PCB (printed circuit board) serves as the central processing unit of electrical currents in an electronic device. Any device that runs on electricity has it. It is either one-layered or multiple layered. It is either single-sided or double-sided, depending on the function and the PCB assembly (PCBA) method used.
PCB is useless without electronic components attached to it. Before it reaches the final stage, which is the assembly stage, it undergoes designing process and fabrication. In this article, you’ll learn how the assembly process is done.
The assembly process has two subdivisions, the mounting of the components and the “finishing touches”. The mounting of the components is what PCB manufacturers refer to as PCB assembly. On the other hand, the “finishing touches” refer to the attachment of outer packaging to complete the electronic device. Examples of outer packaging are the attachment of screen for smartphones, wirings for televisions and among others.
Two assembly companies may do the subdivisions of the assembly process, separately. Alternatively, one company may perform these two assembly processes, simultaneously.
Two popular assembly technologies are in use today. These are through hole (TMT) and the surface mount technology (SMT). Despite rumors that TMT is getting obsolete, both are still in use by many assembly companies. These two assembly technologies have their uses. One technology may not be applicable on producing certain electronic products while the other is more suitable.
Surface-Mount Technology (SMT)
An SMT process is the mounting of electronic components on the surface of a printed circuit board with the use of solder pads instead of drilling holes. Though the drilling of holes is not eliminated in an SMT process, there is a significant decrease of holes used.
Majority of PCB assemblers use this technology, especially in the telecommunications industry and other electronic industry that requires sophisticated PCB assembly. Because of surface mounting, double-sided PCB became a possibility.
Aside from this advantage, SMT is cost efficient in terms of mass production. The machines in an SMMT process are fast and can mount electronic components into hundreds of PCBs in a matter of minutes. This technology has also contributed to the low cost, entry level electronic devices in the market because more and more manufacturers adopt such technology in their assembly houses.
However, one major disadvantage of SMT procedure is its unreliability of the mounted electronic components. Manufacturers that produce heavy duty appliances and electrical devices do not use this technology because of this drawback. That is where the through-hole technology comes in.
Through-Hole Technology (TMT)
The through-hole mounting technology (TMT) is the process of drilling the PCB with holes and mounting the electronic components through the holes. The pins of the components are soldered and cut accordingly.
The bond is stronger compared to an SMT procedure. This advantage makes the TMT a preferred technology when it comes to the production of heavy-duty electronic equipment. Examples of these are equipment used in the construction industry, military and aerospace and other machines that are exposed to a constant wear and tear.
Another advantage of TMT is its usage in prototyping. TMT mounting machines are easier to change its set up and correct the errors after checking the PCB for any defect. The major disadvantage of TMT is that manufacturers are limited to the one side of the board.
When it comes to mass production, PCB assembly houses prefer surface mount technology. On the other hand, through-hole mounting technology is best for prototypes and heavy-duty equipment. These technologies use electro-mechanical method and manual assembly along the process. Despite the sophisticated machines used in an SMT assembly, manufacturers still have to adopt quality controls on the PCBs before shipping them to the clients.
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