Choosing Optimal PCB Panel Sizes for Cost-Effective Manufacturing
Rush PCB UK uses the latest technologies for making PCBs. Although the production processes for making PCBs are not always easy, we automate most of them. For this, we use special software for parts of the work, especially when we produce PCBs in large quantities. For those new to the world of printed circuit boards, we would like to explain things crucial about PCB manufacturing like standard PCB panel sizes, and why Rush PCB UK is one of the best companies from where to get your printed circuit boards.
Why PCB Panels?
Our customers have their own reasons of getting their PCB made. These reasons are extremely diverse, and the same is true for the myriad sizes of PCBs in the market. Rather than fabricate boards of various sizes, manufacturers prefer to standardize them by designing them in panels.
Once the designer has made a custom printed circuit board, they put them in standard panels. This depends on the manufacturer, as they decide the panel size most suitable to them for optimizing the output, reducing the cost, and improving the quality of the board.
Manufacturers use different methods for depaneling or removing individual boards from the panel. Some use the V-groove method, while others use the tab routing method. The method of depaneling depends on the design of the PCB, and the manufacturer chooses the method that causes the least damage to the boards when removing them from the panel.
Deciding the PCB Board Panel Size
Another factor that plays a major role in deciding the panel size is the thickness of the PCB. The thickness of a board depends on its application—thicker boards are necessary when it is known that they will be subject to high amounts of vibration, while thin and flexible boards are useful where they will be subject to flexing and bending.
Typically, an average circuit board is 0.063 inches (63 Mils, 1.6 mm) thick. For achieving the highest quality, manufacturers take into consideration the board thickness while deciding the processes for fabrication. They calculate the panel size accordingly so that the area utilization is maximum.
Apart from the size and thickness of individual boards, the panel size also depends on the method of depanelng or separating the individual boards from the panel. This is because the method the manufacturer will use for depaneling decides the separation and clearance between adjacent boards.
When constructing a printed circuit board, manufacturers choose a standard PCB panel size to make their work faster and more efficient. For a standard panel size of 18 x 24 inches, the border clearance should be a maximum of half inch. However, for PCBs with higher number of layers, the requirement of border clearance also increases. As the number of layers increases, more marks are necessary for handling and alignment, thereby taking up more space in the border clearance.
In a board measuring 12 x 18 inches, the layout likely takes up 10 x 16 inches. However, multi-layered boards require additional assembly and marking clearance. Additionally, panels require border clearance, specific routing, and milling clearance. If all the boards in the panel are similar, the paneling is faster, and it costs less. However, if the individual boards in the panel are all different, the paneling process becomes a challenge, and requires experience and skilled professional engineers.
For identical boards, the configuration and paneling process is straight forward, as the process is geometrically identical, and it is possible to automate it by a step-and-repeat process. However, for individually different boards, this strategy fails, and positioning the boards requires an expert to do it manually.
Recommendations for Standard PCB Board Panel Sizes
Rush PCB UK recommends customers to discuss their board requirements with us before placing orders. We cooperate with our customers and try to minimize the board cost while still getting the best possible size.
Economizing the space on the standard PCB panel leads to a reduction in the cost of producing custom circuit boards. Therefore, it is necessary to discuss with us when you happen to decide on the size of your circuit board. We will guide you to resize your board such that panelization works out in the best possible manner.
It is very important that you select an experienced PCB manufacturing company like Rush PCB UK to get your boards fabricated. When you want a high-quality product, there will be several manufacturers who can produce PCBs for you. For us at Rush PCB UK, this is not a problem at all. We not only advise you as to the most optimum size of your PCB, but also inform you about details like dimensions of the space between individual boards and the space around the panel edges.