Why Do Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs) Fail?

Why Do Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs) Fail?

Sep 26,2019

Printed circuit boards (PCBs) are a vital part of various electronic devices we use in our daily lives. Televisions, smartphones, control panels, street lights, and many other devices heavily rely on PCBs. This is why it can be extremely frustrating for a PCB manufacturer when a PCB fails to function. PCBs need to be carefully designed, assembled, and tested so that the final product does not suffer. PCB failures can be caused by a list of reasons which ranging from design and manufacturing issues to environmental stresses. Sometimes PCB failures happen after several years of use due to various reasons. To keep the circuit board running properly, it is important to understand the causes of failure and ways to prevent it. Would you like to know the most common reasons for PCB failure? This post highlights the same.

Top 5 Reasons for PCB Failure and How They Should Be Avoided

The following are some common issues found in the PCB assemblies and their corrective actions:

1.Solder Bridges:

Solder bridging is the most common surface-mount technology (SMT) defect that can occur during the PCB manufacturing process. Sometimes referred to as shorts, it occurs when the solder flows between connectors and causes a bridge. Unlike other soldering issues that can be easily identified, a solder bridge is smaller in size and hard to detect. If these shorts go undetected during the PCB inspection, then it may lead to some serious damage such as burn-up of a component or a short circuit. This problem can be solved by ensuring zero gaps between the circuit board and stencil, or by adding solder masks between the pads.

2.Acid Traps:

Many times the cause of a PCB failure lies within the design. The acid trap is the commonly used term for acute angle in circuit boards because it traps acid during the circuit board etching process. The acid stays in the corner of the angle. If it stays for a longer time than intended, it ends up compromising the connections, making the circuit board defective and causing serious issues later on. Acid traps can be avoided by applying a solder mask over the holes.

3.Plating Voids:

PTH (plated through-hole) are the holes in a PCB with copper-coated walls, which allows electricity to be carried from one side to another side of the board. During the PCB manufacturing process, the wall of holes is electroplated, which conducts an electric signal from one layer to the other. For electroplating, the circuit board is made conductive from top to bottom through the copper deposition. In the electroplating process, the electroless copper adheres to the inner side of the holes, which result in plating voids. Plating voids can occur due to various reasons such as bubbles in the material, contamination of the material, among others. It can be avoided by cleaning the material before drilling.

4.Environmental Factors:

Most of the printed circuit boards in hostile environments experience failure because of the temperature changes that may lead to component degradation or failure. Moisture and debris are the most common problems, which have gradual effects that slow down the efficiency of the circuit board. Additionally, if a large amount of water enters the circuit board, it may irreparably damage the PCB. To avoid these defects, it is important that the manufacturer considers the working temperature of environments, where the PCB is intended to be used.

5.PCB Age:

The printed circuit board will fail even with the best care. The PCB component begins to fail as they get older. If the circuit board fails because of the component age, then one can replace an individual component, which is usually affordable. At some point, you need to replace the entire circuit board, but you can delay it for quite a while with minor replacements and repairs.

Printed circuit board designing and assembly requires great technical skills and precision. Any small mistake can damage the entire circuit and result in a huge loss. Thus, it is important to manufacture these circuit boards with care. If you are planning to use printed circuit boards for your next project, then make sure you source them from reliable industry experts. With vast industry experience in PCB design and assembly, Creative Hi-Tech delivers printed circuit boards according to your specifications. Their highly skilled and professional team can assemble cost-effective, performance-driven circuit boards to meet your requirements.  

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