Automated Assembly Processes Routinely Assemble SMD PCBs

During the assembly of printed circuit boards, most components are placed automatically by automated machines. The number of components that require manual placement is decreasing all the time. During the assembly process, a programmable logic controller (PLC) tells each machine what to do next, and how much material or components are needed at each stage. It also manages the restocking and replenishment of each station. It is the system that keeps track of everything and ensures each part gets where it needs to be, without human intervention.

The use of SMD or Surface Mount Technology means that the components are mounted on the surface mount pcb of the PCB rather than in holes through the board. This allows for smaller components to be used and greater functionality in a smaller package. In addition, the SMD packages have flat leads or terminals that can be soldered to the PCB pads. The most common SMD components are transistors and diodes. These are contained in small plastic packages and have three leads, which extend from the package to the PCB.

Thru-hole parts are still used for some low-volume production runs and for custom components. In these instances, it can often be more cost effective to rely on manual assembly processes. This is especially true if the assembly involves complex components or those that have very tight tolerances that cannot be replicated by automated equipment.

How Automated Assembly Processes Routinely Assemble SMD PCBs

Assembling a printed circuit board with SMD components requires special skills. First, the assembler must identify each component, and verify that it is the correct size and type for its intended location on the circuit board. This is typically done by reading a barcode label or marking on the package, as well as looking at the part number and other identifying features. Once the components have been identified, they are loaded into a bowl feeder or tray feeder, and then passed to the pick-and-place machine, where it can use its vacuum or gripper nozzle to place the component on the PCB.

Once the component is on the board, the assembler then applies solder paste to the pad where it will be soldered to the PCB. Once the paste has been applied, the assembler then uses the soldering tool to melt and flow the solder into place, connecting the component to its mating part on the board. The final step is to visually inspect the board for solder bridging and other errors, and then send it to a test or rework station, if necessary.

Assembly automation is a vital step to increasing the quality and speed of the production process, but it should be carefully planned before committing to any automated machinery. Considering the product volume, design, and budget of each project is essential. It is also a good idea to consult with a converter before committing to automated assembly, in order to discuss whether design adjustments could save money in the long run. This is the best way to streamline the process and ensure the highest quality products for your customers.


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