For decades, through-hole circuits were the industry standard. They were relatively simple and required holes in the board. The components were mounted on one side of the board, and the leads were threaded through matching holes. Anyone who has ever worked with a breadboard to design a simple circuit will have a good understanding of how these types of boards were created.
However, as the demand for electronic devices increased, there became a need to automate the process of manufacturing the boards. Unfortunately, it was soon found that using automation would be difficult. It was not easy to get the right components and leads matched up with the right holes. It ended up taking a long time and costing a lot of money. Therefore, surface mounted technology was created to make things easier from the design to the assembly.
Surface mount technology offers a host of advantages and benefits, and over the past several decades, it has become the standard for manufacturing PCBs. Let’s look at some of the biggest benefits that it can offer.
Smaller Size and Greater Design Flexibility
One of the most commonly cited benefits is that surface mount technology means it’s possible to create smaller PCB designs. This is because you can increase the component density on the board. More of the components can be placed in a smaller space but will still provide the capabilities and performance of a larger board.
This means that the devices that will eventually contain the printed circuit boards can be smaller, as well. Smaller electronic devices and smaller boards are always important. It often means that a device that is complex can fit in a person’s pocket, such as their smartphone. People tend to like going smaller with most types of technology.
This also means that the weight of the boards will be lower. The lower weight provides even more possibilities for designers. For example, having smaller and lighter boards placed in drones means they will weigh less and use less power to fly. Cutting the weight out of items could also reduce shipping costs in some cases. Lightweight tends to be better, and this is another area where SMT can excel.
Because there are not any through-holes to worry about with these boards, it tends to make them easier to assemble. Easier assembly for the manufacturer will generally mean faster assembly, as well. This means you get your boards more quickly. Typically, it also reduces the potential for mistakes during the assembly process.
Because the assembly is easier and because the boards are smaller, it often means that the cost will be lower, too. Of course, the company you choose to do the manufacturing will also be a factor in how much it costs for the boards.
Does Surface Mount Technology Have Any Disadvantages?
With all of the benefits that SMT can offer, you might be wondering if there are any disadvantages. While most will agree that the benefits will outweigh the drawbacks, it’s important to note that there may be some disadvantages. For example, because there is only a small amount of lead space, it could make repairs more difficult. Additionally, if a component has a high electrical load or if it generates a lot of heat, it can’t be mounted using SMT. This is because the solder could melt under intense heat, which would end up rendering the PCB useless.
What’s Right for Your Needs?
What option will you be using to create your boards? Surface mount technology can work well for many different types of PCBs. However, there could be times when through-hole solutions, or some hybrid of the two, will be a better option.
Using software like PCB Artist is a good way to design a PCB and see whether it will work virtually. The software is easy to use and offers more than half a million components for design work. After designing your PCB using the software, the design can be reviewed to determine whether it will work or not. This way, you have a second set of eyes looking at the work to ensure it’s ready to go.
Get a Prototype
However, even with an engineering file review, it’s important to get hands-on time with the PCB using surface mount technology before going into full production. After you’re happy with your initial design, you will want to order a prototype. Getting just a few boards is easy when you go through Advanced Circuits, as we don’t have a minimum order.
When you get the prototype, you need to put it through its paces in real-world scenarios. What types of conditions will the board face when it’s used in your device? Monitor how it works and take note of any areas that may be having problems. Putting it through a rigorous testing process will help to make it easier to find any potential problems.
It’s always better to know about problems sooner rather than later. Just assuming that the design is good and ordering 5,000 PCBs that end up overheating would be a huge problem for your company. There is also the potential that it could reduce the trust your customers have in your products. Finding and correcting the design before it is mass-produced, even if it takes a couple of prototype and revision rounds, is a better solution. It will save money and keep your customers happier in the end.
Once you are pleased with your design and you’ve seen how it will work in real-world situations, you can then move to the manufacturing stage. Advanced Circuits can do more than just provide software and guidance. We’re a full manufacturing facility that makes all of the PCBs ourselves. We also have a fantastic turnaround time, getting PCBs to our customers within a matter of days.
We have a substantial amount of experience with the assembly of surface mount technology boards and can provide you with exactly what you need. Get in touch for a quote and to learn more about the services and options that are available.