A Brief Guide to PCB Panelization and PCB Panel Guidelines

The printed circuit boards are used in many electronic devices and are an integral part of the automated world. Although small in size, these circuit boards drive the performance of many electronic devices that we use today. But, have you ever wondered how they are made? Well, there is a wide range of information on manufacturing techniques and procedures that go into their production, whereas there is very less on PCB panelization. So, what is the process about? What are the different types of PCB panels? Why do PCB assembly and manufacturing services prefer it?

What is a PCB Panelization?

The printed circuit boards are produced in bulk using manufacturing panels. These panels are built using the board layer stack up and the same material as the board. The size and shape of these panels are defined through various manufacturing processes. Although they may look plain, these panels contain instances of circuit board design. They usually feature alignment holes, fiducials, and other manufacturing components. The panels are usually built to 18×24 inches, whereas other sizes can vary depending on your choice. The PCB panelization works effectively for small boards and makes them more cost-effective. The panels with their necessary components can be easily fitted onto small boards. Multiple boards can be produced using a single panel, and this helps accelerate the manufacturing and assembly time and reduce the manufacturing costs.

Types of Panels Used for PCB Design and Manufacturing

PCBs are delivered in panels! Yes, manufacturers make them into useful products using either of these types of panels.

  • Heterogeneous Composition Panels: Heterogeneous panels can be used to create different types of printed circuit boards in pre-defined ratios. This type of PCB panelization helps reduce stocks and buffers. Many times, it becomes difficult to control the differentiation as well as demand effectively using these panels. If the OEM decides to take up a new PCB design at any phase of the manufacturing phase, the entire PCB panel design needs a makeover. Else, a large number of PCBs will be produced without a need.
  • Homogenous Composition Panels: A homogenous printed circuit board panel is a very effective panel type. It is composed of the same circuit in multiplication, meaning a single design, and only a printed circuit board is produced per panel in bulk. The assembly method of this panel largely remains independent of any manufacturing condition. Homogenous composition panels assure great effectiveness and flexibility, too.

Benefits of PCB Panelization

Panelization is a beneficial PCB manufacturing method that boosts productivity while reducing time and money. Some of its amazing features are as follows:

  • The panel allows for serial production, be it through the homogenous panel method or heterogeneous panel method.
  • It is a cost-effective method that reduces the overall price of printed circuit boards.
  • Panelization allows standardization of the printed circuit board, which means all the PCBs in a panel are designed with the same design and precision.
  • It also provides better protection to the printed circuit boards by keeping them safe from unwanted damages.
  • PCB manufacturing process starts from designing to soldering and testing, and each step is configured with precision which is applied to all the printed circuit boards on the panel. This promises the efficiency and accuracy of each printed circuit board on the panel.

Important PCB Panel Guidelines Discussed in Brief

The PCB panel guidelines discussed in this section help designers decide on a suitable layout and enhance the efficacy of the overall PCB manufacturing process. Designers can use the same configuration to make other boards as well. However, the sensitive areas, including layouts and component placing, should be carefully designed and manufactured to avoid unwanted short-circuits. Here are some guidelines that will help the designers to design accurate PCB panels.

  • It is important to check for the sensitive component distance to avoid damage. For example, they should be kept at a minimum distance of 100 µm from the cutting edge during depanelization.
  • If the component is bigger in size, like electrolytic capacitors, then the distance of the components should be 0.260 inches from a tab.
  • Always pay attention to the sensitive areas of the printed circuit board.
  • Solder pads should be kept in clearance to avoid any damage during depanelization.
  • There should be enough space between the boards for smooth depanelizing.
  • After soldering, components must share enough space to avoid short circuits.

PCB panelization offers several advantages, which is why they have gained popularity in recent times. If you are thinking of optimizing the benefits of PCB panelization, ensure to partner with an experienced manufacturer. Rigiflex Technology is one of the leading printed circuit board manufacturers in the US and has been helping clients to optimize the value of PCB panels. You can get in touch with the team of experts at the company to learn more about PCB panel guidelines they follow, average panel lengths, and benefits of working with homogenous and heterogeneous panels, and more.