Once a PCB manufacturer prepares a perfect PCB design, they come to issue with fabricating components in the most cost-effective manner. The issue is non-standard or just micro PCBs. Conveyors do not process such individual boards.
Attempting to resolve the single boards issue, manufacturers opt for PCB panels. Let’s find out what PCB panelization actually is and how to get the most out of it.
In a broad sense, PCB penalization is a manufacturing process for connecting the pile of smaller circuit boards together so they form a single component of standard panel size. This way, it’s much easier to move through an assembly line. Manufacturers may perform actions of their choosing along the entire panel, if necessary.
The PCB arrays formed can easily be depanelized, and individual boards can be separated. It’s done for packaging or to perform an assembly process over them. As an option, it’s possible to simply form a processing board edge around components. This way, they easily fit assembly line.
See what PCB panelization may look like in the image below.
Except for making circuit board suitable for fabrication, panelization has other advantages. Let’s review them briefly:
Basically, you have all good reasons to opt for the panelization process rather than produce individual boards.
There are three main panelization methods and several techniques in which they can be executed. Let’s review them all.
V-score or V-groove panelization is a fairly widespread method. It involves making a v-shaped cut along the top and bottom edges of a panel. With this V-groove method, circuit boards are scored to 1/3 of the thickness. The fixture of a machine is normally used to depanel it.
Individual circuit boards can be connected with each other via narrow tabs. These can be broken or just snapped to separate them with the tab route method. It’s a relatively simple method that can be executed in manual and automated techniques.
As a third alternative, you may design PCB arrays may be designed with solid tabs between each other. It makes PCB panels even stronger, reducing the effect of external stresses. However, the method limits the choice of depanelization techniques to a router, laser cutter, and shaped blade tool.
Here are the depanelization techniques that mostly suit both the detailed methods:
Basically, in most cases, die cutting, saw cutting, and cutting with a depanelizing router are the optimal techniques. They fit large-scale but standardized production perfectly.
It’s worth adding that V-groove and Tab routing are the preferred depanelization methods. However, it’s vital to know which one to use while designing a PCB panel. V-groove panelization is not ideal for components placed tightly. Tab panelization results in rougher board edges.
PCB designers should pay particular attention to the way they plan PCB panels. Allowed constraints typically lead to the impossibility of depanelizing an array in affordable yet automative ways. Here are the most important considerations:
First, PCB designers should pay particular attention to the clearance between components and the edge. The smaller the clearance is, the more precise methods engineers would have to use. Edge-handing components also represent a limitation. They may make it impossible to separate a PCB from a panel in conventional ways.
Here are the design factors:
You should follow industry standards in any case you’re unsure about the correct parameters to set.
Components placed onto PCBs are just as crucial as the laminate material itself. The issue is that sensitive connectors and electric components may easily be damaged if designers place them improperly. Or, as an alternative, if engineers choose an inadequate depolarization technique.
You should avoid using sensitive electronics and especially placing them close to V-grooves.
The choice of panelization method much depends on the material of a PCB. The issue here is that some materials are prone to splintering, which can be caused by the breakout process. The quality of laminates and soldering paste may also impact the end result. Board thickness is another impactful factor here, as thicker boards of vulnerable material are even harder to depanelize.
PCB panelization should be the point of your attention regardless of what type of manufacturer you are. If approached incorrectly, the process of separation can cause damage to boards and components on them.
Fortunately, this may be prevented by planning materials, types of components, and board edge clearance in the designing phase. Your concern is to choose the more appropriate method of depolarization. You also may use breakaway edges to minimize the external forces applied to your PCB panels.
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