5 Tips for Handling Printed Circuit Boards
Although printed circuit boards (PCBs) are designed to survive the heat and pressure applied throughout manufacturing, they are also built to withstand the stress of their operation. It is also vitally important that PCBs are handled with the right amount of care and caution.
Unfortunately, since PCBs are typically housed within electronics and are thus protected, the more significant focus on their design is function, not durability, meaning they have particular vulnerabilities worth addressing.
For instance, a PCB’s substrate can fracture, its electronic components can break or become contaminated, and static electricity discharges could also lead to various issues.
While some problems may be immediately apparent, others are more subtle. Unfortunately, that means there may be obvious signs of an issue with the PCB once installed in its intended electronic device and fails to function correctly. Therefore, exercising the most extreme caution when handling PCBs is always essential.
What are the most important things to consider when handling PCBs?
While some PCB functionality problems may be, at times, unavoidable, you can significantly decrease your chances of encountering such issues if you do not cause any of them yourself due to improper handling. Learning how to handle PCBs properly and consistently taking measures to ensure correct handling is crucial.
The following are some of the most significant things to keep in mind when you are handling PCBs:
1. Minimizing Physical Contact
One of the best practices to consider when it comes to handling PCBs is to minimize physical contact with the circuit board as often as possible.
The more you touch the PCB physically, the likelier you are to damage part of its sensitive electronics. That means rather than moving a PCB from place to place by hand, consider using a transportation rack and tray.
If there are situations when you do need to handle a PCB physically, you may also want to use proactive gloves when doing so.
2. Using the Right Tools
If you want to lower your chances of damaging a PCB, there are several tools that you should have on hand that will help you to avoid that. Having access to these tools and using them as needed will make life easier when it is necessary to handle PCBs.
The following are some of the best tools for this that you should consider using:
A Loupe or Magnifying Glass
When you are working on a PCB, there will often be minimal and detailed parts that you will need to work with, which is why it is always a good idea to have a jeweller's loupe or a robust magnifying glass on hand.
Inspecting your work as you go with the ability to see everything up close will allow you to ensure the utmost accuracy.
Poster putty is yet another valuable tool to have on hand, as it can function as a holder for small objects while working on them, replacing conventional helping hands tools if you do not have them.
Even when you press a PCB right down into poster putty, it typically does not leave any residue.
You may also want to get and use a pair of electronic tweezers, especially if you are working with incredibly tiny surface mount components.
It will make adding thru-hole components to the board much more effortless and ensure everything goes where it should be.
You can be more precise with tweezers than placing things with your fingers.
3. Keeping a Clean Workstation
Since most PCBs have various minor connection points that can quickly deteriorate if they come into contact with dirt and/or debris, it is always a good idea to put effort into keeping your workstation (or any area where you are handling PCBs, for that matter) as clean as possible.
Always attempt to remove clutter from this area, routinely sanitize surfaces, and keep your hands clean. The more minimal contact your PCBs have with unclean surfaces, the better off you will be.
4. Avoiding Electrostatic Discharge
PCBs contain a wide assortment of sensitive components that have internal circuitry that could be easily damaged by a shock, even one that is just 3,000 volts or less.
For this reason, one of the most common problems that could lead to the failure of PCB components is electrostatic (ESD) charges, which typically happen when a PCB is handled in a non-ESD-safe environment.
To avoid damage being caused to a PCB due to ESD, you should always be grounded with a wrist strap connected to the earth-ground whenever you handle one.
5. Avoiding Moisture
Another quick way to damage a PCB is by exposing it to moisture, as moisture contamination could lead to various issues.
Therefore, it is best to keep any liquids that could contaminate a PCB away from your workstation and keep unassembled PCBS and components in their protective bags until they are ready to be assembled.
Many PCB components have a date code that indicates how long they can be exposed to open air before risking moisture contamination, and this date should be strictly adhered to.
Why You Can Trust Circuits Central to Handle Your PCBs with Care
There are many ways that mishandling could lead to undesirable issues with a PCB. Still, when you work with PCB experts like those at Circuits Central, you can be sure that your PCBs are handled with extreme care throughout the PCB assembly and manufacturing process.
With over 25 years of operation under our belt, we have dealt with PCBs of all types and have worked on the development of these PCBs from the early design stages up to the point of final testing, so we certainly know everything there is to know about kind of caution that is required when handling such delicate circuit boards.
You can rely on us to take every necessary measure to ensure that your PCBs get to you in perfect working order when we are finished working on them.
You can come to Circuits Central for a full spectrum of electronics and PCB manufacturing services, including material procurement, complete turnkey manufacturing, PCB assembly, testing, and system integration.
Our dedicated engineers and technicians ensure that our work is always top-notch, as we value our customers’ satisfaction above all else. No matter what process stage you are in, we can help you achieve the desired outcomes.
To obtain information about how we can help you with PCB assembly or to learn more about our state-of-the-art PCB production facility, call Circuits Central at 1 (888) 602-7264 or email us at email@example.com.