Not only people communicate in this digital era, but devices can too! IoT has led to the connection of devices over the internet, so a smartwatch- device A, can exchange data with device B – a mobile phone. Behind every successful IoT device is a well-designed Printed Circuit Board (PCB). We simply cannot separate the two. This article offers guidance on PCB Assembly and Manufacturing for IoT products.
What exactly is a PCB Assembly?
A Printed Circuit Board (PCB) is a traditional name given to a board that holds and electrically connects electrical components in a device or a product. PCBs are in almost every device from the TV we use to watch rockets as they accelerate towards the sky, to the actual rockets themselves. A PCB consists primarily of 4 layers: a substrate, a copper layer, a solder mask, and a silkscreen.
Substrate, Copper, Soldermask, Silkscreen
The PCB substrate is the material that provides structure and holds the components and traces in place. Like a house is built upon a foundation, so are other PCB layers built on the substrate. On top of the basic substrate, there is a thin copper layer used to make traces or conductive paths. The conducting paths are used for electricity to travel from one component to another. Copper is chosen for this task because it is highly conductive and readily available. The solder mask lies on top of the copper layer and is used to provide insulation between the conductive copper traces. Lastly is the silkscreen, it is a white ink that is used for indication purposes. It adds letters, numbers, logos, symbols, and so on, on the PCB board to identify the components on the board.
Assembly & Manufacturing
A Printed Circuit Assembly (PCA) is a bare PCB board that is clothed with all the relevant electrical components of a device. It is basically a PCB board ready for action. The process of creating a PCA is called PCB Assembly (PCBA) and it's the second step taken in PCB Manufacturing. The manufacturing of a PCB consists of two steps, the second is PCBA, and the first is the board fabrication.
IoT impact on PCB Assembly
IoT is like a colossal community of devices that improves the quality of the lives of people in quite a number of ways. It has sensors to create smart cities with efficient water, traffic, and waste management. It also has wearables, smart grids and the long list goes on and on and on. The PCB industry is very much aware of the fact that IoT is a success and that it is here to stay, probably for a long time. The PCB assembly process has therefore been modified to keep up and to meet the low power needs, compact size, and flexibility requirements of IoT devices.
A PCB used, for example, a fitness tracker should be capable of holding a lot of components on small board space. Such types of PCBs are called High-Density Interconnect (HDI) PCBs. They have higher wiring densities, smaller spaces, and vias than traditional PCBs. HDIs are great for IoT products because they reduce the board space and cost of an IoT product. They treat space like it is a premium resource in order to meet the compact size requirement of IoT products.
To answer the flexibility call, the PCB industry provides Flexible PCBs (also known as Flex PCBs). They are made with a malleable substrate so they have a lot of freedom and can be easily installed in IoT devices of various shapes. By combining HDI and Flex PCB design approaches, the challenging requirements of the IoT community are met. Companies are then able to create smaller and lighter IoT products without compromising performance.
HDI and Flex PCBs can be ordered from NextPCB
NextPCB is a prominent PCB manufacturing company with over 15 years of experience. It provides quality PCB manufacturing services and it has numerous quality certifications including, IATF16949, ISO 9001, ISO 14001, UL, RoHS, CQC and REACH. It is also equipped with AOI, X-RAY testing, and multiple functional testing. And even better, the PCBs come with a fast turnaround time and relatively low prices.