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What Is the Difference between PCB and PCBA - NextPCB

Posted:11:29 AM November 10, 2022 writer: NextPCB

What is a PCB

A PCB (printed circuit board) is an electronic green card that holds several electronic components and signal tracks that connect them. PCBs have numerous functions on different devices. Hence they are distinct in several terms, for instance, shape, design, weight, material and manufacturing process. The applications of a PCB define its characteristics and specifications. That is why PCBs vary from each other and eventually provide a variety of circuit boards to use in different devices to get the desired results and high-quality performance. 

A PCB mainly consists of five materials dielectric material, prepreg, surface finish, solder mask and Copper or any other conducting material such as Aluminium and iron. 

What is a PCBA

A PCBA stands for Printed Circuit Board Assembled. The difference between a PCB and a PCBA is not soo major. A PCB is an unassembled PCB without components, whereas a PCBA is an assembled, furnished and checked PCB that is usually ready to use. To convert a PCB into a PCBA, we need to pass the PCB one step ahead for assembling. As there are three types of PCB assembling exists; the assembling process of a bare PCB is comprehensive and consists of several stages. If the PCB requires surface-mount assembling, it passes through the SMT assembling process and vice-versa. However, if the PCB utilizes a mixed-assembling technique, it goes through the SMT assembling process first and then the Through-hole assembling process. After assembly of the components and testing, the PCB upgrades to PCBA.

Take Out: It is not necessary to order a PCBA or get the assembling done through the manufacturer if you are short on budget or want to experience the process of PCB assembling. You can convert your PCB into PCBA at home. Here read NextPCB's complete guide to PCB assembling at home.

What is the difference between PCB and PCBA?

 The difference between a PCB and a PCBA is that a PCB is an unfinished circuit board with all signal tracks, pads and holes drilled into it but is incomplete in terms of components as components remain to be soldered on the circuit board. On the other hand, a PCBA is an assembled, cleaned and tested ready-to-use circuit board.

At the manufacturing level, there is no difference between the circuit of a PCB and a PCBA because the PCBA is an upgraded version of a bare printed circuit board. To upscale a PCB and convert it into a product that is ready to use, after the fabrication of the bare PCB, the manufacturer hands it over to the assembling department. Then the assembling department starts its work by sequencing the components and reference files. Now, depending on the assembling technology of the PCB, the PCB goes through the required procedure. Once the assembly is complete, the manufacturer carefully inspects and tests the PCB through different methods to check whether the circuit board provides the desired output. If the PCB clears the test, it upgrades to PCBA.

At delivering or transportation level, the PCBA requires more careful handling and anti-static packaging to deliver an appropriately functioning circuit board.

In terms of cost, obviously, due to added process and labour requirements, the PCBA is higher in price.

What Files Are Required to Manufacture a PCBA?

Gerber File (Mandatory)

A Gerber file is an essential file to manufacture a PCB. A Gerber file consists of all the information regarding all other necessary details about every individual layer of the PCB. After the assembly of the bare PCB, the manufacturer uses the Gerber file to cross-check the connections to eliminate errors. A Gerber file is mandatory to ensure the delivery of an appropriately functioning PCB.

Bill of Material (BOM) (Mandatory)

A bill of material is a comprehensive file that contains detailed information about all the materials used in the PCB. Hence, it is a mandatory file for PCB assembling. A BOM exhibit unique numbers for individual components that the manufacturer already silk-screened on bare PCBs during the manufacturing process. These reference numbers help PCB assemblers to place and check parts during assembling.

Here you can learn How to Build a Bill of Material BOM File for PCB Assembly

Pick and Place File (Optional)

A pick and place file contains the placement details of the components, for instance, their rotation and x-y coordinates. Any PCB design software can generate this pick and place or component placement list by extracting the data from the board's layout. This pick and place list is mandatory to use modern pick and place machines.

NextPCB's PCBA Services

 NextPCB has been serving PCB manufacturing, testing, assembling and component sourcing services for over 15 years. We at NextPCB believe in providing high-quality PCBs and PCBAs to develop a deep working relationship with our clients. In the past 15 years, NextPCB has worked with hundreds of clients worldwide and thousands of PCBs and PCBAs. Hence, we have a wide range of PCB services, including Aluminium-backed, ceramic-backed, high-frequency, high-speed, LED, through-hole, SMT, single-layer and multilayer PCB manufacturing and so on. To avail of any of our PCB, PCBA and component sourcing services, please do feel free to contact us.


A PCB is a bare printed circuit board, whereas a PCBA is an upscaled, assembled version of a PCB. To convert a PCB into a PCBA, we only need to soldered the components on the PCB and test PCB against the Gerber file to ensure no error is left in the circuit board.

Tag: pcb PCB PCBA
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