PCB manufacturing capabilities of a player comprise several factors such as the choice of materials they offer, maximum number of possible layers, complexity of the design, number of components that can be mounted and the method adopted for the same, drilling size upper and lower limits, pad sizes, tolerances, thickness and weight of the board, surface finish options, and more. Each player has their upper and lower limit for these factors. These capabilities really show the flexibility a player can offer and meet your application requirements. An OEM can reliably partner with such a player, especially if they cater to mission-critical applications such as defense and aerospace. This post discusses various aspects about PCB manufacturing capabilities
A Few Common Features of PCB Manufacturing Capabilities
Here are some factors listed as capabilities a manufacturer can offer. Their flexibility is decided on how big is the difference between upper and lower limits offered.
- Number of Layers: PCBs can be single layered and single sided. These layers may go up to even 40, and PCBs with more than two layers are mostly double sided.
- Materials Used: The materials used are either metallic such as aluminum or non-metallic such as polyimide, FR4, Teflon, acrylic, or more. These are made by reputed brands such as Rogers and Du Pont, and bought by PCB manufacturers.
- Solder Mask: This is a thin polymer layer applied to the copper trace wires on the PCB to prevent them from oxidation. These are depicted in peculiar colors, wherein green is the most commonly used. Aside from green, white, black, red, amber, and blue are also used.
- Surface Finish: The surface finish is an important aspect with respect to not just aesthetics but also functionality. The surface finish coatings are usually done with nickel, gold, lead-free HASL, immersion silver, immersion gold, and ENIG among others.
- Silkscreen: Silkscreen is a layer coated on a PCB to identify and locate all the components distinctly. Ink traces are used for these color codes, wherein the common ones are white, black red, and yellow.
- Fabrication: CNC machining is most commonly used for fabrication. Array layouts, scoring, complex machining, and breakaway routing are methods often used by most players for fabrication.
- Testing Methods: The testing methods adopted by the manufacturer speak volumes about their quality and accuracy levels. Apart from physical inspection, most good players use automated optical inspection (AOI) and Flying probe among many other techniques.
- Smallest Trace/Space: PCB traces act as connecting wires to transmit and receive signals. The traces may be short or long in length. The smallest trace is around 0.003ʺ.
- Smallest Size of Drilled Hole: The smallest hole drilled is usually 0.004ʺ. The size can increase or decrease based on the size and number of components to be mounted on the board.
- Tolerances: Usually, very tight tolerances are required in mission-critical and complex applications such as defense, wherein there is no room for error. In most other applications, the tolerances are not as tight, and a range not a permissible limit is provided. Very tight tolerances add to the design and manufacturing complexities. Tolerances are in terms of board thickness before and after the final finishing, and also the functionalities. The board thickness tolerance is usually +/- 0.2mm.
- Board Thickness: Nowadays, the board thickness is shrinking as the demand for smaller PCBs and electronic devices continues to increase. The thickness of a PCB can be as thin as 0.01ʺ and can go up to about 0.2ʺ depending upon the requirement and budget.
- Lead Time: The usual lead time for PCBs with medium-level complexities is about three to four business weeks, which may extend depending on the design complexity. However, there are players who offer quick turn PCBs in about one to five business days depending upon the requirement and complexity.
Are you looking a reliable PCB manufacturer and assembler who can meet your niche application requirement? If yes, ensure you check their capabilities, and also the certifications they have. Make sure the PCBs are RoHS compliant and meet the OSHA standards or as per your requirements. Players such as Rigiflex have extremely flexible PCB manufacturing capabilities, and offer customized end-to-end PCB solutions. They are a known manufacturer of custom flex and rigid-flex PCBs with a market presence of over 20 years.