The Difference Between PCB and PCBA

what is the difference between PCB and pcba

PCB vs PCBA

Introduction

The two terms “PCB” and “PCBA” are often used interchangeably.

But this shorthand is wrong.

In this article, we give you information about both PCB and PCBA so that you know how to tell apart a PCB from PCBA.

Why do you need this information?

So that you can quickly name and order what you want specifically from dedicated service providers or manufacturers.

To avoid confusion, you need to know specifically what you are asking for, is it PCB or PCBA?

Please read on for valuable advice.

What is a PCB

What is a PCB?

What is a PCB?

A Printed Circuit Board is:

  • The item that makes it possible to power, run and control any electronic device
  • A common item found in all types of electronic gadget
  • Also called circuit board or Printed Wiring Board
  • Made usually of fiberglass substrate, with a copper layer
  • Has copper traces on it where electrical signals, ground, and power signals travel
  • Just a board with no PCB components put on top of it (mounted)

The PCB replaced point-to-point wiring, which is messy and inaccurate. Without a PCB, no smartphone, factory equipment, medical equipment, or anything with electronics will function.

PCB components

What is PCBA

What is PCBA?

PCBA is not an item. A PCBA is a service.

PCBA means “Printed Circuit Board Assembly”.

In the PCB Assemble Process, the following are accomplished:

  • Solder paste application (automated or manual)
  • Component placement
  • Reflow or Wave Soldering – the board with the components are put into a PCB Oven
  • PCB Inspection – automated inspection is usually carried out

We elaborate on the PCB process later in this article.

What is the difference between PCB and PCBA?

You buy a PCB. Then, when you want components mounted on top of it, you get someone to do Printed Circuit Board Assembly.

It is like buying Lego bricks. You buy Lego bricks, but when you get home, you need to assemble the Lego bricks.

Thankfully, when you buy a PCB from most manufacturers, they can have the PCB assembled, as they offer PCBA services.

PCB and PCBA Process

In this section, we discuss first how PCBs are made, then we proceed to explain the PCBA assembly process.

Here’s a video about how a typical PCB is made, followed by how the PCBA is accomplished:

 

How PCBs are made

You start with a base. The most common base is fiberglass, but there are other materials like ceramic and polyimide. Then, the base needs to be joined with copper cladding. To join both together, the PCB is laminated. The base plus the cladding forms the PCB core.

The tracks on the board must be printed after the PCB base is finished. LDI printing has become increasingly popular since it produces the greatest results.

The next phase is PCB etching, which comes after printing. While some employ PCB milling equipment, others use chemicals for etching.

Regardless of the technique, getting rid of extra copper traces on the board is the main objective.

Electricity can flow on the PCB traces once you remove the extra copper traces.

Now, for multilayer PCBs, each PCB board is “glued” to another using heat and PCB insulation.

Vias (Buried, Blind, and Through Hole) also connect multilayer PCBs together.

How the PCBA Process is Accomplished

How the PCBA Process is Accomplished

How the PCBA Process is Accomplished

Assembling circuit boards or PCBs happens after the PCBs are made. You cannot do PCBA without completely formed PCBs.

The following is a simplified step-by-step way PCBA is accomplished:

  • The PCBA assembly begins with the PCB design indicating where the components are to be placed in the PCB.
  • Ready PCB boards are given the solder paste application treatment
  • Solder paste is like glue—it is used to make the components adhere
  • The boards with the “glue” on them are then passed on to robots.
  • These robots pick up the components, then place the components on the board with precision
  • To make sure that all the components stick, the board with the components stuck on them is put into an oven called a Reflow Oven.
  • Inside the Reflow Oven, the whole thing is “baked”, and we call this process “Reflow Soldering”.
  • To make sure that there are no errors in the component mounting, the PCBs are subjected to PCB inspection methods.
  • So far, what we have described is PCBA using SMT or Surface Mount Technology.
  • SMT or Surface Mount Technology is the most common PCBA technique used right now. SMD is used to mount components on small devices such as smartphones
  • Through-Hole Technology is still used, particularly with prototyping. THT boards are not as sophisticated as SMD boards, but they are easier to fix. THT uses manual methods, and are quite time-consuming.
  • If the PCB is in need of Through Hole components, there is an additional three steps: Mounting through-hole components, wave soldering (using another oven), and another round of inspection

That’s about it!

Components Used in PCB and PCBA

Components Used in PCB and PCBA

Components Used in PCB and PCBA

PCB designs incorporate the placement of PCB components. These are detailed as follows:

  • Ball Grid Array (BGA) – it is a kind of housing where an IC is stored
  • Capacitor – stores energy or electrical charge; the most commonly used type nowadays is one called microcapacitor (for ICs)
  • Diode – with its use, the current flows towards only one direction
  • DiP or DiL (Dual In-line Package) – this is in place only when the board uses THT technology. There are pins on the DiP that attach to the board. DiPs feed inputs into devices, it helps you toggle between different operations of a device
  • Inductor – shaped like a coil, and sometimes called a choke. This item stores energy, and is used in wireless applications and power supply applications
  • Microchip – also called Integrated Circuit or System on Chip (SoC). There are many sorts, but basically, these function as the command center of a device
  • Oscillators – these make repetitive signals and are usually used in audio systems. The clock pulse of a microcontroller has it too
  • PCB Relay – it receives the signal from a device, then passes it on to another. PCB relays are applicable only to THT-mounted boards
  • PCB Switch – sometimes used in conjunction with DiPs
  • Resistor – helps with electrical resistance. This is essential because it helps control voltage in PCBs

Not all PCBs carry these components on them. It depends on the functions of the PCB, and whether the PCBA process used SMT or THT.

That being said, PCB components must be accurately positioned on each board. Over the years, accuracy has improved after automation became the norm in PCBA companies.

Finding PCB Manufacturers

We recommend you find PCB manufacturers based on the following suggestions:

  • Experts on the company’s team are available to answer your calls or emails. They respond quickly and are proactive instead of reactive
  • PCB company has a team dedicated to IT support, sales, and engineering
  • PCBA techniques SMT and THT are both available for you to choose
  • The company is showing signs that they want your board to be completed quickly, easily, and efficiently. Look for Quality Management System certifications like Lean, TQM, and Sigma
  • The company uses the most cutting-edge technology in the business. Most PCB machines are sophisticated items that need upkeep. So, a clean shop floor is essential.

With these qualities in mind, let us introduce ourselves. We are PCBTok, a reputable PCB company from Shenzhen, China.

If you need assistance with a particular task or simply want to learn more about PCB and PCBA, you can contact us right now!

Finding PCBA Service Providers

Finding PCBA Service Providers

Finding PCBA Service Providers

Find a reliable full-service PCB manufacturer that offers PCBA services that are compatible with both SMT and THT technologies. with experience producing this kind of PCB.

This will save you considerable time and effort, as not all PCBs can use SMT or THT.

PCBA service providers can be found in many countries.

But most likely, you will find a competent one with bargain prices in China.

Just like PCB manufacturers, not all PCBA providers are equal.

There are many PCBA companies that specialize only in simple PCBA; they cannot handle assembling multilayer flex PCBs, for example.

Finding PCB & PCBA All-in-One Solution

Finding PCB & PCBA All-in-One Solution

Finding PCB & PCBA All-in-One Solution

Do you value convenience? Then, the best solution for you would be to get your PCB and PCBA done in one place.

We at PCBTok can give you whatever type of PCB you want, as well as complete PCBA services.

Unlike our competitors, we make PCBs cheaply but durably.

We assemble our PCBs following IS0 9001:2015 standards, which are the most current and up-to-date standards for PCBs & PCBAs.

So, what are you waiting for? Contact us now.

Conclusion

The difference between PCB and PCBA is clarified in this blog entry.

We hope that you can differentiate both now without confusion.

Simply said, PCBs are things or items. Meanwhile, PCBA is the process that renders PCBs useful.

PCB and PCBA come hand-in-hand to make the modern world’s operations possible.

You are reading this right now from a computer, tablet or mobile phone.

It took a factory that makes PCBs and conducts PCBA to come up with that device.

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