4 Signs It’s Time for a Circuit Board Test

February 11, 2022

It is possible for printed circuit boards to fail or become defective in different ways, causing electronics to fail completely or partially. It usually happens when a board hasn't been handled properly. You can sometimes repair PCB trace damage yourself, but, since it's such an integral part of devices, it’s crucial to know when to replace a faulty circuit board and what signs to look for that it is beyond repair.

What should you do if you suspect your circuit board is faulty? 

  1. The board should be tested with the power on if electronic components have been installed.
  2. If electrical components have not been installed, shut off the power source before inspecting the board. The connection wires should also be cut and peeled away from the circuit board using wire cutters. Unplug the items that do not need to be clipped.
  3. Check for signs of damage on the circuit board, such as crushed components, bulges, cracked wires, misplaced or extra solder, burn marks and scratches that indicate that the board needs to either be replaced or to be repaired.
  4. It is possible for scratches to expose and damage the connections beneath the lamination. Solders that are misplaced can result in a short circuit, disrupting the other connections. Whenever you see signs like these, do not undergo further testing. Damaged parts are obviously defective and should be returned to the supplier.
  5. Switch the circuit board on by connecting it to its regular power source. It is important to check the voltages of all the connections on the circuit board schematic with an oscilloscope. This can be accomplished by applying voltage probes to the ends of each connection, which enables the issue to be isolated faster.
  6. Based on the information from the circuit board schematic, record the results of all your connections. A bad circuit board is indicated if the connections do not conduct the specified voltage.

PCB Failures: 4 Signs and Causes to Watch Out For

A printed circuit board can be found in a variety of electronic devices, from airplanes to medical equipment. Therefore, understanding the causes of circuit board failure and avoiding them is important. Age and weather can damage a circuit board, resulting in sporadic or total power outages. The following are the most common causes of a malfunctioning PCB:

1. Burnt components

Burnt components happen when PCBs are exposed to high temperatures. When the area surrounding a component is inadequate, the likelihood of the component burning up increases significantly. A component's shape and size also impact its heat tolerance. Microprocessors, capacitors and other components may form the component. If the component fails to function, it will need to be replaced completely. These components can overheat, potentially causing operational problems and failure to power on.

2. Components that are improperly manufactured

During the designing and manufacturing stages of production, there may be problems with power supply and improperly placed components. Among the problems encountered are soldering issues, chemical leaks and barrier breakage. Many requirements and variables need to be considered to minimize the risk of errors. Human error, room cleanliness and the room's environment all need to be considered.

During assembly and manufacture, human error can also cause PCB failure. Various factors contribute to this problem, such as poor connectivity between layers, poor soldering and improperly installed components. Bad solder, loose components and connection problems signal a poorly manufactured board. An automated manufacturing process decreases the likelihood of issues that may result in circuit board failure.

If you suspect that the boards SMT componets are glitchy or that there are pieces that are cracked or not sealed properly you can use a dye and prye test to determine if the issue exists and to what extent it is impacting your device. 

3. Factors related to the environment

Assembling electronic components in a room with humidity may influence how solders and components react. Therefore, the environmental conditions need to be controlled. Additionally, PCBs are fragile and can be disrupted by contamination. A malfunctioning PCB can be caused by sudden spikes and overloads, accidental falls, moisture, dust and heat. 

PCBs are affected by various environmental factors. Circuit boards exposed to harsh environments can be damaged as a result of being exposed to elements that interfere with their functionality. Submersion in water, electrical fires and lightning are some other causes. 

Circuit board breakdowns are frequently caused by these issues and even the best-crafted boards will find it difficult to overcome these problems. Over time, debris and dirt can corrode a board. An extreme heat environment can also reduce the lifespan of a circuit board.

4. Age

Circuit boards may eventually fail due to the age of some of their components. A PCB's vulnerability to failure increases as it ages. At the end of their lifespan, the components start to malfunction but this can be rectified by repairing them or by replacing them. 

It is possible to replace faulty parts with new ones as a sustainable and economically viable solution to several issues that arise due to ageing. PCB failure due to ageing is inevitable, but new parts can be substituted rather than creating a whole new circuit board. Even before the circuit boards reach consumers, they can fail for a variety of reasons.

Circuit board testing becomes more effective when you're aware of the causes of failure. A thorough inspection and evaluation can reveal many PCB failure concerns that can be addressed through repairs and reworking. You can visually inspect burnt components, but to diagnose more complex issues, you would need an experienced technician.

We rely on circuit boards 

Many people don't realize that their devices and electronics consist of many internal components that facilitate the functionality and features they need every day. Mobile phones, for example, are composed of many components, each connected to the next. One of these essential components is a printed circuit board which is the base for several types of electronics. 

A PCB is necessary for various devices to function. If it malfunctions or fails, some serious problems can arise. Circuit boards can become damaged over time, reducing their overall performance and functionality. Circuit boards can be affected by factors such as humidity, age and weather. 

There is, however, the possibility of reworking or repairing boards in order to make them like new. In order to recondition a board or repair it, it is crucial to understand what went wrong. Identifying and solving the problems on a circuit board is one of the ways of finding out if it is defective.

Contact Us for Electronic Circuit Design Services in Toronto

For more information about circuit board testing and upgrading, or to schedule a dye and prye test in Toronto for your circuit board, call Circuits Central at 1-888-602-7264 or contact us here.

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