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PCB:

What is it?
A printed circuit board (PCB) mechanically supports and electrically connects
electronic components using conductive tracks, pads and other features etched
from copper sheets laminated onto a non-conductive substrate.
Printed circuit board dates back to the 1900s where Chalres Ducas first submitted a
patent that included an electrical path traced directy on an insulated surface. The
main reasons for this was to get rid of the messy wires in use for electrical systems
and replace with a space saving, more efficient way into electronics with the use of
PCB.
PCB boards done by hand take a lot of time, consists of errors, and economically
weak. Also due to the complexity of the designs, it is practically impossible to obtain
by hand what can be obtained now by computer integration.
A printed circuit board is one of the complex products which heavily depend on
computer integration to manufacture PCB from its modeling to production and
component assemblies.

The first step involve modeling the design in software enabling designers fast
manipulations of design, avoid repetition and consider space orientated
design. The design is converted in to gerber files which define the copper
tracking layers (4 in the job we are following) as well as the soldermasks and
component notations.
Fig
ure 1: Software model of a PCB design [1]

Preparing the Phototools


Lazer photoplotters which are fed digital commands are used to print films
later used to image the PCBs.
Printing Inner Layers
The films produced are used as mask to harden areas exposed to yellow light.
Etching
PCB boards undergo an automated etching process which removes the
unhardened resist.(time in dip)
Register punch and Automatic Optical Inspection (AOI)
The inner and outer layers are lined and an automatic inspection is done
through lazer inspection.
Drilling the PCB
Drilling the PCB is a fully automated process where the drill program is
inserted into the machine which drills holes as thin as the human hair. The
tool change is automated as well.
Electroless Copper deposition
Involves a very thin layer of copper being plated through electroplating onto
the PCB. This process is fully computer controlled to ensure proper timing
inside the electrolyte tanks.
Conductor plating
The outer layer now consists of copper connection which do not allow
soldering. To make the board solderable, plating of gold, tin or nickel is done.

Solder Resist
The areas which do not require solder are covered with a polymer coating
which prevents shorcircuits.
PCB Testing.
Testing are computer integrated which does probe point to point test
directing a voltage and recording the data obtained, image processing and
validation. The data is compared with the desired results in a database and
the PCB is ready for the next stage of assembly of components.
Assembly:
PCB boards assembly is in itself a broad process incorporating material
handling systems such as robotic arms and automated conveyors. Also
automated soldering system using through hole soldering and surface mount
methods.
Through hole soldering involves a drilled hole where the components is
soldered the other side. These are large components which need mechanical
strength.Automating this process involves a wave of solder material through
which the PCB is run over.
Surface mount constructions involve soldering smaller components on one
side.

Figure 2: a completed Printed Circuit Board [2]