Understanding PCB Assembly: Components, Process, and Best Practices


PCBs assembly

PCBs are the essential building blocks of contemporary electronics, supporting the electrical parts that give our electronic devices their power. In essence, a PCB assembly is a printed circuit board with electrical components such as ICs, resistors and capacitors installed on it; the process of installing these components on the PCB bare board is called the PCB Assembly process. Given the growing prevalence of the electronic devices and PCBs, it is crucial to comprehend the details of the PCB assembly process. We dig into the fundamentals of the PCB assembly in this thorough examination, covering everything from the necessary parts of a PCB to the complexities of the assembly procedure and the best practices that guarantee the functioning and the finished product.

There are basically three types of printed circuit board assembly:

  1. Rigid PCBs: These are stiff PCBs, as the name indicates. These PCBs are constructed from substances like FR4, metal-core, ceramic, PTFE, etc.
  2. Flexible PCB: Flexible PCBs are flexible. It is normally produced by polyimide or PET material. Some of the benefits of flexible PCBs include:
    • Can be bent many times.
    • Lightweight.
    • They are durable and able to absorb shocks and vibrations.
    • Can endure environmental stresses, like heat and toxins.
  3. Rigid-Flex PCBs: Combines the best features of rigid and flexible PCBs in one. These are usually multilayered printed circuit boards connected by flexible circuit substrates. Uses where many times of bending is needed or extreme dependability is needed to withstand shock, vibrations, etc.
Two kinds of technologies are common for printed circuit board assembly:
  1. Surface Mounting Technology (SMT): Complex circuitry is a defining characteristic of electronic goods. Today, SMT is used in the manufacturing of a wide variety of PCBs. This is especially helpful for tiny, delicate parts like diodes or resistors. The following are the primary benefits of surface mount technology.
    • It is well-suited for automated soldering and manufacturing.
    • It is economical.
    • It handles the high component density.
    • It can combine more components on one small PCB.
    Its major drawback is that it isn’t entirely dependable under extreme heat or pressure conditions compared to PTH assembly.
  2. Through-hole technology: This is helpful when parts need to be plugged through holes on the board in order to be installed. It is better to use this technique when there are big components. Other benefits of through-hole technology are as follows: It forges solid connections between the board and the components. These functions well in high-heat applications like transforms, for example. Because the parts are interchangeable, it’s ideal for prototyping and testing. One of the drawbacks of through-hole drilling is how costly and time-consuming it is.

How do we choose from a through-hole printed circuit board assembly and an SMT assembly for my project?

  • SMT is repeatedly recommended when working with complicated boards that have small parts and high density.
  • Through-hole is the best option for big components and applications that need to endure heat and pressure. But frequently, a mix of the two can be what’s needed right now.

The PCB Assembly Process

The process of assembling printed circuit boards involves a multitude of components and a painstaking manufacturing process. It is a sophisticated and nuanced dance between accuracy and technology. The painstaking process of PCB assembly turns a blank PCB into an operational electrical gadget. The following steps are commonly involved in the assembling process:

  • Application of Solder Paste: The pads on the PCB are covered with a thin coating of solder paste by using an SMT stencil. By serving as an adhesive, this paste holds the parts in place and creates the foundation for the solder junctions.
  • Component placement: Place the electrical components to the PCB bare board is the initial step. Components are accurately positioned by automated pick-and-place machines in accordance with the design parameters included in Gerber files.
  • Reflow Soldering: The solder paste is heated under regulated conditions while the PCB is run through a reflow soldering oven. The solder is melted during this procedure, resulting in dependable and sturdy connections between the PCB and the components.
  • Inspection: To find any flaws in the soldering or component placements, the assembled PCB is subjected to a comprehensive inspection process that includes both automated testing and visual inspections. AOI equipment can be employed to examine concealed joints in more detail. Also, an X-ray is needed to check the BGA assembly quality.
  • Inserting Through-Hole Components (if Applicable): In the event that the design calls for through-hole components, they are soldered manually or using a wave soldering technique after being placed into the appropriate holes in the PCB.
  • Cleaning: To get rid of any pollutants or leftover flux from the soldering operation, the PCB is cleaned. Maintaining cleanliness is essential to the PCB’s long-term dependability.
  • Quality Control Testing: To make sure that every component is operating as intended, thorough functional testing is the last phase. Functional testing and environmental testing for variables like humidity and temperature may all fall under this category.

Components of PCB Assembly

Understanding the parts of a PCB is essential before beginning the assembling process. Several different parts are assembled during PCB manufacturing to produce a working electrical circuit. These parts may be roughly divided into two groups: passive and active parts. Every component has a distinct purpose in the operation of the electronics circuit, and the successful integration of all of the components is essential to the final product’s overall performance. Below is a summary of every category.

Passive Components: Resistors, capacitors, inductors, ceramic oscillators, crystal oscillators, transformers, etc.

Active Components: IC (Integrated Circuits) chips, diode, BJT (Bipolar Junction Transistor), MOSFET, active crystals, image tubes and displays, etc.

Best Practices in PCB Assembly

The following 8 best practices are basic for PCB assembly success in order to guarantee performance and dependability.

  1. Design for Manufacturability (DFM): Work closely with PCB designers to develop designs that are suited for manufacturing, taking accessibility for testing, heat management, and component placement into account. To make sure your PCBs are error-free and operate flawlessly, you should do a design for manufacturing (DFM) test. By detecting design flaws early on, the test helps to prevent expensive mistakes and delays later on. Problems that can be detected early on include component polarity, footprint corroboration, and distance between components.
    • Reduce manufacturing costs.
    • Expedite delivery and reduce the time needed.
    • Boost the quality of the product.
    It is crucial that the DFM test be carried out by knowledgeable and detail-oriented experts.
  2. Automated Inspection: To detect flaws early in the assembly process and lower the likelihood of defective items reaching the market, use automated inspection procedures like AOI.
  3. Thermal management: To properly disperse heat, especially in devices that are prone to producing large heat, make sure that features such as heat sinks and thermal vias are incorporated.
  4. X-ray inspection: Conducting an X-ray examination on PCBs with BGA components to identify quality problems and other issues following the reflow soldering process is another recommended procedure. This technique works especially well with intricate and stacked PCBs. The X-ray procedure aids in identifying defects like:
    • Open or short under BGA
    • There is not enough solder paste.
    • Fault Reflow profile
  5. Final inspection: Thorough checks will be done by a qualified PCB assembler to guarantee that the PCBs are error-free and operational. At this point, automated optical inspection (AOI), which employs cameras to find faults, is frequently used. You may quickly go through a lot of PCBs with the aid of AOI. Although it takes a lot of time and effort, manual inspection is nevertheless sometimes useful for batches of PCBs. Additional tests, such as functional and in-circuit testing, could be included in the final inspection.
  6. Traceability and Documentation: Keep thorough records of all tests, version control, and component traceability during the assembly process.
  7. Environmental Considerations: Take into account the circumstances the device will be subjected to and include safeguards such as conformal coating to out pollutants, moisture, and dust.
  8. Continuous Training: Provide assembly workers with regulator training to keep them updated on the newest developments in tools, materials, and methods.


In summary, PCB assembly is a crucial process in electronics manufacturing, bridging design concepts to tangible technological devices. Each stage, from precise component placement to meticulous testing, contributes to the final product's reliability. The accuracy of PCB assembly remains pivotal in driving innovation and shaping electronic products in our interconnected world. Advanced technology has enhanced PCB testing for improved accuracy and dependability. Implementing best practices and choosing a qualified PCB assembler significantly influences the quality of the produced PCBs.