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Mike Garner

Managing Director at Garner Osborne Circuits Ltd

The 9 stages of printed circuit board production

Printed circuit board production is pretty straightforward for our customers.

From the moment you pick up the phone to us or drop us a message, we’ll walk you through everything we need for you to be able to deliver your printed circuit boards quickly and cost-effectively.

However, in case you ever wondered exactly what happens form start to finish of the printed circuit board production process, once you’ve made that initial contact, here’s the process from start to finish.

The printed circuit board production process is a lengthy one, and each element of the process is essential to ensuring your PCB is reliable and robust.

1. Front end engineering
First up, our team of skilled technicians review the Gerber files to check for any likely shorts or opens, or any ways that we can save you money or improve the effectiveness of your design. Many PCB manufacturers don’t offer this service, but we see it as part of our responsibility as your PCB production partner.

Then, using Genesis software with NC, AOI and test data, we create the tooling and plot files before sending them to the Silver Writer to laser plot the photo tools.

2. Drilling reference and tooling holes
Next up is to drill the reference and tooling holes.
These holes are essential as they help to ensure multiple layers are aligned, and also to line these layers up with stencils for solder paste printing and pick and place machines.

Our drilling department has 20 drilling spindles and 8 profiling spindles, all operated by Sieb & Meyer software controllers. The drills range from 2 to 6 spindle machines – ample capacity for low, medium and higher volume orders.

3. Preparing for copper plating
The next part of the process takes place in the wet shop where we apply a horizontal direct metallisation line which creates a conductive carbon layer in the hole of the PCB. We use an 8-cell copper plating line with pulse engines, and side-to-side rectification for enhanced accuracy.

5. Silk screening
Next is the process of printing the legend components onto the printed circuit boards using a spray coater and manual benches for the ink application.

Refrigerated Colight exposure machines print the image of the photo tools in light sensitive ink and because the silk screen ink is non-conductive, it won’t interfere with the connectivity of the PCB.

4. Applying a dry film
The dry film is essential to the image transfer process. We have 2 Western Magnum Laminators that apply the dry film, which is then printed with UV exposure from our Cirgraphics vacuum frames.

Photo tools are punched via a 50x magnification camera to achieve maximum registration accuracy when the boards are printed and avoid shorts and opens occurring.

6. Surfacing and finishing
We can apply a number of finishes in-house, including leaded and lead-free HASL / EN / immersion gold and silver / OSP and electrolytic tin. We can even subcontract additional finishes to match the customer’s specification.

7. Testing
Next we test each unit using flying probes to ensure all products are free from shorts, opens or any other flaws before being despatched. We also use AOI for inner layers and more complex copper layers to improve yield rates and reduce product waste.

8. Quality control inspections
Because at Garner Osborne we take quality very seriously, each product is inspected prior to leaving our premises.
We use an inspection pack generated at the start of the job to do this. We also have a team of inspectors who carry out intermediate and final checks with the help of a Lynx System that provides up to 80x magnification.

9. Packaging and despatch
We then wrap each and every product in acid-free tissue and then vacuum pack and bubble wrap them to ensure that your PCBs arrive at their destination in top condition, ready for assembling into your product.

To get a quote from PCB production, visit our website at www.garnerosborne.co.uk.