Although still a relatively newer concept, surface mounted technology (SMT) is quickly becoming the "go-to" method for mounting components to a printed circuit board (PCB). Are you familiar with SMT processes? Many electronics companies are comfortable with the tried-and-true through-hole mounting process, but SMT can make things a lot simpler and more efficient. To prove this point, here's a look at what surface mounted technology actually is, and when it can be used to make processes smoother for your business.
Surface Mounted Technology: A Breakdown
SMT processes involve the direct placement of system components onto the surface of PCBs. This results in the creation of a surface mount device (SMD). Because this methodology is more efficient and effective than through-hole mounting, SMT is generally the preferred option for constructing boards. The advantages of the SMT process make it easier for manufacturers to develop technology that is in-line with the demands of today's consumers: more complex and compact devices.
But while SMT often helps for operations to run more smoothly, there are instances when it cannot be used. Fortunately, both through-hole mounting and SMT can be utilized on the same PCB. A look at the advantages and disadvantages of surface mounted technology will further clarify these points.
Advantages - As mentioned previously, the biggest draw of utilizing SMT is size. Because electronics are growing smaller while increasing in complexity, it is important that more components be able to be securely adhered to a more compact and lightweight board. SMT promotes a higher component density, and more connections per each system component, while still allowing for a smaller PCB. This is because SMT components are usually smaller in size, due to having smaller leads, or no leads at all. In addition to this, the SMT process requires that fewer holes be drilled into a board, which promotes faster and more automated product assembly. Because components can be mounted on either side of the circuit board, the process is even further simplified. Finally, the majority of SMT parts and components are actually less costly than their through-hole counterparts. Ultimately, this means that production costs are reduced, while more efficient manufacturing processes lower costs even further, by cutting down on time and labor.
Drawbacks - As with most things, SMT does have its drawbacks, as well. The most significant problem with SMT is that it is simply not suitable for large or high power/high voltage parts. For these purposes, through-hole construction may be utilized on the same board with SMT processes. SMT may also not be the desirable choice for attaching components that will be subject to ongoing mechanical stress. For example, through-hole methods may be best for connectors that are to interface with external devices, or that are often attached and detached.
In spite of any drawbacks, though, SMT has taken PCB construction to a new level. It is really just a matter of knowing when SMT is the best option for a particular device or board.
Deciding When to Use Surface Mounted Technology
So when should you choose SMT processes over the more traditional through-hole construction methods? Although it is quite suitable in most cases, these guidelines should help you to determine whether or not SMT will be suitable for your application:
The device needs to be very small or compact
In addition to size, the device will need to have a high component density
The product will need to be able to accommodate high volumes of memory
The device will need to have the ability to function at high speeds and frequencies
You would like to produce large quantities of your product via automated technology
The product will need to be able to accommodate numerous large, high lead-count complex ICs.
In addition to following these guidelines, it's a good idea to talk to your contract manufacturer about if SMT is right for your product.
How could surface mounted technology make your processes smoother?