Routing Printed Circuit Boards
Routing Printed Circuit Boards
Most automated assembly equipment for printed circuit boards cannot handle small boards, and this results in more frequent defects during the assembly process. At Rush PCB UK, we minimize such defects and improve the throughput of our manufacturing processes by adopting a process known as panelization, which results in a larger PCB panel.
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What is Panelization?
When customers want us to make small PCBs, we add a number of them to make up a single large board. We call this a PCB panel or a PCB array. After assembly, the operator breaks these boards apart or depanelizes them into individual PCBs, and the activity is known as a breakout process.
The panelization process helps us to decrease the defects during the automated assembly process, as our machines now handle a larger board and encounter fewer problems. The throughput also improves, and this reduces assembly costs.
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Designers must meet several design specifications and considerations for panelization to succeed. We use various popular panelization methods, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Of the few panelization techniques that we use, designers commonly practice two:
V-Score Panelization — In this method, wedemarcate individual PCBs in the panel with V-shaped grooves. An angled blade cuts two v-shaped grooves on the top and bottom of the board, removing about a third of the board material, leaving about a third intact. Because of the nature of the cuts, we can execute v-scoring only in straight lines.
Tab-Routing Panelization — When it is not possible for us to use the v-scoring method of panelization, we use the tab-routing method. We pre-cut individual PCBs on the panel, leaving small perforated tabs to hold them in place on the board. Each tab has about three to five perforation holes depending on the size of individual boards. After assembly, the operator can break apart individual PCBs manually, without resorting to tools. This method has the advantage of being able to support designs with overhanging components that the v-scoring method cannot. However, tab-routing leaves the edges of the board with ragged projections.
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How are PCBs Depaneled?
After assembly, the operator must break apart the panel into individual PCBs. Breaking them apart manually often places stress on the board and its components, especially those placed very close to the edges. To avoid this issue, we use different tools for depanelizing PCBs. These include dicing cutters, wheel cutters, punches, and laser cutters.
Dicing cutters, wheel cutters, and punches are all mechanical cutting tools with several disadvantages. We use them for low-volume production runs. For higher throughput, high accuracy, and the least stress on the assembled board, we prefer using laser cutters.
Mechanical cutting methods are rather hard on the soldered joints on the board. Laser-cut boards have a smooth and clean edge, not requiring any further processing. Moreover, laser-cutting methods do not create dust particles as mechanical cutting methods do. Therefore, if your Printed circuit boards have sensitive optical sensors onboard, they benefit from this method. In our production lines, we are using laser-cutting methods, thereby eliminating downstream cleaning.
Where most mechanical cutting methods cut in straight lines only, laser-cutting methods have no such compulsions and can cut in any shape necessary. Moreover, lasers can cut through a wide variety of PCB materials.
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Unlike a mechanical cutter that has a physical presence and requires a large clearance for components near the edges, laser-cutting requires far less space. As a consequence, You can place components much closer to the edges when the board is to be cut with a laser beam.
In comparison with mechanical cutters, lasers are more expensive, and they can cut substrates with limited thickness, and at slower cycle times.
If you are looking for high-quality printed circuit boards, you can rely on us.
Rather than use traditional mechanical depanelizing mechanisms that are noisy and dusty on the production floor, at Rush PCB UK, we use laser cutting methods. This method produces far lower stress on the boards and reduce the scrap rate as well.
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