PCB assembly equipment types?

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PCB assembly equipment includes wire and solder paste binders, pick and place devices, reflow ovens, optical inspection machines, and test mechanisms. The equipment creates solder pads, places electronic components, solders them, inspects for defects, and tests for functionality.

To generate a modern printed circuit board (PCB) for miscellaneous items such as cell phones and vehicle dashboard components, many types of PCB assembly equipment are required. Typical equipment consists of wire and solder paste binders, pick and place devices, reflow ovens, and optical inspection machines. In addition, PCB assembly equipment also includes a test mechanism to ensure that each board is working properly.

A solder wire and solder paste machine creates the solder pads along the surface of the circuit board. The metal mesh is cut into a specific pattern for the pads and placed on a blank PCB; the solder paste is forced through the holes in the open mesh onto the surface of the board. The resulting solder paste pattern on the PCB creates the circuit paths needed for future placement of electronic components.

PCB assembly equipment could be described as automated hands locating and placing small electronic components, such as resistors, from an inventory of supplies onto solder pads. Workers previously did this assembly part by hand, but more modern components are extremely small and are more difficult to position. This specialized type of PCB assembly equipment ensures that the correct component is placed in a particular orientation so that the circuit works properly.

Electronic components are temporarily held in place by the solder pad paste; however, they must be permanently soldered to the PCB upon entering a reflow oven. This extremely hot oven allows the components to adhere to the molten solder pads. The heat is controlled within a specific range to ensure the weld flows consistently while maintaining the structural integrity of each component.

Once the board exits the reflow oven, it must be inspected by an optical machine. The components are extremely small; any defects or partial welding spots are not visible to the human eye. A worker places the board through this specialized optical PCB assembly machine. Light reflects off the board’s components and circuitry and bounces off numerous sensors; these sensors can detect the smallest break in the circuit or a mismatched component. Any problems are reported via the machine’s display for an immediate repair or rebuild.

The last form of PCB assembly equipment for the board to pass through is a test module. Each PCB manufacturer has a different testing process depending on the intended use of the board. Typically, an employee will set up the board on test equipment and apply electrical power. Each function of the card will need to be tested for activation and deactivation as well as reliability.

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