already have a PCB layout then there’s no problem you can just skip this step and go to the other one, you might as well write your design directly on the board, if you don’t have plans doing the printing method. Before you make your own customizes PCB board you should first design your own PCB layout. You can can make your own PCB layout by using a decent PCB designing software. For me the best PCB board design software is Eagle Layout Editor, but for people who are looking for a less complicated software can use Microsoft Powerpoint.

Step 3: Printing Your PCB Layout

When you print your layout be sure to use a Laser Printer or a Photocopying Machine, Inkjet Printers wouldn’t work since its ink is soluble with water so it won’t transfer its ink on the PCB board. Use any kind of glossy paper, magazine papers would do.

What Paper Should I Use:
– Photo Paper
– Magazine Paper
– Glossy Paper

What Printer Should I Use?
– Laser Printer
– Photocopying Machine

Step 4: Ironing the Printed PCB Layout

Use a laundry iron to iron your printed PCB layout to your board. Ironing the printed layout transfers the ink from the paper going to the PCB board. You need to set your iron’s temperature to the highest setting if your paper is thick but if not, set it to the medium setting.

Step 5: Rubbing the Paper Off the Board

You need to soak the board to a container of tap water for about 2-5 mins, or you can rub it will you expose it on running water from the sink. Be sure to wait until the paper on the board becomes soggy, then rub it gently so the ink wont get removed when you rub the paper off the board.

Step 6: Sawing the Excess Board & Sanding It

Saw the excess board with a metal saw. Next you need to sand the edges to smoothen the board with sanding paper, kindly use the finer so you will have a finner finish.

Step 7: Cleaning the Board & Restoring It

Even though you have rubbed the paper off the board there will still be excess paper left on the board, remove it using a very sharp object like the tip of the cutter, the point of a sharp compass or a tooth pick. When you had rub it off or you had sawed the excess board, some of the inked areas had been remove unintentionally, you should restore it with a marker and a ruler.

Step 8: Etching the PCB Board

There are different variety of etching solution but the most common is Ferric Chloride. Get a plastic container, never use any kind of metal container. Pour th etching solution on your plastic container. Leave the PCB board for about 30-45 minutes in the container. After for about 30-45 minutes remove it from the container, leaving it for a long time will etch the ink protected area so please remove it when it’s done.

Step 9: Rinsing the Board

Rinse the PCB board with tap water, after etching it in the solution. Be sure to wear glover when cleaning it. It is advised to use plastic tweezers, please do not use metallic materials like pliers or your tool will end up like mine’s, its rusty.

Step 10: Removing the Left Ink

First you should brush the remaining ink with laundry soap after etching the board to expose the copper part of the board, or you could clean it with a small piece of sanding paper (fine) while give it its shiny finish.

Step 11: Drilling the Holes

Drill the board with a mini drill a dremel tool will do. After drilling it rinse it again with water. Be sure to drill it on the copper side, since the copper layout will be your guide where to drill.

Step 12: Your Done .

Be sure to clean it before you solder the components.

Overview

One of the key concepts in electronics is the printed circuit board or PCB. It’s so fundamental that people often forget to explain what a PCB is. This tutorial will breakdown what makes up a PCB and some of the common terms used in the PCB world.

Over the next few pages, we’ll discuss the composition of a printed circuit board, cover some terminology, a look at methods of assembly, and discuss briefly the design process behind creating a new PCB.

Suggested Reading

Before you get started you may want to read up on some concepts we build upon in this tutorial:

Translations

Minh Tuấn was kind enough to translate this tutorial to Vietnamese. You can view the translation here.

What’s a PCB?

Printed circuit board is the most common name but may also be called “printed wiring boards” or “printed wiring cards”. Before the advent of the PCB circuits were constructed through a laborious process of point-to-point wiring. This led to frequent failures at wire junctions and short circuits when wire insulation began to age and crack.

->
courtesy Wikipedia user Wikinaut April 5, 2022

  • Pad – a portion of exposed metal on the surface of a board to which a component is soldered.
  • Panel – a larger circuit board composed of many smaller boards which will be broken apart before use. Automated circuit board handling equipment frequently has trouble with smaller boards, and by aggregating several boards together at once, the process can be sped up significantly.
  • Paste stencil – a thin, metal (or sometimes plastic) stencil which lies over the board, allowing solder paste to be deposited in specific areas during assembly.
  • Pick-and-place – the machine or process by which components are placed on a circuit board.
  • Plane – a continuous block of copper on a circuit board, define by borders rather than by a path. Also commonly called a “pour”.
  • Plated through hole – a hole on a board which has an annular ring and which is plated all the way through the board. May be a connection point for a through hole component, a via to pass a signal through, or a mounting hole.
  • Pogo pin – spring-loaded contact used to make a temporary connection for test or programming purposes.
  • Reflow – melting the solder to create joints between pads and component leads.
  • Silkscreen – the letters, number, symbols, and imagery on a circuit board. Usually only one color is available, and resolution is usually fairly low.
  • Slot – any hole in a board which is not round. Slots may or may not be plated. Slots sometimes add to add cost to the board because they require extra cut-out time.
  • Solder paste – small balls of solder suspended in a gel medium which, with the aid of a paste stencil, are applied to the surface mount pads on a PCB before the components are placed. During reflow, the solder in the paste melts, creating electrical and mechanical joints between the pads and the component.
  • Solder pot – a pot used to quickly hand solder boards with through hole components. Usually contains a small amount of molten solder into which the board is quickly dipped, leaving solder joints on all exposed pads.
  • Soldermask – a layer of protective material laid over the metal to prevent short circuits, corrosion, and other problems. Frequently green, although other colors (SparkFun red, Arduino blue, or Apple black) are possible. Occasionally referred to as “resist”.
  • Solder jumper – a small, blob of solder connecting two adjacent pins on a component on a circuit board. Depending on the design, a solder jumper can be used to connect two pads or pins together. It can also cause unwanted shorts.
  • Surface mount – construction method which allows components to be simply set on a board, not requiring that leads pass through holes in the board. This is the dominant method of assembly in use today, and allows boards to be populated quickly and easily.
  • Thermal – a small trace used to connect a pad to a plane. If a pad is not thermally relieved, it becomes difficult to get the pad to a high enough temperature to create a good solder joint. An improperly thermally relieved pad will feel “sticky” when you attempt to solder to it, and will take an abnormally long time to reflow.
  • Thieving – hatching, gridlines, or dots of copper left in areas of a board where no plane or traces exist. Reduces difficulty of etching because less time in the bath is required to remove unneeded copper.
  • Trace – a continuous path of copper on a circuit board.

Get your boards printed by a pro-service for a longer-lasting, better-looking project.

By Mikey Sklar | Updated Jul 27, 2021 3:30 AM

Let’s say you have a problem that can be solved with some electronics and maybe even a microcontroller. You gather up your parts and prove the idea on a breadboard, a sort of blank canvas for prototyping projects. Then what? A common solution is to solder everything to a blank perforated circuit board, but that still leaves you with a fragile mess of wires that looks like a disaster and takes a long time to assemble. The better idea: get a circuit board professionally printed. Too spendy? Think again. I’ve had about 10 different boards printed for all sorts of projects ranging from a trampoline that shoots fireballs to much less complicated boards that spells text on my bicycle wheels. These circuits are still working great fours years later and didn’t break my wallet. Follow the jump to see my tips for getting professional boards without breaking your wallet.

To get the most bang for your buck on a pro-printing job, you have to first ask: How much can you do without? Do you need a legend (aka silkscreen)—the printed part names on the circuit board? If you designed the circuit and will be the only person building it, you can probably skip the legend. How about a solder mask? This is simply a thin, resistive coating that prevents bridging between areas of the board that are to be soldered. If you don’t need either one, why pay for them? That’s why I love Barebones PCB, a minimalist board shop that makes 2-layer boards with plated-through via’s for less than any other place I’ve found online. (If you’ve found a better deal, please let me know in the comments!)

BarebonesPCB.com Main Web Page

Barebones has a simple Web site that prompts you for three basic questions. Answer these and you get a unit price.

Quantity ?
Y_Dimension ?
X_Dimension ?

I punched in quantity: 2 y=2″ and x=3″ and got a price of $23.70. So much for my good deal talk, right? But when I changed the quantity to 20, the price drops to $4.80 a board. So for any projects you intend to make more than once, you can save yourself a ton of money and the headaches of hand-drilling boards or messing with breadboards.

The first circuit boards I had printed were all based on persistence-of-vision projects. A microcontroller would blink specific LEDs at 30Hz, creating an effect that looked like text when the lights were moving. This is a fun beginner project and each of my boards worked. I sent these boards out for printing for two reasons:

1. I was getting into surface mount parts, which make home etching and perf boarding even less appealing.

2. These boards were going onto bicycle wheels, so I didn’t want to have them falling apart or dropping off the wheel as I rode through the streets of New York.

Persistence of Vision Circuit Boards Printed by BareBonesPCB

Here are the basic steps to go from idea to pro-printed board:
Step 1: Design a schematic (most DIY folks use Eagle software, I use gschem)
Step 2: Design a circuit board (most DIY folks use Eagle software, I use PCB)
Step 3: Export the gerbers (circuit board formatted files)
Step 4: Upload gerbers to barebonesPCB as a zip file
Step 5: Wait five business days for boards to arrive
Step 6: Stuff (assemble) boards and enjoy

Oh, and should you decide that it is time for a more professional circuit board complete with legend and soldermask you can still go through Advanced Circuits. The cost of the original barebones order will be discounted from your final run of professional boards.

Persistence of Vision Circuit Mounted to Bike

Hobbyists, Designers, and low volume manufacturers can make reasonable quality Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs) with very little investment in equipment. All that is needed is an etching tank and the chemicals required to develop and etch the PCB. The process is fairly
simple and can produce good quality boards using readily available PCB material.

The copper clad material should be clean and free of contaminants and oxidation. Using prepackaged PCB material is preferred since the packaging protects the copper surface. There are two types of commonly available PCB material, phenolic and fiberglass. The phenolic material is cheaper but is harder to cut and machine. The fiberglass material is slightly more expensive but is easier to handle after the PCBs have been etched.

Various methods may be used to transfer the electronic circuit design to the copper material. The most common are direct layout and photographic transfer. The photographic method produces a more professional looking board but requires the use of a developer similar to that used in photography. The direct layout method requires fewer processing steps but is not well suited for multiple PCBs.

Using the direct layout method, the PCB traces are directly “drawn” on the copper material using ink or paint or applied using precut adhesive backed tape. After all traces have been “drawn” on the copper, the unprotected copper is etched away using either ferric chloride or ammonium persulfate. After the undesired copper has been removed, the ink or paint must be removed from the desired copper traces that remain. The resulting PCB can now be cleaned and the required components may be soldered in place.

The photographic transfer method requires additional processing steps of artwork preparation and image exposure and developing. The artwork may be prepared using precut tape, as in the direct layout method, except the traces are applied to a clear plastic sheet. More often the artwork is prepared using a CAD program to create the desired traces and then printed on a clear plastic sheet. The copper clad PCB material must be coated with the photo-resist material. It is best to use pre-coated PCBs as the photo-resist chemical is more evenly applied to the copper surface and is easier to process. The artwork is then transferred to the copper material using a source of light that will cause an image of the traces to be transferred to the copper surface. The image on the PCB is now developed using a chemical that causes the image to solidify on the copper surface and protect the desired copper areas from the etchant solution. The PCB may now be etched as in the direct layout method using the same chemicals and procedure that was outlined above.

The processes described above permit the hobbyist, small manufacturer or DIYer to produce quality PCBs with little expenditure for equipment. The process is relatively safe and is easily repeated for multiple circuit boards.

  • ← STEPPER MOTOR MODES OF OPERATION, STEPPER MOTOR CONTROLLER OVERVIEW, AND INFORMATION REGARDING MULTI-AXIS MOTION CONTROL
  • DIGITAL MULTIMETERS: DISPLAY DIGITS, COUNTS & RESOLUTION →

George

George Leger has a Masters in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University, worked in private industry pioneering surface-mount technology and in government research labs for twenty years, published several papers on surface-mount technology, co-authored papers published in national symposiums on accelerator technology, was past president of SMTA and an adjunct professor at the community college level, holds a patent, and is a certified microchip design partner, serving as a consultant to many companies developing electronic circuits.

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What You’ll Learn 💡

Table of Contents

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As a maker, I always wanted to create a PCB (printed circuit board) online but making PCBs always seemed like a tedious task. Then I came across a free online tool called EasyEDA. In this article, I will show you how to get started with EasyEDA to start creating professional PCBs for your projects.

For this project, I will walk you through the process of designing and manufacturing a PCB for an IR Proximity Sensor. Let’s get started!

Step 1: Planing the Custom PCB Design

First, we need to plan the design by drawing a circuit diagram on paper. Once the diagram is complete, we can make a prototype on a breadboard to test out the circuit. Make adjustments to the circuit drawing as needed.

Now that we have a working circuit, we can finalize the design in software.

Step 2: Making a Circuit Online with EasyEDA

There are many online tools to make custom PCBs online. For this project, we will use EasyEDA. Here you can either download the tool or use the online designer. Then, click on the EasyEDA Designer to use the online tool.

Now, we need to create an account with EasyEDA. Click on “Projects” and “Log in” from the left menu. Create an account or sign in.

Next click on “New Project.” Give the project a name and description. I named the project “IR Proximity Sensor.”

Save the project. You’ll notice a blank canvas and some part symbols on the left side. We will use these parts to make our design. If you can’t find a part, you can look in the Libraries. Just search for the part you are looking for. Make sure it has a symbol and PCB footprints.

Double-click on the part to select it, and place it on the canvas. Then search for the next part. Repeat this process for the remaining parts. Use your hand-drawn circuit diagram to create a digital circuit. Draw the wires by clicking on the end of one part and the terminal of the other part.

In the above diagram, the GND represents the ground connections and +5V represents the power connections. When you are happy with the design, convert this circuit into a PCB. To do this, first, click on the PCB option from the top menu (next to the star icon). Then select “Convert to PCB.”

Step 3: Make the PCB Design Online

EasyEDA might ask you to check the nets or connections, but you can skip this if you are sure your connections are correct. You will see a new tab with a border and components which you have to arrange on the board.

Start arranging the components on the board. Make sure you place those components physically closer which are connected directly. This will make routing easier and less complex. After placing all the components we can start routing.

PCB Routing is when you add traces that will connect components. As a hobbyist, we will make 2-layer PCBs because they are more affordable to manufacture. The red traces represent the top layer and the blue traces represent the bottom layer. You can always add more layers, but they will increase the cost of your board.

How to Route PCB Traces

EasyEDA also has an Autorouter tool which will make the traces for you. This tool works great for small and less complex circuits but it might make errors in big projects. I recommend manual routing.

Here are some key things to consider when wiring traces on your PCB design.

  1. Use thicker tracks for power lines.
  2. Avoid 90° turns while making traces. Traces might get etched off easily at 90°. Also, it tends to cause a lot of noise in the circuit which may affect Wireless applications.
  3. Do not connect GND traces. Use the copper area tool at the end to create a single ground plate.
  4. Make sure you keep a good clearance between traces and ground plates to avoid any short circuits.
  5. Never make traces near the edge of the PCB or the screw holes.

Once you are happy with your traces, double-check the routes, and save the PCB file.

Step 4: 3D Preview and Gerber Files

You can see how the product will look after production before generating the PCB files (also known as Gerber files). Open the 3D viewer in EasyEDA by clicking on the camera icon in the top bar and selecting “3D viewer”.

The 3D model will take a couple of seconds to load. Use this model to see how the final board will look. Once you’re satisfied with the look, go back to the PCB tab and click on the G icon.

You will notice a window to check the routes. If you click on “yes,” the software will show you routing errors. Be aware that if you used flags or ports to name a pin and later made the connections, it will show those connections as an error.

Once you are sure the connections are correct, move to the next step. You will see a pop-up window like below.

Here you can download the Gerber files and send them to any PCB manufacturer (Get $5 Free on PCBWay) or order them directly from OshPark or JLCPCB.

Final Note

This is a basic tutorial to get you started with PCB designing. Now you can start converting your breadboard prototypes into professional-looking PCBs.

If you have any questions, feel free to comment down below.

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Take our free training and see if you’re a good fit before joining our program.

After assembling a prototype IoT device (in our example, a Wi-Fi relay) on a breadboard and connecting it to the 2Smart Cloud platform, we got a device that can already be used.

At the same time, inconveniences arise even for a DIY user: the device does not look aesthetic, and an additional 5V power supply is required. A device on a breadboard is all the more inappropriate for a vendor that plans to bring a product to market.

To obtain a full-fledged IoT device, it is necessary to modify the circuit so that the device works only from a 220V network. And also, place this circuit on a printed circuit board by placing it in the case.

Designing the PCB and housing for a Wi-Fi relay

In the example with a Wi-Fi relay from a DIY developer, there is no severe cost optimization task – it is about a tiny series of devices for himself and his friends. Therefore, we will briefly describe the components selection stage and the circuit board creation.

All materials for creating a Wi-Fi relay are available in the 2Smart Cloud public repository. If desired, you can assemble a similar device using this article as a tutorial.

How the device circuit has changed

The only task in changing the circuit of the Wi-Fi relay is the need to give up an additional 5V power supply in the form of a USB cable. The device must operate only from a 220V network, turning on and off the device connected to it – for example, an ordinary table lamp.

To solve this problem, we add an additional element to the circuit – a voltage converter (power module) AC-DC 220V/5V. Instead of the relay module, a conventional relay is installed, which is controlled via a transistor (this upgrade is optional).

PCB design

Once the final version of the device circuit is obtained, it is possible to create a printed circuit board project. Use any popular board editor for this purpose – for example, easyeda.com.

After creating the project, it remains to order the production of the required batch of printed circuit boards. There are many services for this – for example, jlcpcb.com.

You also need to order the necessary components to assemble a batch of devices.

Knowing the device’s dimensions, you can also create a housing project in any 3D editor and print it on a 3D printer.

Having received ready-made printed circuit boards and components, it remains to assemble the devices with a soldering iron and place them in the housing.

Printed Circuit Boards or PCB for short, is a plastic board that is created for connecting electronic components and parts together. They are commonly used in all types of electronics, from computers to digital clocks. The board itself is not a conductive material and often plastic or fibre glass is used as the base material. The primary use of PCBs is to control where the electricity is directed to.

There are three main types of circuit boards; single-sided, double-sided and multi-layered.

  • A single-sided board has the components and parts on one side of the substrate.
  • A double-sided board contains more components than the single-sided board and therefore uses both sides of the substrate. Electrical connections between the two sides are made by drilling holes in the appropriate places.
  • A multi-layered board consists of a substrate which is made up of multiple layers of printed circuits. These printed circuits are separated by layers of insulation.

Circuit boards can have a variety of parts that are connected and work together. Each board is unique as they have different uses and functions.

Here are the main stages which circuit boards undergo when being created:

Designing

The very first step in creating a printed circuit board is the designing of the board. Similar to all manufactured products, circuit boards require a plan. Depending on your requirements for the functions of the board, the PCB designer can create and design a suitable layout using industry Computer Aided Design software. Some of the most popular CAD software includes; Eagle, Altium, and OrCad.

After designing a layout for the PCB, checks will be carried out to ensure that the data meets your manufacturing requirements. Once the data has been verified, the designer outputs the design for fabrication. The PCB fabricator then checks the design to see if it meets the minimum tolerances during the manufacturing process.

Laser Printing

This process prepares for the creation of the printed circuit board. Using laser printers, the manufacturer creates negative photo films of the circuit board and components. The final photo is in black ink and each layer of the printed circuit board has their own film sheet. The black areas show where the conductive materials are and the clear areas show where the non-conductive materials are. These are used to show the PCB alignments.

Preparing

The base material for a circuit board is usually laminate as it is ideal for use with copper. The plastic or fibre glass material of the laminate provides a strong and resistant body for the PCB and the copper is normally pre-bonded on both sides. In the construction stage, cleanliness and hygiene is very important in order to prevent dust from causing short-circuiting. The laminate board is passed through decontamination and gets prepared with a layer of photo resist film. The film is placed over the laminate board with pins that hold the sheet into place. The board is then exposed to UV light which passes through the clear parts of the film to harden the material that is not conductive. The black part of the film protects the UV light from hardening the conductive parts.

After exposure to UV light, the board is washed with an alkaline solution to remove the unhardened film. The board is then dried and a final check is carried out to ensure that no errors have occurred during this process.

Etching

The etching process removes unwanted copper from the board. There are several ways to remove copper, but the most commonly used method is by using a strong chemical. The strong chemical then removes the excess copper and you are left with the copper that is protected under the photo resist film.

After the removal of unwanted copper, the board is exposed to another chemical to remove the black areas and leave a shiny finish on the PCB.

Drilling

This drilling process prepares the components for attachment to the circuit board through drilling precise holes on the board. As the drill bits are very small, a computer is used to control the movement of the drill to ensure accuracy. In high-volume production, automated drilling machines are used to save time. This process can take a while as the average circuit board has more than one hundred points to drill.

Plating

In the plating process, the outer layer of the circuit board houses copper connections which cannot be soldered. To make the copper connections suitable for soldering, the surface is plated with gold, nickel or tin. To protect the other areas that should not be soldered, a masking material is used. This masking material is a type of polymer coating which can prevent short-circuiting from traces of solder.

Testing

As part of the quality check and assurance, a technician carries out several checks and electrical tests on the printed circuit board. There are several methods of testing the functionality of a PCB and most tests include the use of computer programs to apply small amounts of voltage to each conductive point. This is to check if the circuit board is functioning as expected and if it conforms to the original designs.

PCB Assembly

In the final stage, the PCB assembling includes the assembly of all electronic parts onto the appropriate holes on the circuit board. There are a few techniques to achieve this such as through-hole assembly and surface-mount assembly. Both techniques share a common aspect and that is the use of soldering to ensure that the component leads are fixed to the board.

Contact Clarydon for PCB Manufacturing & Assembly Services

Clarydon Electronic Services has a wealth of expertise in the design manufacture and supply of circuit boards. If you require printed circuit board manufacturing or assembly, please get in touch with one of our PCB specialists.

Call us on 01902 606 000 or you can email us at [email protected] .

I just posted Episode 18 of Code Hour. In this show I demonstrate how to build a Printed Circuit Board (PCB) from prototype, to design, to manufacture.

Lee Richardson

A senior software developer at InfernoRed Technologies with a passion for .Net development, open source software, continuous integration, building cross platform mobile apps, and hardware hacking.

More posts by Lee Richardson.

Lee Richardson

I demonstrate how to populate a board with LED’s, resistors and solder paste, and then reflow solder the components to make a finished board.

Along the way I show a cool time-lapse video of solder paste condensing into its mercury-like liquid state.

This is a very different code hour. Please write in in the comments or me hit up on Twitter to let me know how it went and if he should do more like this or if I should really just stick to coding.

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Sharing developer sessions with electron and VS Live Share

Are you working on an Electron app with a team? If so, then there’s a good chance you’ve been working together and told your team members to hang on while you grab their changes and test locally.

When designing printed circuit baords, there are several key stages you need to know how to undertake to produce the best PCB design for a given application.

Knowing how to design a printed circuit board, PCB is a key element of any electronic circuit design process.

The PCB layout and design has a major impact on the way in which a circuit work, and therefore if the printed circuit board is designed in an effective way, then the circuit will perform more reliably and within its specification.

Typical complicated PCB design

PCB design equipment

For commercial development programmes there are may CAD, computer aided design packages available that are needed as a result of the complexity.

Even for the student and hobbyist there are many very good packages that are either free of can be obtained for a modest cost.

The old PCB design process of using tape placed on a master drawing sheet are long gone, although it is possible this may still be done in a number of very limited cases.

The PCB software capability varies considerably. Budget, or even free software provides the basic functions, whereas the top end packages enable many more facilities to be incorporated into the design. Simulations, complex routing, and many more facilities are available.

The ability to undertake simulations is becoming an increasing requirement with the speeds of digital boards increasing, and radio frequency designs reaching ever higher frequencies.

Circuit schematic capture

The first stage in the development of a PCB design is to capture the schematic for the circuit. This may be achieved in a variety of ways. Circuits may be entered into a schematic capture tool. This may form part of the PCB design suite, or it may be an external package whose output can be exported in a suitable format.

In addition to purely performing the schematic capture, simulations of the circuit may be undertaken at this stage. Some packages may be able to interface to simulation packages. For applications such as RF circuit design simulation of the circuit will enable the final circuit to be optimised more without building a prototype.

With the schematic capture complete the electronic design of the circuit is contained within the file and can be converted to what is termed a “netlist”. The netlist is the interconnectivity information and it essentially the component pins and the circuit nodes, or nets, to which each pin connects.

PCB design showing components and tracks

Initial PCB component placement

Before proceeding with the detailed PCB design and layout, it is necessary to gain a rough idea of where components will be located and whether there is sufficient space on the board to contain all the required circuitry. This will enable decisions about the number of layers needed in the board, and also whether there is sufficient space to contain all the circuitry may need to be made.

Once a rough estimate has been made of the space and approximate locations of the components, a more detailed component layout can be made for the PCB design. This can take into account aspects such as the proximity of devices that may need to communicate with each other, and other information pertaining to any RF considerations for example.

In order that components can be incorporated into the PCB design they must have all the relevant information associated with them. This will include the footprint for the printed circuit board pads, any drilling information, keep out areas and the like. Typically several devices may share the same footprint, so this information does not have to be entered for each component part number. However a library for all the devices used will be built up within the PCB layout design system. In this way components that have been used previously can be called up easily.

Routing

Once the basic placement has been completed, the next stage of the PCB design is to route the connections between all the components. The PCB software then routes the physical connections on the board according to the netlist from the schematic. To achieve this it will use the number of layers that are available for connections, creating via holes as required. Often one layer will be allocated for use as a ground plane, and another as a power plane. Not only does this reduce the level of noise, but it enables low source resistance connections to be made for the power.

The routing can use a significant amount of computing power. This is particularly true for larger designs where there may be upwards of three or four thousand components. Where routing is difficult as a result of high component density, this can result in the routing taking a significant amount of time.

PCB files: Gerber files, etc

The information for the photo plots of the PCB layout are outputted in the form of Gerber files. This format is the standard for PCB files and they are a form of numerical control file that is used by a photo plotter. In addition to the Gerber files, drill information is also generated along with the screen print and photo-resist information.

One major element in the cost of a printed circuit board is the drilling. In any design some holes are required for fixing as well as those required for any conventional components needed. However to reduce costs it is wise to use as few hole sizes as possible. In this way the drill will need changing less and time can be reduced.

Once complete the information for the PCB will be used in many areas of the manufacturing process. Not only will it be used for the manufacture of the actual PCB itself, but the files will also be used in other areas of the manufacturing process. They may be used to develop a pick and place programme, and in addition to this the files may be used in the manufacture of a PCB solder mask for adding solder paste to the board prior to component placement. The files may also be used for developing various forms of test programme such as an “In-Circuit Test” (ICT), and particularly in developing any bed of nails test fixture. In this way, the PCB design is a crucial element of the whole manufacturing process for any product. The PCB design is more than just a design for the basic board.