Contract Electronics Manufacturing and PCB Assembly Blog

When Shouldn't You Use SMT Production Methods?

Posted by Matthew Turpin on Fri, Jan 16, 2015 @ 07:00 AM

SMT Production MethodOne of the most basic choices any electronics assembler has to make is whether to build the circuit board using Through-Hole Mounting (THM) or Surface Mount Technologies (SMT).  

THM is the older of the two processes, and is exactly what it sounds like: The circuit board has holes physically drilled into it, which are used to thread the wires through.  The components end up on top, with the underside holding all the wiring.  If you ever built a hobby radio using a breadboard and components, that was a basic THM design.

SMT production is newer and has largely replaced THM in most manufacturing processes.  Rather than threading wires through, SMT uses an innovative glue that's electrically conductive and therefore also works as solder.  Components can be stuck directly onto the board, plus SMT can utilize both sides of a board for parts placement.

While SMT is generally recommended, there are still a few applications where THM is still the superior option.

# Times You Should Use Through-Hole Mounting Over SMT Production

1 - High-Stress Usage

Glue is inherently brittle once it's set, and tends to respond very badly to mechanical stress, especially twisting and pulling.  This means that it's a poor choice for a component or board that will be directly manipulated.  

Connector ports are an excellent example of this.  In real life, people rarely pull the plugs out at a perfect right angle to the board.  They'll almost always be applying some leverage up or down, or just outright yanking at the cable. This will quickly break down the bonds holding the SMT components together.

SMT-based connectors will frequently fail in such a scenario.  It should be utilized when the user will NOT be directly working with or manipulating the internal components.

2 - High Heat or High Electric Load

The glue that SMT uses does not stand up to high heat or high electrical loads.  This is probably the #1 source of failure in SMT production, and something any good electronics assembler should be watching out for.  The device gets too hot, and the glue/solder melts.

 Devices that are likely to generate a lot of heat without good ventilation, as well as those doing high-capacity electrical work such as transformers, should utilize THM processes.  This is, as a side note, why AC adapters are usually so big and hefty.  They have to be to stand up to the load they're bearing.

3 - Children's ProductsSurface Mounted Technology

In some cases, THM would be a better choice for products designed for children.  Because it stands up to mechanical wear-and-tear better than SMT, it's going to survive the roughhousing a child tends to engage in.  Also, the bulky nature of THM isn't so much a factor here, since children's products are often oversized to compensate for their lack of developed motor skills.

The downside, of course, are the higher costs involved here... but if you're concerned about your reputation and designing quality kid's products, it's often the safer choice from a usage and support perspective.

Talk To Your Manufacturer Before Committing To A Process

While Surface-Mounting is usually the best option 90% of the time or so, there are still applications where Through-Hole production will produce a better or more reliable product.  Look for a vendor who uses both processes, and find one who'll seriously talk about the cost-benefit value of each method.

Even a single poorly-designed product can sink a growing electronics firm.  A vendor who gives you the most options is the one which can ensure every product you design is killer.

Want to know more?  Contact ZenTech today for a free consultation on your upcoming manufacturing plans!  

 

 

New Call-to-Action
photo credit: JulianBleecker via photopin cc photo credit: melitroncorp via photopin cc

Topics: assembly manufacturing, consumer electronics, smt production

Through Hole And Surface Mounted Technology - What is the Difference

Posted by Matthew Turpin on Wed, Oct 01, 2014 @ 07:00 AM

Over the past several decades, surface mounted technology (SMT) has grown in popularity andSurface Mounted Technology has widely replaced through-hole technology. But why is SMT so preferable to through-hole mounting, and can through-hole still be relevant in certain applications? By taking a few moment's to learn about both methods, you'll gain a thorough understanding of the unique characteristics of the two, the key differences between them, and what it is that makes SMT the preferred option.

Through-Hole Technology

For years, through-hole technology was utilized in the construction of nearly all printed circuit boards (PCBs). This particular mounting scheme involves the use of leads on electrical components, which are then inserted into holes that were drilled on the PCB and soldered to pads situated on the opposite side. Through-hole mounting is extremely reliable, as it provides strong mechanical bonds, however, the additional drilling makes the production of boards significantly more expensive. Additionally, the presence of holes in the PCB create limitations in terms of the available routing area for signal traces on the layers which are immediately beneath the top layer on multi-layer boards. These issues are just two of the many reasons that surface mounted technology became so popular in the 1980s.

Surface Mounted Technology

In lieu of drilling holes, SMT enables electrical components to be mounted, or directly placed, onto the surface of a PCB. Generally speaking, SMT components are smaller than their through-hole counterparts. This is due to the fact that SMT components either have smaller leads, or no leads at all. Because the PCB of a surface-mount devices (SMDs) does not require as many drilled holes, and the components are more compact, higher circuit densities are possible on smaller boards. This is especially important, as today's electronics are growing more complex and more compact. Additionally, surface mounted technology is typically less expensive than through-hole mounting.

Major Differences

Although there are many differences between through-hole and surface mounted technology, there are some key distinctions such as:

  • SMT resolves the space problems that are common to through-hole mounting.

  • In SMT, components do not have leeds and are directly mounted to the PCB, whereas through-hole components require lead wires that pass through drilled holes.

  • The pin count is higher in SMT than in through-hole technology.

  • Because components are more compact, the packing density achieved through SMT is much higher than in through-hole mounting.

  • SMT components are typically less expensive than their through-hole counterparts.

  • SMT lends itself to assembly automation, making it far more suitable for high volume production at lower costs than through-hole production.

  • pcb board repairAlthough SMT is typically cheaper on the production side, the capital required for investing in machinery is higher than for through-hole technology.

  • SMT makes it easier to acquire higher circuit speeds because of its reduced size.

  • The design, production, skill, and technology that SMT demands is quite advanced as compared to through-hole technology.

  • Through-hole mounting is typically more desirable than SMT in terms of large, bulky components, components that are subject to frequent mechanical stress, or for high-power and high-voltage parts.

Although there are scenarios in which through-hole mounting may still be utilized in modern PCB assembly, for the most part, surface mounted technology is superior.

Selecting a Vendor Who Offers Surface Mounted Technology

Because the costs to purchase the equipment and machinery required for SMT is so high, many smaller electronics companies find it difficult to take advantage of this efficient mounting technology. If this is the case, it is in your best interest to seek out a contract manufacturer who can offer these types of services. This enables you to incorporate SMT into the design and production of your PCBs without being required to purchase or maintain expensive equipment. Be sure to select a reputable vendor who stays on top of the latest and greatest technological developments, and is familiar with all of the best practices for manufacturing complex devices.

Are you taking advantage of SMT?

New Call-to-Action

Topics: assembly manufacturing, consumer electronics, smt production

Why You Should Look To SMT For Your Next Circuit Build

Posted by Matthew Turpin on Tue, Sep 30, 2014 @ 07:00 AM

smtFor most of the history of manufactured electronics, "through hole" printed circuit boards have been the standard.  The idea has been effectively unchanged since the 50s, although there've been improvements in size and manufacturing quality.  A through-hole circuit board needs holes drilled through it for connections and circuitry to pass through.

More recently, a new manufacturing style has emerged:   Surface-Mount Technology. SMT circuit boards don't use holes and instead use a combination glue and solder to hold components in place.

While not right for every electronics build, SMT has many distinct advantages over the older style of circuit design.  Let's look at the major differences, and why SMT might be the right tech for your next product!

The Benefits Of Surface-Mount Circuitry

1 - Reduced Size

Arguably the single biggest reason to use SMT is also the smallest:  It's much more space-efficient.  Not having to leave room for holes and pass-throughs means that your designs can be more compact.  In a world where most electronics manufacturers are looking for the smallest and "cutest" designs, SMT can make a major difference in your final form-factor.

If you've been designing your circuits for through-hole production, you might be surprised at how much space SMT can save, without  compromising quality.  

2 - SMT Is Easily-Automated

While automatic plants for through-hole circuitry exist, they're usually more expensive and slower to run.  The need to thread wires and attach components to anchor points makes it more likely human hands will be needed to complete assembly.

On the other hand, SMT circuits can simply be stamped, part by part, directly onto the board.  Again, this is thanks to the combined glue/solder.  Without the need for so many wires, the boards can be stamped out much more quickly.  That means less cost to you.

3 - Two-Sided Stamping

A through-hole circuit board is largely limited to only having components on one side of the board, because the other side is reserved for the wires and other circuitry.  SMTs, on the other hand, are agnostic about component placement.  

Both sides can be utilized equally which, again, shrinks the size of the final component, and lowers your costs on manufacturing.  And on the topic, did we mention that SMT components are usually cheaper than those used in through-hole boards?

Why You Might NOT Want SMTsurface mount

As we said above, SMT isn't right for every situation.  There are two major situations where through-hole is still the better option.

1 - High Voltage Requirements

That clever glue/solder is, at the end of the day, not as good for carrying high voltage loads as regular wiring.  While SMT is fine for most consumer goods, if you're producing a product that requires a large battery or high voltage to function, you'll likely want a through-hole build.  You'll get steadier voltage and more reliable performance.

2 - High Physical Durability Requirements

Most SMT boards are not as durable as though-hole, especially if the electronics themselves are expected to be treated less-than-politely by the end users.  SMT is especially poor for open connectors (like USB ports) because it can't handle mechanical stress.

Likewise, products for children should be through-hole to prevent breakage.

SMT should be used when the circuitry will be self-contained, locked away from the user, and unlikely to see much direct interaction.  Use through-hole otherwise.

Which Production Technique Is Right For You?

Zentech is among America's top electronics assembly firms, proudly staying in the USA despite the urge to outsource.  We maintain top-flight manufacturing centers that are ready for any job, whether it's SMT or through-hole.

For a consultation on your production options, just contact us for an evaluation.  We'll look over your designs, suggest improvements, and work out the perfect solution for mass-manufacturing.

Contact Zentech today for more information!

Electronic Interconnect Cabling Whitepaper from Zentech

Topics: assembly manufacturing, consumer electronics, smt production

Who Comes Out On Top Between SMT vs. Through-Hole Mounting

Posted by Matthew Turpin on Thu, Jul 24, 2014 @ 08:05 AM

smtAs technology continues to evolve, we must work to find ways to keep up with it. Although through-hole mounting or technology was the predominant option for developing printed circuit boards (PCBs) for decades, today's consumer demands require electronics manufacturers to embrace new technologies as a means of developing compact yet highly dense boards. The most popular solution has been surface mount technology.

With these new methods, engineers and manufacturers are able to design and assemble boards that are extremely advanced and sophisticated without wasting space and money. But what is it about surface mount technology that allows for these technological achievements? And is through-hole mounting completely extinct, or are there situations in which it is still relevant? By comparing and contrasting these methods, we can understand why surface mount technology is the clear winner for the future of electronics manufacturing, and how through-mount technology fits into the big picture.

Through-Hole Mounting

When PC boards are constructed with a through-hole mounting methodology, holes must be drilled through the bare BCB so that leads can be placed through those holes. This was the original technology utilized in order to develop PCBs, and was, for years, considered to be the most efficient and effective method of doing so. Why was it so popular, and why has it now been replaced by surface mount technology? Read on for more information.


Pros

One of the biggest advantages of through-hole mounting is that it provides such strong mechanical bonds over other techniques. Despite the fact that surface mount technology has, by and large, replaced through-hole mounting, the latter is best able to enable engineers and manufacturers to deal with components that will undergo mechanical stress as the result of this mechanical bond. As an example, connectors or heavy components like transformers are generally better-suited to through-hole mounting. 


Cons

Despite its advantages, through-hole is still considered to be a secondary operation in modern assembly facilities. Why? It's more expensive and complex. The drilling of holes into the bare board is very time-consuming, which results in added costs. In addition to these issues, this type of PCB production significantly limits the available routing area on multi-layered boards. This is because the drilled holes are required to pass through all of the PCBs layers. Finally, through-hole demands the use of hand-soldering techniques, which, on the whole tend to be far less reliable and repeatable than the reflow ovens that are utilized in surface mount technology.


Surface Mount TechnologySurface Mount Technology

Surface Mount Technology has taken the PCB assembly world by storm by enabling components to be directly mounted onto the surface of a PCB.

Pros

In today's world, consumers are demanding more compact, yet information-rich devices. Surface mount technology is the answer. This technology allows PC boards to be manufactured in much smaller sizes but with a higher component density. Due to the fact that drilling holes is nearly never required, this type of technology enables manufacturers to design and assemble boards much faster and for a fraction of the cost. It's also important to note that solder joint formation tends to be far more reliable and repeatable with the usage of programed reflow ovens. Finally, boards produced using surface mount technology have been proven to be more stable and to perform better in shake and vibrate conditions.

Considerations

As has been mentioned previously, surface mount technology may tend to be less reliable when used as the sole attachment method for those components that are regularly subject to mechanical stress, such as devices that need to be attached or detached on an ongoing basis. This is really the only major drawback of surface mount technology, and through-hole can be used in these cases.

Although you'll find that there are certain situations in which through-hole mounting is still applicable, it's clear that surface mount technology is best. By embracing this technology, we can carve the way into a more technologically advanced future. 

New Call-to-Action

Topics: assembly manufacturing, consumer electronics, smt production

Breaking Down SMT Production

Posted by Matthew Turpin on Tue, Jun 10, 2014 @ 07:00 AM

 

smt production manufacturerToday, virtually all mass produced electronics feature hardware that has been manufactured with the use of surface mount technology (SMT). These surface mount devices offer numerous benefits over the lead mounted devices that proceeded them, and have completely altered the landscape of the technological sector in terms of what modern electronics are capable of and improved performance. But while most of us in the electronics sector are familiar with SMT production, we may not always take the time to fully appreciate the reasoning behind the development of SMT and what actually goes into the production process. This post will break down SMT, highlighting its industrial significance and the manufacturing process.

Why SMT?

Until quite recently, through-hole technology (leaded devices) were considered to be the best method for mass manufacturing PC boards. Until the electronics industry evolved and adopted SMT production, these leads and the components utilized in the production of through-hole boards put a lot of limitations on what could be done, and made board production more expensive than is actually necessary. Despite the fact that some mechanization was possible, it was necessary that component leads be pre-formed, and in many cases, more components were required. In addition to this, problems often occurred as a result of wires not fitting properly when leads were automatically inserted into boards. This required additional labor and slowed down production rates.

SMT eliminates these issues. It was discovered that the lead wires that hat previously been utilized for connections were not actually necessary in the production of PC boards. Instead of passing leads through holes, the components could be soldered directly onto pads on the board. This made it possible to create more compact and affordable boards, as the drilling of holes was no longer necessary, reduced parts were required, and former problems were resolved. Greater levels of mechanization can be utilized, and the time and costs associated with manufacture is significantly lowered. Although there are certain instances in which through-hole technology must be utilized, the majority of processes associated with PC board production can be improved upon with the use of SMT production.

What components are used for SMT production?

In order to accommodate SMT, a new set of components was required. The components used for surface mount devices are actually quite different from traditional lead components, and can be separated into a few different categories:

  • Passive Surface Mount Devices - A wide variety of packages are used for passive surfacesmt production mount devices, but the majority of these devices are either resistors or capacitors, and package sizes are standardized reasonably well. Resistor and capacitor packages may have size designations of 1812, 1206, 0805, 0603, 0402, or 0201. Coils, crystals, and other components will generally have more specific, individual requirements. Connections to the PCB are made via metallic areas at either end of the package. 

  • Transistors and Diodes - You'll typically find these components within small plastic packages, with the connections being made through leads emanating from the package. They are bent so they contact the board. Three leads are always utilized for these packages so that it's easier to identify which way around the device needs to go.

  • Integrated Circuits - Multiple packages are available for integrated circuits, depending on the level of interconnectivity that is necessary. Simple logic chips, for instance, may only require 14 or 16 pins while others such as VLSI processors and associated chips may need upwards of 200. In addition to standardized packages for smaller chips and VLSI chips, there are also other packages such as a ball grid array (BGA). Here, the connections are underneath the package as opposed to on the side. The connection pads contain balls of solder that melt throughout the soldering process which allows for a good connection with the board. Since the entire underside of the package can be utilized, the pitch of the connections is wider and is generally believed to be more reliable.  

 

Electronic Interconnect Cabling Whitepaper from Zentech

Topics: assembly manufacturing, consumer electronics, smt production

Electronics Repair Services: Fixing, Improving What’s Broken

Posted by Laura Austin on Sat, Feb 02, 2013 @ 07:00 AM

Getting electronic devices repaired is an activity that cannot be overlooked

Electronic devices are a must at every home today and our life revolves around these as they add luxury and comfort to our everyday tasks. There are many electronic devices that we have installed at home or office to accomplish many daily chores with ease. The industries that deal with electronic equipment manufacturing is getting costlier everyday and buying a new equipment when something goes wrong with the old one is not possible every time. Just to cover up this cost for consumers, the electronic repair services providers, are now emerging in increasing counts. So, instead of throwing away that damaged or broken down electronic device you can now get it repaired with services that will make it perform withrepair-services efficiency and make it as good as new again.

Electronic repair services can help in fixing or improving broken electronic devices

Today everything around us seems to be running on electricity. An average household has 85% electronic machines and an average person spends 90% time of his day using these machines. No matter how careful you are in using these devices, wear and tear is inevitable, and regular maintenance is needed to fix or repair whatever’s broken. Just to take care of these issues today several vendors offering electronic repair services are mushrooming. They also offer home service, which means you will not need to carry broken devices to their shop, but instead an expert will come to your home or office to fix the same.

There are different vendors that offer different kinds of electronic repair services

  • Consumer electronics repair services: These repair shops specialize in repairing gadgets or appliances that are used mostly at homes or offices. These include the most common devices we use for entertainment, in the kitchen and also the computers and laptops used for work.

  • Specialty repair shops: These are shops that deal with repairing a particular kind of gadget. For example TV repair shops, kitchen appliances repair shops and more like these.

  • Industrial electronic repair services: These vendors specialize in repairing equipments that are used in manufacturing in industries and factories. The work area also includes hospitals, banks, commercial organizations, industries and more where the repair is required in bulk. The repair services include power supplies, circuitry boards, monitors, video recording systems, telecommunication systems and others that are specific to industries.

The many benefits you have access to includeelectronics-repair-services

  • Fair repair which can help you get back the lost functionality of any electronic gadget and device

  • Quality service that is reliable and can help you get the repaired components or devices delivered right till your doorstep in the minimum time frame

  • The services in total are fast, reliable and cost effective loaded with accuracy

Finding vendors who can offer electronic repair services is easy

Today vendors make use of technologically sound equipments and tools while undertaking the repairing task. The process is accomplished with equipments that have the best IC, resistance, frequency, capacitance, voltage that is actually needed. Finding vendors who specialize in repairing or improving all types of devices and gadgets whether broken or at fault, is not very tough. Whether looking for a service provider who can repair, install or improve small printed circuit boards or large industrial devices, you can get it all done. Also, when seeking for someone who can repair electrochemical equipments, you can find vendors who utilize functional test methods that are employed when the manufacturing of the same is being undertaken.

Get the best electronic repair services with Zentech

Zentech Manufacturing Inc. is a leading contract engineering manufacturing company and engineering services provider. The company leads others by offering better services, reliable solutions, cost effective results that are adorned with experts who have high technical competency, which has helped them earn a distinct popularity in the US.

New Call-to-Action

Topics: consumer electronics, electronics repair services, supply chain management, quality components