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Guide to PCB CAF Issues

Guide to PCB CAF Issues Conductive Anodic Filament (CAF) failure is a common and growing concern in the electronics industry. It has the potential to be a catastrophic failure mode, where a conductive salt containing copper can form within printed circuit boards (PCBs). It’s a type of electrochemical migration that grows along the epoxy or glass interface from the anode to the cathode sub-surface. Electrochemical migration is a process in which conductive metal filaments grow across a dielectric material. What Is Conductive Anodic Filament Formation? CAF formation is the term for the process by which CAF grows. CAF formation is described as a two-step process: First, the resin glass interface degrades, which is believed to be reversible. The second stage, the electrochemical migration, is not reversible. CAF failure refers to the electrical failure that results from CAF formation. The failure occurs when the CAF grows from the anode to the cathode.

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PCB Hole Types

PCB Hole Types Printed circuit boards have many different features, all of which affect the physical appearance and function of the board. Some of these features we think about more often, such as how many layers of PCB you have or the type of material supporting your board, but there are other design elements that may get less consideration, including, for example, holes in the board. In particular, some printed circuit boards require screw holes in order to attach them in your applications — and how you drill these screw holes is significant. The two main methods of drilling screw holes in PCBs are counterbore and countersink. Different types of screws call for different types of screw holes, so the kind of screws you will be using largely dictate whether you are drilling counterbore holes, countersink holes or both for your PCBs. So, what are the specific differences between countersink

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Vias on BGA Pads

Vias on BGA Pads Have you been considering a PCB design with via-in-pad? Via-in-pad design is becoming increasingly popular, and if you’re not familiar with the idea of vias on BGA pads, it may be in your best interests to explore this new printed circuit board design option that seems to be growing in popularity.   What Is a Via-in-Pad? A via-in-pad design, as the name indicates, is a printed circuit board design with the vias directly on the BGA pads. The main benefit of a via-in-pad design, also called VIP design, is that you reduce the area needed for the vias, making it easier to manufacture miniaturized PCBs and dramatically minimizing the amount of board area you need for signal routing. With via holes connected directly to layers beneath the component, you can have signal routing without escaping the device footprint perimeter.   Is It Considered Bad Practice to

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PCBs for Harsh Environments

PCBs for Harsh Environments In today’s technology-focused world, printed circuit boards have many different applications. Depending on your industry, you may need printed circuit boards that can operate in harsh environments. However, even if you have not needed printed circuit boards for harsh environments in the past, it may benefit you to know how they are created and how your industry could potentially benefit from them. What Are Harsh Environments? The first question you may be asking is what exactly are harsh environments? Harsh environments are environments where your printed circuit board may be surrounded by hazardous conditions that could damage sensitive electronic parts. This includes areas where there can be an extreme buildup of moisture, where temperature extremes may exist, where aggressive chemicals may be present or where toxic vapors might be found in the atmosphere. Elements like fungus, salt spray or even intense mechanical vibration are also among

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PCB Layout Software

 PCB Layout Software When it comes to PCB design software, there are a number of options to consider, and which software you choose will depend upon your specific printed circuit board design needs for your industry. Here is a breakdown of your PCB layout software options and the merits of each type for your business. Choosing Your Software When it comes to choosing your PCB layout software, there are a few basic issues you want to think about: Cost — There are many free PCB design programs on the market. While a paid PCB design program isn’t necessarily all that expensive, you can get pretty good value from a free program. If you’ve never used PCB design software before, you may want to start out by trying a few free programs before investing in a paid program. User-Friendliness — There’s no reason that a PCB layout program should be difficult

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What Is Trace Impedance?

What Is Trace Impedance? In printed circuit boards, wires and traces are typically formed from copper because it is the least-resistant element apart from silver. Put an ohm meter over a trace and the DC resistance is almost negligible. The same cannot be said of AC impedance. Impedance, unlike resistance, is based on frequency. All wires and traces will generate at least some impedance to current flowing from any driver. While, usually, you must have a fairly fast rise time for your signals for trace impedance to become a problem, it’s important that you be aware that trace impedance exists and can become an issue. But why do we need to worry about trace impedance? Why does it exist and is it possible to control it? If you’ve heard the term “controlled impedance,” you are probably already aware that it is possible to control impedance. But to understand how and

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PCB Material Selection Guide

With all PCB material types, the purpose is to conduct electricity and provide insulation between conducting layers of copper. FR-4 is the most widely used material in this category. However, the needs of your board will invariably rely on various PCB material properties. Read the following PCB material selection guide to learn what to look for when it comes to the thermal, electrical, chemical and mechanical properties of different PCB material types. PCB Material Options and Classifications and Substrate Property Considerations Thermal Properties Glass Transition Temperature (Tg): A PCB substrate softens when exposed to temperatures above a certain threshold. The substrate hardens back to its natural state once removed from heat. The range at which this transformation can be applied to a substrate is known as glass transition temperature (Tg) — a unit noted in degrees Celsius. Decomposition Temperature (Td): When exposed to temperatures past a certain threshold, a PCB substrate will

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Wave Soldering vs. Reflow Soldering

Wave Soldering vs. Reflow Soldering Soldering is a huge part of the printed circuit board design process. The only reliable way to get your circuits to stick to your board and stay there is by soldering them on. Without soldering, there are no printed circuit boards. But not all types of soldering are created equal, and it can be important to differentiate between the different types for PCBs. There are two main types of soldering for PCBs: wave soldering and reflow soldering. What is the difference between the two, and how do you know which type of soldering to use in which circumstances? What Is Wave Soldering? Wave soldering is a bulk soldering process that enables one to manufacture many circuit boards in a very short amount of time. It works by passing each circuit board over a pan of molten solder. A pump in the pan creates a “wave”

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PCB Corrosion Causes

PCB Corrosion Causes Corrosion is one of the major enemies of printed circuit boards. A sufficiently corroded circuit board won’t work, and the steady advance of corrosion is inevitable. But why do printed circuit boards corrode, and what are some of the most common causes of PCB corrosion? What Is Corrosion? Corrosion is the process of oxidation that happens when oxygen bonds with metal, producing rust and causing the metal to flake off and lose its valuable chemical properties. Since printed circuit boards are largely made of metal and are exposed to oxygen, they must corrode eventually. However, not all metals are created equal when it comes to corrosion. Some metals corrode almost immediately while some seem to never corrode. Metals that are highly resistant to corrosion include: Graphite Gold Silver Copper-nickel alloy Metals that are highly susceptible to corrosion include: Plated tin Lead Copper Plated nickel Metals that are

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Guide to Wave Soldering Problems for PCBs

What Is Wave Soldering? Wave soldering is a type of soldering process used during the bulk manufacture of printed circuit boards, or PCB. The wave soldering process allows manufacturers to quickly and reliably solder large printed circuit boards. The process gets its name from the wave of solder each board gets passed over. Using a wave of solder as opposed to individual solder points produces solder joints that are mechanically and electrically reliable. The wave soldering process is effective for both the conventional through-hole method of PCB assembly and also the newer surface-mount method. So what’s in a wave solder machine, and how does the process work? At its core, a standard wave solder machine starts with one component: a heated tank of solder that is maintained at the required temperature for the specific soldering process that is taking place. Inside the tank, the technician sets up a wave of

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PCB Glossary

  • Hot Air Solder Leveling (HASL)

    A method of coating exposed copper with solder by inserting a panel into a bath of molten solder then passing the panel rapidly past jets of hot air.