One of the most important factors for the longevity and functionality of your circuit boards is the proper placement of the solder mask. While a proper layout is important, a circuit board without a solder mask will have an increased probability of shorts and poor corrosion protection. Fortunately, this problem can often be avoided by double checking the design before sending it to a manufacturer. Listed below are the most common problems involving the placement of solder masks and tips for minimizing their impact.
Transistors are semiconductor devices that allow electricity to flow in one direction while blocking it in the other. Transistors come in three-terminal shapes and are highly important on circuit boards. Capacitors, on the other hand, store electrical charges and are often found in the form of gumdrop-shaped discs or large cylinders. Finally, LEDs (light-emitting diodes) are an important component of any circuit board, though they’re not always required.
MLCCs are extremely small, sometimes less than a grain of sand. But their low cost means that they’re used in huge quantities on circuit boards. Not only do they filter noise but also store power and control energy flow. In fact, one smartphone can have hundreds of these tiny capacitors. And as smart consumer devices become more sophisticated, they need more MLCCs. A shortage of these tiny capacitors threatens to raise prices and limit the availability of electronic components.
When purchasing electronics, it’s best to stock up on components ahead of time. This way, you’ll minimize the risks of global component shortages. While the impact of a COVID-19 pandemic is likely to be minimal, the shortage of electronic components can wreak havoc on supply chains and development processes. Fortunately, the global shortage of PCBs is now more stable and mitigation efforts are reducing the effects of the disease.
Slivers are another common issue. These small slivers connect to other copper pieces. Consequently, the copper plating that normally covers the circuit board is exposed. This can cause shorts, corrosion, and even lead to a reduced lifespan for your circuit board. By design, you can avoid slivers by using minimum widths in your sections. DFM checks can also help you spot potential slivers. They are easily spotted by manufacturers.
Vacuum-filled holes in printed circuit boards can be caused by a number of issues. For example, copper is incredibly conductive but is also very soft and easily corroded. Consequently, it’s important to ensure your board is free of any voids that may be created during the deposition process. Lastly, there may be a problem with the plating process itself. If a copper void exists in a through-hole, electrical current cannot flow through the hole.
While there are other potential problems with PCBs, the most common cause is age-related deterioration. As the components age, they will break down and fail to perform as intended. This results in problems like leakage of current, reduced resistance, and decreased capacitance. Additionally, factors such as humidity and weather can wear down your circuit boards. Fortunately, it is possible to replace individual components without replacing the entire board. Simply snap back the broken component into its correct position, and the rest of the board will function again as before.