Electronics are an integral part of our daily lives. Everything from our smart phones to our cars includes electronic components. At the heart of these electronics is the printed circuit board, also known as a PCB.
Most people recognize printed circuit boards when they see them. These are the small green chips covered in lines and copper parts you’ll find at the heart of gutted electronic devices. Made with fiberglass, copper lines and other metal parts, these boards are held together with epoxy and insulated with a solder mask. This solder mask is where that characteristic green color comes from.
However, have you ever observed those boards with components solidly stuck on? Never regard them as just decorations of a PCB board. An advanced circuit board won’t be able to give its functionality until components are mounted on it. A PCB with components mounted on is called an assembled PCB and the manufacturing process is called PCB assembly or PCBA for short. The copper lines on bare board, called traces, electrically link connectors and components to each other. They run signals between these features, allowing the circuit board to function in a specifically designed way. These functions range from the simple to the complex, and yet the size of PCBs can be smaller than a thumbnail.
So how exactly are these devices made? The PCB assembly process is a simple one, consisting of several automated and manual steps. With each step of the process, a board manufacturer has both manual and automated options from which to choose. To help you better understand the PCBA process from start to finish, we’ve explained each step in detail below.
The first step of PCB assembly is applying a solder paste to the board. This process is like screen-printing a shirt, except instead of a mask, a thin, stainless-steel stencil is placed over the PCB. This allows assemblers to apply solder paste only to certain parts of the would-be PCB. These parts are where components will sit in the finished PCB.Solder Paste Composition | PCBCart
The solder paste itself is a greyish substance consisting of tiny balls of metal, also known as solder. The composition of these tiny metal balls is 96.5% tin, 3% silver and 0.5% copper. The solder paste mixes solder with a flux, which is a chemical designed help the solder melt and bond to a surface. Solder paste appears as a grey paste and must be applied to the board at exactly the right places and in precisely the right amounts.
In a professional PCBA line, a mechanical fixture holds the PCB and solder stencil in place. An applicator then places solder paste on the intended areas in precise amounts. The machine then spreads the paste across the stencil, applying it evenly to every open area. After removing the stencil, the solder paste remains in the intended locations.
After applying the solder paste to the PCB board, the PCBA process moves on to the pick and place machine, a robotic device places surface mount components, or SMDs, on a prepared PCB. SMDs account for most non-connector components on PCBs today. These SMDs are then soldered on to the surface of the board in the next step of PCBA process.
Traditionally, this was a manual process done with a pair of tweezers, in which assemblers had to pick and place components by hand. These days, thankfully, this step is an automated process among PCB manufacturers. This shift occurred largely because machines tend to be more accurate and more consistent than humans. While humans can work quickly, fatigue and eyestrain tends to set in after a few hours working with such small components. Machines work around the clock without such fatigue.Surface Mount Technology | PCBCart
The device starts the pick and place process by picking up a PCB board with a vacuum grip and moving it to the pick and place station. The robot then orients the PCB at the station and begins applying the SMTs to the PCB surface. These components are placed on top of the soldering paste in preprogrammed locations.
Once the solder paste and surface mount components are all in place, they need to remain there. This means the solder paste needs to solidify, adhering components to the board. PCB assembly accomplishes this through a process called “reflow”.
After the pick and place process concludes, the PCB board is transferred to a conveyor belt. This conveyor belt moves through a large reflow oven, which is somewhat like a commercial pizza oven. This oven consists of a series of heaters which gradually heat the board to temperatures around 250 degrees Celsius, or 480 degrees Fahrenheit. This is hot enough to melt the solder in the solder paste.
Once the solder melts, the PCB continues to move through the oven. It passes through a series of cooler heaters, which allows the melted solder to cool and solidify in a controlled manner. This creates a permanent solder joint to connect the SMDs to the PCB.
Many PCBAs require special consideration during reflow, especially for two-sided PCB Assembly. Two-sided PCB assembly need stenciling and reflowing each side separately. First, the side with fewer and smaller parts is stenciled, placed and reflowed, followed by the other side.
Once the surface mount components are soldered in place after the reflow process, which doesn’t stand for completion of PCBA and the assembled board needs to be tested for functionality. Often, movement during the reflow process will result in poor connection quality or a complete lack of a connection. Shorts are also a common side effect of this movement, as misplaced components can sometimes connect portions of the circuit that should not connect.
Checking for these errors and misalignments can involve one of several different inspection methods. The most common inspection methods include: • Manual Checks: Despite upcoming development trend of automated and smart manufacturing, manual checks are still relied on in PCB assembly process. For smaller batches, an in-person visual inspection by a designer is an effective method to ensure the quality of a PCB after the reflow process. However, this method becomes increasingly impractical and inaccurate as the number of inspected boards increases. Looking at such small components for more than an hour can lead to optical fatigue, resulting in less accurate inspections. • Automatic Optical Inspection: Automatic optical inspection is a more appropriate inspection method for larger batches of PCBAs. An automatic optical inspection machine, also known as an AOI machine, uses a series of high-powered cameras to “see” PCBs. These cameras are arranged at different angles to view solder connections. Different quality solder connections reflect light in different ways, allowing the AOI to recognize a lower-quality solder. The AOI does this at a very high speed, allowing it to process a high quantity of PCBs in a relatively short time. • X-ray Inspection: Yet another method of inspection involves x-rays. This is a less common inspection method — it’s used most often for more complex or layered PCBs. The X-ray allows a viewer to see through layers and visualize lower layers to identify any potentially hidden problems.
The fate of a malfunctioning board depends on PCBA company’s standards, they will be sent back to be cleared and reworked, or scrapped.
Whether an inspection finds one of these mistakes or not, the next step of the process is to test the part to make sure it does what it’s supposed to do. This involves testing the PCB connections for quality. Boards requiring programming or calibration require even more steps to test proper functionality.
Such inspections can occur regularly after the reflow process to identify any potential problems. These regular checks can ensure that errors are found and fixed as soon as possible, which helps both the manufacturer and the designer save time, labor and materials.
As a traditional PCB assembly method, thru-hole mounting process is accomplished through collaboration of manual procedure and automatic procedure. • Step 1: Components Placement – This step is achieved manually by professional engineering staff. Engineers need to quickly, yet precisely place components on corresponding positions based on client’s PCB design files. Component placement must conform to regulations and operation standards of thru-hole mounting process to guarantee high quality end products. For example, they have to clarify polarity and orientation of components, to stop operating component from affecting ambient components, to make completed component placement compatible with corresponding standards and to wear anti-static wristbands when dealing with static-sensitive components like ICs. • Step 2: Inspection & Rectification – Once component placement is completed, the board is then placed in a matching transport frame where board with components plugged in will be automatically inspected so as to determine whether components are accurately placed. If issues concerning component placement are observed, it’s easy to get them rectified immediately as well. After all, this takes place prior to soldering in PCBA process. • Step 3: Wave Soldering – Now the THT components should be accurately soldered onto circuit board. In the wave soldering system, the board moves slowly over a wave of liquid solder at high temperature, approximately 500°F. Afterwards, all leads or wires connections can be successfully obtained so that thru-hole components are firmly attached to the board.
Compared with thru-hole mounting process, surface mounting process stands out in terms of manufacturing efficiency because it features a totally automatic mounting PCB assembly process from solder paste printing, pick and place and reflow soldering. • Step 1: Solder Paste Printing – Solder paste is applied on the board through a solder paste printer. A template ensures that solder paste can be accurately left on correct places where components will be mounted, which is also called stencil or solder screen. Because quality of solder paste printing is directly associated with quality of soldering, PCBA manufacturers focusing on high quality products usually carry out inspections after solder paste printing through a solder paste inspector. This inspection guarantees printing has achieved regulations and standards. If defects are found on solder paste printing, printing has to be reworked or solder paste will be washed off prior to second printing. • Step 2: Components Mounting – After coming out of solder paste printer, PCB will be auto-sent to pick-and-place machine where components or ICs will be mounted on corresponding pads in the effect of tension of solder paste. Components are mounted on PCB board through component reels in the machine. Similar to film reels, component reels carrying components rotate to provide parts to the machine, which will quickly stick parts to the board. • Step 3: Reflow Soldering – After every component is placed, the board passes through a 23-foot-long furnace. A temperature of 500°F causes the solder paste to liquefy. Now the SMD components are bound firmly to the board.
WARNING Do not perform any preventive maintenance with power on unless specifically instructed otherwise. Failure to observe this warning may result in personal injury.
CAUTION When performing machine maintenance, wear a wrist strap connected to ground to prevent electrostatic discharge damage to printed circuit boards.
500,000 Cycles Check: Perform Maintenance:
Clean the clinch scrap tube with the pipe cleaner (40940101) twice daily (every 250,000 cycles).
3,000,000 Cycles Check: Perform Maintenance:
Check for excessive wear on the pins 1. Lubricate the cutter linkage pins with Magnalube and linkage. Replace if necessary. (40833809).
12,000,000 Cycles Check: Perform Maintenance:
Check for worn cutters and bushings on 1. Replace if necessary. the cut and clinch by observing the quality of the production board component leads. 2. Lubricate the clinch lead screw with Super Blue (BLKM07680). 3. Replace the O-rings and bumpers in the cutter cylinders on the cut and clinch assembly. 4. Lubricate the three surfaces of the notch in the rocker guide Kendall Super Blue (BLKM07680).
48,000,000 Cycles Check: Perform Maintenance: 1. Lubricate the anvil slides with Kendall Super Blue (40833838) and grease gun (47408201).
In 80s the use of far infrared reflow has the characteristics of fast heating, energy saving, stable operation, but because the printed circuit board and various components for different material, color and thermal radiation absorption rate to have very big difference, caused by a variety of different components and different parts of the circuit temperature is not uniform, the local temperature difference. For example, the black plastic package of integrated circuit will be overheated due to the high radiant absorption rate, and the welding part of it will lead to false welding on the silver lead instead of low temperature. In addition, the heat radiation blocked on printed boards, such as welding pins or small components in the shadow parts of big (high) components, will cause poor welding due to insufficient heating.
Full hot air reflow oven is a welding method by which the flow of airflow is forced through a convective nozzle or a heat-resistant fan, so that the welded parts are heated. This kind of equipment began to rise in 90s. Due to the adoption of this heating mode, the temperature of PCB and components is close to the temperature of the given heating area, which completely overcomes the temperature difference and shadowing effect of infrared reflow soldering, so it is widely applied now. In all hot air reflow oven equipment, the convection velocity of the circulating gas is very important. In order to ensure that the circulating gas acts on any area of the printed board, the air flow must have a fast enough speed. To a certain extent, it is easy to cause the jitter of the printed board and the displacement of the components. In addition, in terms of heat exchange, the efficiency is poor and the power consumption is more.
This kind of reflow oven is a more ideal heating method, which is based on the IR oven with hot air to make the temperature even more uniform insaide the oven. The characteristics of this kind of equipment to make full use of the infrared penetration, high thermal efficiency, energy saving, and effectively overcome the temperature difference of infrared reflow soldering and shadowing effect, and make up the influence of hot air reflow on gas flow caused by excessive demand, therefore at international this kind of IR+Hot reflow is used most commonly at present .
With the increase of assembly density and the appearance of fine spacing assembly technology, a reflow oven furnace with nitrogen protection has appeared. Welding under nitrogen protection conditions can prevent oxidation, improve welding wetting power and speed up wetting speed. It is more suitable for uncleaning process to reduce the welding force and reduce welding beads.
2 The establishment of temperature curve
The temperature curve is the curve of the temperature of a point on the SMA will change over time when SMA through the reflow oven. The temperature curve provides an intuitive method to analyze the temperature change of a component during the whole reflowprocess. This is very useful for obtaining the best weldability, avoiding damage to the components due to overheating, and ensuring the quality of the welding.
The following is a brief analysis of the preheating section.
2.1 preheating section
The purpose of this section is to put PCB at room temperature as soon as possible heating, to achieve second specific targets, but the heating rate should be controlled in the appropriate range, if excessive, will produce thermal shock, circuit boards and components may be damaged; if too slow, will not fully solvent, affecting the welding quality. Due to the rapid heating rate, the temperature difference in the rear section of the temperature zone is larger than that in the SMA. In order to prevent the damage of thermal shock to the component, the maximum speed is 4℃/s. However, the normal rise rate is set to 1-3℃/s. The typical heating rate is 2℃/s.
2.2 heat preservation section
The heat preservation section is the area where the temperature rises from 120℃-150℃ to the melting point of the solder paste. Its main purpose is to make the temperature of each element in the SMA stable and minimize the temperature difference.In this area, the temperature of the larger components can have enough time to catch up with the smaller components and ensure that the flux in the solder paste is fully volatile. The oxide of the soldering plate, the solder ball and the pin of the element is removed, and the temperature of the entire circuit board is balanced until the end of heat preservation section. It should be noted that all elements on the SMA should have the same temperature at the end of heat preservation section, otherwise, entering the reflux section will cause various bad welding phenomena due to the uneven temperature of each part.
In this area, the temperature of the heater is set to the highest, which makes the temperature of the component up to the peak temperature. In reflow sectionthe，the different of peak temperature is according to the solder paste to change, the general recommendation for solder melting point temperature plus 20-40℃. For 63Sn/37Pb solder paste with melting point of 183℃ and Sn62/Pb36/Ag2 solder paste with melting point of 179℃, the peak temperature is generally 210-230℃. Reflow time should not be too long to prevent adverse effects on SMA. The ideal temperature curve is the smallest area covered by the “tip zone” of the solder melting point.
As we know,reflow oven is the most important welding technology in surface mount technology. It has been widely used in many industries including mobile phones, computers, automotive electronics, control circuits, communications, LED lighting and many other industries. More and more electronic devices are converted from through hole to surface mount, and reflow oven replaces wave soldering is a obvious trend in welding industry.
So what is the role of reflow oven equipment in the increasingly mature lead-free SMT process? Let’s take a look at the whole SMT surface mount line:
The whole SMT surface mounting line consists of three parts, such as steel mesh solder paste printing machine, SMT machine and reflow oven furnace. For the machine, and compared with lead free, and no new demands on the equipment itself; for screen printing machine, and a lead-free solder paste in the physical properties there are some differences, so put forward some improvement on the device itself, but there is no qualitative change. the key of lead-free is in the reflow oven.
The lead paste (Sn63Pb37) melting point of 183 degrees, if you want to form a good weld must have the thickness of 0.5-3.5um intermetallic compounds in welding, intermetallic compound formation temperature is above the melting point of 10-15, the lead welding is 195-200. The maximum withstand temperature of the electronic device on the circuit board is generally 240 degrees. Therefore, for lead welding, the ideal welding process window is 195-240 degrees.
Because of the change of melting point of lead-free solder paste, lead-free welding has brought great changes for welding process. At present, the lead-free solder paste is Sn96Ag0.5Cu3.5 and the melting point is 217-221 degrees. Good lead-free solder must also be formed 0.5-3.5um thickness intermetallic compounds, intermetallic compound formation temperature is also above the melting point of 10-15 degrees, for lead-free welding, that is, 230-235 degrees. Since the highest temperature of lead-free solder electronic device will not change, therefore, for lead-free soldering, ideal welding process window is 230-245 degrees. The substantial reduction of process window brings great challenge to ensure welding quality, and also brings higher requirements to stability and reliability of lead-free wave soldering equipment. Because the equipment itself is coupled with the electronic device transverse temperature difference, due to differences in size of heat capacity will produce temperature difference in the heating process, so in the process control of lead-free reflow oven can be adjusted in the process of welding temperature window becomes very small, this is the real lead-free reflow to the difficulty.
The latest introduction of PCB loader/unloader 2017
Characteristics of the equipment.
1.Special aluminum alloy mechanism to better understand the operation status of magazines.
Stable casting platform structure design, improve the stability of equipment 0.3. Panasonic PLC control, multi-function circuit and program design, performance stability, ensure the smooth and smooth production line.
Humanized programming, 4 kinds of PITCH selection, can set the step distance of receiving/transmitting PCB.
Standard SMEMA communication interface, which can communicate with other automation equipment.
The material box shall be transported by the engineering plate.
Adjustable push plate speed control.
Three-point positioning type upper and lower pneumatic clamping, ensure the location of the material box is accurate.
Push plate protection system to ensure that PCB board is not crushed, reducing process loss. This equipment adopts SMT circuit board production line operation
PCB size: (mm)： 50 x50~330 x445 Working height (mm)： 900 + 20 (STD) groove Change time: bout 6 seconds The machine size ：1650(L)845（W）1250（H） Step selection: 10.20.30.40 mm Power supply: AC 110/220v plus or minus 10V, 50/60hz knife bank Dimensions (L * W * H, MM) : 355 (L) * 320 (W) * 565 (H) Air pressure and gas flow : 4-6bar / 10 litres/min Weight (KG)：140 kg
This equipment is used SMT circuit board production line operating upper and lower plates
PCB SIZE:（mm）:50×50~330×250 Working height (mm):900±20(std) Tank replacement time: about 6 seconds Machine dimensions:1920(L)845（W）1250（H）
Step Select: 10.20.30.40 mm Power Supply: AC 110/220V±10V, 50/60HZ Magazine size (LWH，MM):355（L)320(W)565(H) Barometric pressure and gas flow rate: ４－６bar/up to 10 l / min Weight (KG):260KG
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