10 Reasons why your PCB Design Assembly Could be Failing

Understanding why your PCB Design Assembly is failing and how to rectify it is a critical part of PCB design. PCB design takes time, effort and knowledge. But all of this hard work can be for nothing if your PCB fails. So let’s take a look at the top reasons why PCB design assemblies fail.

10 Reasons why your PCB Design Assembly Could be Failing

1. Poor Quality Components

Finding the right components is always a challenge. Whether the challenge is searching for virtual parts, ensuring the footprints are right or managing part obselence, the need for good quality components is still one of the biggest concerns when considering your PCB assembly and manufacturing.

Closely placed traces and pathways, bad soldering to cold joints, poor connectivity between circuit boards, insufficient board thickness and use of counterfeit components are just some of the issues that can be faced.

2. Environmental Factors

PCB’s are sensitive creatures. Exposure to heat, dust and moisture, accidental impact (drops and falls), and power overloads/surges can all be causes of circuit board failure. However, the most damaging cause of premature circuit board failure is electrostatic discharge (ESD) at the assembly stage. Electrostatic discharge (ESD) is the sudden flow of electricity between two electrically charged objects caused by contact an electrical short, or dielectric breakdown. A buildup of static electricity can be caused by tribocharging or by electrostatic induction.

3. Component Design Failure

One of the most common reasons for PCB failure is the incorrect placement of components, power failure or overheating due to lack of space on the PCB. Space is a critical one, especially as boards become more complex and required to cope with demanding requirements. Here are just a few more examples of things that can go wrong at the design and manufacturing stage. Don’t forget that many of these problems can be avoided by following correct PCB design rules. Our IPC Certified Interconnect Training gives PCB designers an understanding of these PCB design rules and techniques to avoid some of the PCB design pitfalls regarding PCB design for manufacturing. Here are just a few of the other factors that can affect your PCB design assembly.

  • Soldering Issues
  • Chemical (Fluid) Leakage
  • Component Barrier Breakage
  • Bad Component Placement
  • Burned Components

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4. Age

Failures caused by age cannot be avoided, but the costs of replacing components can be controlled by swapping old parts for new ones, which is more cost-effective than new PCB assembly.

5. Chemical fluid leakage

The presence of any chemical fluid that has leaked from a component can seriously damage the PCB and cause failure. Most chemicals are removed in the manufacturing process.  However, trace elements can be left behind. Inside the packaging of a component, leaks can happen, which cause rapid ageing of the semiconductor or package. This chemical leakage can eventually cause shorts or become corrosive.

6. Issues with the soldering process

Solders are crucial to the electronics circuits working and as a result, need plenty of care and attention.  The most common solder-related issue is flux contamination and poor processing conditions. Flux is a chemical cleaning agent used before and during the soldering process of electronic components onto circuit boards. Some flux residues can absorb moisture which can become conductive, causing short circuits. If the solder process is not set up properly and controlled, it can lead to open joints and contamination.

7. Component barrier breakage

The barrier of a component is there to protect the component from the outside environment and also to provide a way for the component to connect to the circuit. If this barrier is broken, the component will become exposed to environmental factors. Oxygen and humidity can cause the component to age and then fail.

8. Physical problems with materials

The materials used in a PCB can often encounter problems that will cause the board to fail. During the manufacturing stages, if a layer of the PCB is misaligned it will cause short circuits, open circuits and crossed signal lines. If there are psychical defects with the materials such as fractures, voids and delaminations they will seriously affect the performance of the PCB. Failure can also happen if the materials used are impure.

9. Thermal stress

Stress from heat or humidity is one of the biggest causes of PCB failure, especially if a variation of materials has been used. Different materials have different expansion rates, so when constant thermal stress is applied it can break the solder joint and damage the component. Stress from thermal factors will be increased if the wrong copper weight is used or there are plating issues. Even during manufacturing the temperature of the room the PCB was assembled in can affect its performance.

10. Manufacturing and cleanliness

Most failure issues happen after the PCB has been manufactured. The environment of the room where the assembly happened can affect the PCB. Humidity can affect the way components and solders act when assembled. As a result environmental conditions need to be controlled. Another common failure is not keeping PCBs clean during and after manufacture. Dust, hair and even bugs can get into the PCB.

Resolving PCB Design Assembly Failure

You can address many of these failures through rework, inspection and analysis. However, the best way to reduce the risk of PCB failure issues is to partner with an experienced PCB design company. By understanding the common failures that happen in PCBs, you can make certain you avoid these issues and take the right precautionary steps to stop them from happening again.

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Quadra Solutions | PCB Design Professionals

We specialise in PCB design software and solutions. Quadra is one of the largest PCB bureaus in the UK and helps support hundreds of businesses throughout the UK and beyond with PCB design projects. We have the knowledge that helps companies embed, enhance and extend their design flow.

We have been designing, assembling and fabricating PCB’s for over 20 years and our ability to design and manufacture the highest quality PCB designs and prototypes means the world to every single member of the Quadra team. You can rely on our highly experienced and IPC CID+ accredited team of PCB Design Engineers to provide a full range of PCB Design Services that leave you free to focus on the design concept and product strategy.

Our ISO 9001 accredited team deliver complex, high-speed multi-layered circuit board design layout, testing, library management and manufacturing services for hundreds of happy customers each year, using a wide range of

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