What is Printed Circuit Board (PCB) Fabrication?
PCB Fabrication or Printed Circuit Board manufacturing is the process in which a board is fabricated that is used to support and connect various electronic/electrical components to one another. A PCB is the base of almost every electrical or electronic system. Various components such as inductors, capacitors, resistors, ICs and other devices are soldered on to the board.
PCB fabrication is a process of putting together all the PCB layers, starting from ‘Base’ to the ‘Circuit’ layer. Modern PCB fabrication techniques are more application-specific, which means a specific PCB is fabricated according to the requirement while keeping the quality intact.
Customers design the PCB board using a software to develop a ‘Gerber file’ which is then sent to the manufacturer. The Gerber file is the industry standard to maintain the record of PCB specifications. Actual PCB fabrication starts with the Prototype PCB, where the manufacturer fabricates the first PCB as per the given specifications. After rigorous testing and real-time usage, the PCB is considered as standard and leads to the production fabrication. Inspection tests are performed to detect early-stage failures.
Some key parameters that a user must specify are:
Type of Board: This is the physical attribute of the board – they can be Rigid, Rigid-Flex, Flexible, HDI (High Density), RF (High Frequency) or a Burn-In board.
PCB Board Layers: Most printed circuit boards have multiple layers. Multiple layer boards are more compact and usually smaller in size. As multiple layers can be used to route connections on the board.
Single Sided or Double Sided: This determines if you have components placed on one side of the board or on both sides of the board.
Substrate Material: The substrate of the PCB board is important and is usually selected based on the performance required. The most common type of PCB board is FR-4, other options are CEM, PTFE, Polyamide etc.
Here is the step by step PCB fabrication process:
Initial Design/ Layout: The final PCB board should be compatible with the PCB layout created by the designer using PCB Design Software.
Approval of the initial layout: The manufacturer starts the PCB Prototype fabrication after the final confirmation of design.
Testing and Quality Checking: The prototype PCB is placed under indigenous testing conditions to validate its real-time operation. It is the process of designing the first board to ensure feasibility during real-time usage. It is a constant process and requires changes and re-generation until the requirement is not fulfilled.
Final Fabrication Process: After the quality checking of the prototype PCB, the manufacturers initiate the full-throttle production of the PCB boards.
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