What is a PCB assembler? Learn from this detailed guide.
During PCB build, it’s essential to strategically place the parts on the board to ensure the device operates per the PCB design. It is where the role of a PCB assembly comes in handy.
So what does it entail, and what are some of the fundamental requirements of a PCB assembler?
Learn more on this in detail below from our guide, which will discuss all the intricacies of the PCB assembly process.
What is the PCB Assembly Process?
PCB assembly is a process that involves connecting different circuit board parts to build a working PCB.
Hence, it is not limited to placing the parts via surface mount technology and other techniques but also entails the PCB wiring process.
A PCB wiring process can be simple or sophisticated, depending on the PCB design.
In electronics assembly and designs involving high-volume production, PCB assemblers apply technology.
An example of such a case is whereby the manufacturer uses a wave soldering machine.
However, even the simple DIY PCB construction you do in the lab with simple techniques like manual soldering is also an assembly process.
Some of the processes to ensure product quality in high-tech assembly work include:
- Control of etch time
- Optical Inspection
- Checking the soldering paste condition
- Testing the workings of the circuit board connections.
Printed Circuit Board Assembly Stages
An electronics assembler at work.
Below are some of the mandatory steps each assembly must follow during the industrial production of printed circuit boards:
- The primary action is the application of a solder paste onto the printed circuit board laminate to prepare the surface for the attachment of components. But you must know that the solder paste application is unnecessary during wave soldering applications.
- Next, the assembler system undertakes the component placement procedure. Again, this is straightforward and important in ensuring each surface mount component is at its rightful position.
- The soldering paste is crucial in holding the surface mount component in place during the third stage, primarily involving soldering joints. Here the manufacturer may opt to use any of the different soldering processes, although the commonest is wave soldering.
- Fourthly, the manufacturer visually inspects the soldered parts to check for defects. The optical inspection of the printed circuit board laminate is also significant in identifying where the solder paste has spread to unintended parts.
- The final step is testing the printed circuit board laminates with the components to confirm that each works perfectly. It is a more sophisticated process than visual inspection.
What Are Various Ways to Create PCB Assemblies?
In detail, let’s now explore the four main techniques of rigid printed board assemblies.
An SMT system.
SMT assembly primarily involves creating a program that directs the pick and place system on where to input the respective components.
The sophisticated bit with SMT assembly places the electronic components in the appropriate orientation on the board.
Next, the system applies solder on the parts that are on the rigid printed board assemblies and connect all the parts necessary to create a working PCB.
Finally, once the component placement and soldering are complete, the system performs reflow soldering.
The reflow process is heat-intensive, and it assists in ensuring the components permanently fit onto the board.
Also, the reflow process involves heating the soldering paste at high temperatures and helping it to form a strong bond on the joint.
Plated Through-Hole Technology (PTH)
Manual placement of components during assembly.
The distinguishing feature of this rigid printed board assembly technique is that the PTH assembly involves component mounting via holes on the PCB.
Also, there’s an edge of copper around the holes to ensure that the connected component can conduct current.
This additional copper layer is very critical in the long-term functionality of the circuit board.
Another remarkable feature of this process is that it involves the manual placement of the components.
Why? Because expertise’s needed to place each part in the respective holes.
But after component placement, like in the SMT technology, there’s also reflux soldering at the end to strengthen the bond of the soldered parts.
This electronics assembly mode is a blend of electrical and mechanical processes, arguably the commonest technique compared to the former two.
You’ll find others refer to it as a box-build assembly.
The rigid printed board assembly technology is helpful in circuit board prototyping, printed circuit board designing, and the production of PCBs.
What is a PCB Assembler?
An automated PCB assembler system.
Any company, firm or sole proprietor who creates working printed circuit boards by installing the electronics components into them is an assembler.
Assemblers have the necessary skills to merge electronic parts into Printed Circuit boards. The job description and roles of a PCB assembler are as follows:
- Following sample boards in PCB design
- Reading and routing of wires
- Picking electrical components and inputting them where necessary.
What Does a PCB Assembler Do?
PCB design engineers at work.
A PCB assembler uses many tools, including handheld and automated high-tech tools.
Also, there’s the application of an incredible bit of manual labor in soldering electronics parts onto a plain, printed circuit board.
Also, the assembler implements quality control duties that include in-circuit testing and solder paste inspection to ensure everything falls onto the rightful place.
Although they are not directly involved, PCB assemblers also supervise the automated optical inspection of the PCBs.
Here are some of their skills:
- They must primarily possess knowledge of the workings of PCBs, especially those involved in high-volume production.
- Also, they must be efficient in assembly machine operations and understand how to set up the systems for each assembly process. An assembler should know how to operate the tools and deliver results within the set design times.
- Third, they must know how to solve some of the common problems during the production process of PCBs. If there’s a challenge in the production systems or PCB traces, they should detect it early and report it to the relevant authorities.
- They must have board-level repair skills, meaning they should know how to interpret PCB and the finer details of the PCB designs. Moreover, understanding how to repair the printed circuit board production machinery is a bonus in this trade.
How to Become a PCB Assembler?
Would you like to be an assembler? Here are some of the skills you should possess.
- Ideally, you will land an assembler job in a top manufacturing firm with about six years of experience in the trade.
- Knowhow of computer-aided drafting (CAD) systems is a bonus for those applying to an assembler role. You will need to be capable of reading and interpreting PCB designs.
- Again, it’s imperative to possess practical experience in using drafting tools and the ability to operate within safety and regulatory guidelines.
- Lastly, you must be willing to learn how to use production tools in detail.
In a nutshell, a PCB assembler is an entity that complies with the set regulations, such as the Rohs Compliance Guide, in the manufacturing of printed circuit boards.
Given a PCB’s cardinal role in virtually any electronic device, it’s a complex discipline requiring high-level skills.
Therefore, the individual or company must possess the required skills to produce well-working boards.