It’s quite common to see automated circuit boards not working with smaller boards the way they used to do with bigger ones. In other words, they are the reason of multiple defects and issues during assembly. So, what you can do to get rid of this risk? How can you make sure the circuit boards don’t encounter that much defects? There is only one answer- panelization, which yields PCB panel.
Introduction to a PCB Panel
Also referred to as a PCB array, it comprises of multiple small boards to make a single, bigger one. Once all components are connected or assembled, they have to go through the breakout process where they are depanelized or broken apart into individual PCBs. This process makes sure that PCB manufacturers don’t go through the same defect problem as they have to deal with automated circuit boards. Best of all, panelization cuts cost to a significant level.
An effective and reliable panelization relies upon many design specifications, including surrounding panelization methods that make the PCBs to work properly. Now coming to the process, following are the major details to take into consideration:
There are different panelization methods and processes that you have to choose as per your requirements and their own benefits and drawbacks. The first and foremost thing is to pay attention to the design because it plays an important in its application. Let’s dig deeper into why design is so crucial and how you should take care of it, along with other factors:
- Design: Apart from the above mentioned details, design is responsible to determine the right panelization method. The edges of PCBs and space in-between components can bring a huge difference over which process would work just like it’s for edge-hanging parts.
- Components: Don’t forget to pay attention on the types of parts uses because they hold the same importance as that of their placement. Connectors and delicate components may help in finding the suitable panelization and breakout method.
- Material: Yes, material also tell which process you should be using for the PCBs. Some materials can break and damage easily as compared to other. Moreover, board’s width could be another because thicker boards can withstand force during the breakout more efficiently as compared to thinner ones.
Considering the above factors, you will have limited options for panelization assembly process but, you can create a combination of methods and bring the best out of each of them. Rest assured, you may have structural integrity irrespective of the presence of problems during the process.
Now coming towards the techniques applied in the breakout process, there are types you need to know of which, two are widely used:
- V-Score Panelization: In this method, panelization is divided into smaller PCBs having V-shaped grooves that are responsible to reduce circuit board’s thickness by a third with an angled blade. This third portion of the board is treated with a machine instead of applying hand pressure because chances are high that force can damage the surrounding components and base of the PCB.
- Tab Routing Panelization: All those PCB arrays that don’t work with V-groove method has to apply tab routing panelization. This method precuts the PCB arrays and attach them on the board with the help of perforated tabs. Tab routing method is particularly used for assemblies where design support is necessary with edge-handing parts. Even, you can break it by hand instead of tools or machines.
- Solid Tab Panelization: Solid Tab method pride itself for providing extra strength and support to the circuit boards. Though, when it comes to depaneling, you have to find either a laser cutting machines, a hook-shaped blade tool or a depaneling router. The latter may cause vibration and dust while the hook-blade may not have a stronger blade. The laser cutter might also be ineffective on boards thicker than 1mm and is costly at the same time. With that being said, manufacturers avoid using this method over the first 2.
Panelization in PCB assemblies required a lot of research, analysis and evaluation before you can apply it. You have to gather technical knowledge and strengthen your skills to make sure that whatever paneling method you would use, it can yield results as you want.