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Looking at how far the PCB industry has evolved you will note how PCBs used to be a few decades ago and how they are now. Huge credit goes to all the technological advancements, and a huge part of this development also goes to the equipment that the professionals use. The PCB manufacturing process needs and uses lots of different things.
The PCB manufacturing process includes different phases, and different types of equipment under use throughout the process. So, here we will be covering all of the equipment used for PCB making.
The following are different equipment types that professionals use in the complete PCB manufacturing process.
The first type of equipment needed is schematic equipment. This is the equipment that involves a lot of human interaction, which is mostly in need for designing and computing circuits to design the schematic efficiently.
The schematic designing equipment usually needs some hardware which will be a computer, but an important part of this equipment is the software where engineers and circuit designers design their circuits. In some cases, engineers and professionals do not need to design the whole circuit schematic because the client provides the schematic they designed.
In that case, it only has a need to design that schematic into a circuit for PCB manufacturing.
When the professionals complete the circuit designing part, they finalize the design with other professionals in the team. Then it is time to change that soft design into the PCB available in hard form.
It is the part of the process where the need of imaging equipment is there. Imaging equipment helps the professionals to get their design on the copper panels that can next become the complete PCBs in the further steps.
The imaging equipment uses different machines to convert the raw copper panels into copper panels with circuit images on them.
Etching and stripping are the machines that remove any unnecessary copper from the copper panels. Before the copper panels move to this equipment section, some image films are applied to the copper panels. In this way, the required traces of copper stay at their place because of being under the image film.
At the same time, the unnecessary copper goes away because of the ammonia that gets sprayed on the copper panels. Removing the copper alone is unnecessary because that image film or any other film must also be removed.
For the removal of those things stripping machines are used. After the panels pass through the stripping equipment, nothing is left on them but the necessary copper traces.
Masking equipment is used for masking the bare copper traces. Although the copper traces are good for making different connections, they are not safe because any short circuit can happen in them. Especially when we talk about the components that need to be tightly packed and small PCBs with lots of wires and components, the chances of accidental short circuits increase.
So, the panels go through the masking equipment where a mask is applied. An important thing for the masking equipment is to make sure that copper traces are covered only on the parts where no connections are to be made. Similarly, only those parts need to be left uncovered where connections will be made.
Chemical treatment equipment is also an important part of the whole PCB manufacturing factory because it makes the copper terminal points good for soldering and attaching components. At the same time, it protects the PCB terminals against corrosion or other oxidation processes that may make them unsuitable for soldering components on the PCB.
Most of the products and electronics need multilayer PCB in them because the multilayer PCB allows fitting in more components in less space. However, making those multilayer PCBs in one go is not possible. So, different layers are laminated together.
To make this happen the lamination equipment is needed where it uses heat and pressure to push and connect the different layers. After different layers of PCB are connected, they are left for some time for curing. If a professional PCB manufacturing factory does not provide multilayer PCBs, lamination equipment is no need.
CNC and drilling equipment have high importance in the whole PCB-making process. You may have noticed that PCBs are held secured inside the devices on their mounts most of the time. Sometimes those mounts need plastic stoppers, while sometimes screws do the job. So, the CNC and drilling equipment makes sure to drill all the holes for mounting PCBs easily.
Similarly, some components need to pass through the PCB and are soldered on the other side. The CNC and drilling equipment also makes sure to drill all the holes for such components. The last use of the CNC and drilling equipment for the PCB-making factories is to cut individual PCBs from the larger panels.
As the panels are huge and PCB needs to be small most of the time, the CNC and drilling equipment trims every PCB small and removes the excess/unnecessary material from it.
The PCB manufacturing process is almost complete; however, it is still needed to test that completed product. It must perform right according to the requirements specified in the designing process. So, different automated testing machines, as well as manual oscillators, are used for testing the PCB.
The equipment discussed above was only related to PCB manufacturing. Sometimes a PCB factory also provides assembly services along with DFMA services. For those services, some additional equipment is also needed.
That equipment is usually related to the steps that are done after the manufacturing process is complete. So, some of the things that a PCB factory will need apart from manufacturing for assembly services include:
Solder printing machines are machines that are loaded with solder paste. These machines are needed to print the solder paste on all the parts of the PCB where soldering work has to be done. However, it is not needed only to print on the PCB as checking for errors is also necessary. For that, solder inspection equipment is also necessary.
This equipment usually has optical sensors and testers that check for shorts and missing points. In this way, the whole PCB gets solder paste applied to the parts needed.
Every PCB gets lots of components on it, so there is a need to place the components on the PCB. Doing this with hands will take forever to get a batch done. So, this work is done with the help of the component picking and placing machines. These machines pick the components which are first arranged in a specific order.
After picking the components, the machine places them on the exact spot where they need to be. These machines also have to be careful about the positioning as well as the direction of the components, as some components need to cover specific points in a specific manner to ensure the right polarity of connections made.
This part of the solder manufacturing equipment is all about connecting the components that were just placed on the PCB. There are different types of machines included in this category of equipment, including wave soldering, reflow soldering, or some other soldering techniques.
The selection and usage of these machines depend on a different set of rules according to the type of components and PCB.
The final equipment in the PCB assembly process is also the inspection equipment. The automatic machines get the data about the working of circuits, and they test the whole working of a PCB. At the same time, some manual testing is also done.
Manual testing includes visual testing to look for defects but sometimes machines also become a part of the testing equipment like multimeters and oscillators.
After the PCB passes through all of these machines, all of the components are present on it, and it is also verified for working as per requirements. The best thing about using all of this machinery from different equipment categories is that the final PCB comes out to be of the best quality and performs the best as well.
However, one thing that is true for sure is that none of the PCB factors can run without human involvement. All of this equipment and machines may need human involvement to make sure that everything is being done perfectly.
PCB manufacturing process is a process that needs extreme precision for good quality products for the product. It is also necessary that the production units perform quite well. So, to meet all of these requirements, having all the equipment is necessary. Here we shared all of the machines and equipment used for the PCB making process by the professionals in the industry.