Contract Electronics Manufacturing and PCB Assembly Blog

Surface Mounted Technology Brings Smaller, More-Affordable Devices

Posted by Matthew Turpin on Thu, Feb 26, 2015 @ 07:00 AM

sm technologyAre you still using electronics manufacturers based around "through-hole" circuit board assembly?  If so, you may be hobbling your own products!

Through-hole circuits used to be standard in the industry, from the 1940s onward.  The basic idea was very simple.  The electronic components are mounted on one side of the board, with the wires threaded through matching holes to criss-cross the opposite side.  If you ever played with breadboards in electronic hobbyist kits, that was a basic through-hole design.

However, there's a new method that's been around since the 1980s, but has recently become far more popular thanks to advances in the field: Surface-Mounting.  Products made with surface mounted technology (SMT) are superior to older methods in most  cases.

If you haven't looked into SMT methods, now is a great time to do so!  With so much market competition in electronics right now, your products need every advantage you can give them.

Five Ways Surface-Mounted Technology Produces Better Products

1 - Less drilling.

One basic problem with through-hole mounting is that every hole has to be individually drilled into the circuit board before assembly can begin.  This is an expensive and time-consuming process that also has a relatively high failure rate.  

SMT can use pre-fab circuit boards with far less customization needed beforehand, and no need to drill into the board itself.

2 - Fewer wires.

SMT eliminates the need to have the back of the circuit covered in wiring because SMT utilizes a special kind of solder that also acts as glue.  Simply placing the components onto the board "wires" them into place, with far fewer actual wires required.  This generally reduces the chance of defects, as well as making repairs easier.

3 - Far greater component density.

You get a two-for-one benefit here.  That special glue means that individual components can be smaller and more tightly-packed, since they require fewer wires connecting them.

Plus, of course, since the backside of the board isn't reserved for wiring, it can be used for components.  SMT production facilities that support double-sided component placement can produce far smaller and more energy-efficient electronics.

4 - Automation-friendly assembly.surface mount technology

SMT processes are much easier to automate, since a lot of the detail work which would require human intervention is eliminated.  There's no need for hand-drilling or custom laying of wires.  For that matter, even the components are generally less expensive than those used in through-hole mounting.

The result is that SMT processes will almost always be cheaper for you than through-hole, especially when post-sale support and repairs are taken into consideration.

5 - SMT can combine with through-hole.

As we mentioned above, there are certain cases where SMT isn't as effective as the older technology.  There are two particular issues with it:

  • The glue used melts under high heat.  As such, components which will bear a high electrical load OR generate a lot of heat should not be mounted using SMT.

  • The glue is weakened by mechanical stress.  The physical binding of through-hole components is much better for components where the user will be directly interacting with them, such as interface ports.

The good news is that you can mix-and-match without driving the price up or losing most of the advantages of SMT.  For example, you could reserve part of the board for a through-hole mounted power transformer, while using SMT for the rest of the components.

Demand The Best For Your Electronics

With the electronics market so flooded, and consumers so accustomed to using online reviews to guide their purchasing decisions, a company simply cannot afford to release substandard products.  Right now, the cream is rising to the top and everything else is simply sinking.

To learn more about how surface-mounting processes can save you a lot of money while creating better products, just contact ZenTech today for a free consultation


Electronic Interconnect Cabling Whitepaper from Zentech

Topics: surface mounted technology

What Is the Difference Between Through Hole And Surface Mounted Technology

Posted by Matthew Turpin on Sat, Feb 22, 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?

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Topics: smt production, smt manufacturing, surface mounted technology

Surface Mounted Technology Makes Manufacturing Processes Smooth

Posted by Matthew Turpin on Wed, Nov 06, 2013 @ 07:00 AM

Although still a relatively newer concept, surface mounted technology (SMT) is quickly becoming Surface Mounted Technologythe "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 Technologysmt production

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? 

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Topics: smt production, surface mount technology, surface mounted technology

Surface Mounted Technology, What Is It All About?

Posted by Matthew Turpin on Thu, Aug 29, 2013 @ 07:00 AM

There's more than one way to mount components onto a PCB. Although through-hole methods have been most prevalent in the past, surface mounted technology (SMT) brings something new to the table. So how can you be sure how to go about completing your PCB design schematics? In order to help you make your decision, here's a quick guide to surface mounted technology, its advantages, its disadvantages, and when it should be considered for use.pcb-assembling.jpg

What is Surface Mounted Technology (SMT)?

In SMT, components are placed directly onto the surface of a PCB in order to create what is known as a surface mount devise (SMD). Due to its efficiency and effectiveness, SMT has widely replaced through-hole technology methods for constructing PCBs, however, both methods can be utilized on the same PCB. This is because there are some components that are simply not suited to surface mounting. These components might include large transformers and heat-sinked power semiconductors. Generally speaking, SMT components are smaller in size than through-hole units as they have smaller leads or do not have any leads at all.

What are the Advantages of Surface Mounted Technology?

The primary advantage to SMT, of course, is size. Because today's electronics are expected to be more compact, there is an increase in demand for smaller units. SMT makes this possible. But despite the fact that these units are not as bulky as older devices, there is actually a much higher component density, as well as more connections per each component. This means that electronics can be more efficient and advanced than ever before, while still being as compact as possible. Fewer holes need to be drilled into the boards which leads to faster and more automated assembly processes, and the fact that components are able to be situated on either side of the circuit board simplifies things further. On top of this, there are many SMT parts and components that actually cost less than their through-hole counterparts. All of this results in a lower initial cost, less time required for setting up and production, reduced manufacture cost, and a more efficient use of time.

What are the Disadvantages of Surface Mounted Technology?

Unfortunately, there are no perfect or fool-proof manufacture processes, and SMT does have its drawbacks as well. As an example, SMT is not suited for any large, high-power/high-voltage parts. Because of this, SMT and through-hole construction may need to be combined for better results. Additionally, the small size of SMDs can create issues, in that the solder joint dimensions continue to grow smaller as advances are made toward ultra-fine pitch technology. Ultimately, this means that less solder is able to be used for each joint which can result in voiding, and integrity issues. The solder connections of SMDs are also capable of being damaged by plotting compounds as they go through thermal cycling. Lastly, SMT should not be used as the sole attachment method for any components that may be subject to ongoing mechanical stress, for instance, connectors that are utilized to interface with external devices which are often attached or detached.

When Should Surface Mounted Technology be Used?

Because of its many benefits, the majority of products manufactured at this time utilize surface mounted technology. Despite this, we have seen that SMT is not suitable in all cases. As a rule, SMT should be considered if:
  • Your products must be very small/compactsurface-mounted-technology.jpg
  • Your products must be able to accommodate large volumes of memory
  • Your final product needs to be sleek and light despite component density
  • Your product will need to be able to function at high speed/frequencies
  • You need to produce large quantities with automated technology
  • Your product should only transmit very little noise (if any at all)
  • Your product must be able to accommodate a great deal of large, high lead-count complex ICs

Talk to your contract manufacturer to verify that SMT is right for your product.


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Topics: contract manufacturing company, PCB Assembling, surface mounted technology

3 New Advances With SMT Production

Posted by Laura Austin on Thu, Jun 13, 2013 @ 07:00 AM

If you only started working in the electronics industry within the past 30 years, you probably take the advantages of SMT production for granted. For those who have been in the game for awhile, though, it's obvious that the emergence of SMT production has changed the way in which electronic devices can be designed and manufactured. The good news is that SMT processes are only getting better and more fine tuned with every passing year. In this post we will explore what it is that SMT production has already done for the industry and at three of its latest advancements. 
SMT-productionHow SMT Production Changed the Game

In the beginning, there was point-to-point construction. Before the 1950s, manufacturers had to assemble all products by hand - a very costly and time consuming process. Fortunately, after the invention of the Printed Circuit Board (PCB), contract electronic manufacturers were able to pre-design circuit boards and mass-produce them in a way that was faster, cheaper, and more consistent. Originally, all PCB manufacturing was completed via "Through-Hole" technology which required holes to be drilled through each PCB board. Each component then used a small "peg and hole" arrangement as a means of staying in place prior to being secured on the opposite side. Unfortunately, despite being faster and more reliable than manual assembly, Through-Hole technology was still a difficult and tedious process. Additionally, the holes took away some of the board's integrity. Enter: Surface Mounted Technology SMT) production. 

SMT built upon the basic concept of Through-Hole technology and made it better. Instead of drilling holes through PCBs, components could be applied via a solder paste. Not only does this lower production costs and reduce the time required to assemble a PCB, but it also enables more components to be placed onto smaller space - a must in the world of compact technology.

Continuous Evolution in SMT Production

SMT manufacturing has continued to evolve and improve since its introduction to the electronics industry in the 1980s, and it will only continue to get better. Here's a closer look at three of the latest advancements in SMT:

1. LED Technology - Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) have rapidly becoming more popular within the manufacturing and electronics industry. In fact, LEDs have almost entirely overtaken the bulbs conventionally used for PCBs. But why is this? The number one advantage of LEDs is their smaller size and lower power consumption.  When paired with the faster, more time and cost efficient methodologies of SMT, LED lights can help lead to a significant increase in production rates while simultaneously decreasing labor costs. And on top of this, it's a "green" technology.  It's a win all around.

2. Soldering Paste

We already know that soldering paste has done wonders for improving the speeds and lowering the costs associated with developing PCB boards for small, compact electronic devices. But even though it has totally altered the landscape of the electronics industry, soldering paste is still improving. Some of the most helpful advancements in this arena include the recent development of fine particle pastes, water soluble pastes, and no clean pastes. These improvements have all worked to help make the manufacturing process easier and more efficient.

3. Increased Speed

Today's consumer market has a need for speed. With Through-Hole technology, PCBs were required to be larger, and therefore slower and less efficient. SMT production methods have allowed for increasingly smaller components to be incorporated into PCBs. In fact, components that manufactures once believed would be impossible to add to a board are now being integrated into electronics with ease. As these components grow more compact and improved soldering pastes can be used to secure them, more components can be added to increasingly smaller PCBs. The benefit here is twofold: First, electronics companies are able to provide their customers with compact, lightweight electronic devices. Secondly, the smaller boards run faster, meeting consumer demands. 

Are you taking advantage of SMT production?

Topics: smt production, smt manufacturing, surface mounted technology

Surface Mounted Technology Makes Manufacturing Processes Smooth

Posted by Laura Austin on Tue, Jan 15, 2013 @ 07:00 AM

One thing that often surprises newcomers to the contract electronics industry is that its backbone is a manufacturing process that was developed back in the 1980s. Surface mounted technology revolutionized electronics manufacturing, and it did such a good job that some thirty years later, we're still using it.

Sure, the technologies involved have improved radically in the intervening decades, but the underlying processes are the same. So what is it about surface mounted technology that SMTmade it such an effective process? Let's take a look.

Electronics Manufacturing Before Surface Mounted Technology

Automation first came to electronics manufacturing in the 1950s. Before then, electronics had to be assembled by hand using point-to-point construction, making them both costly and difficult to create. Advanced electronics and computers could really only be afforded by governments.

Then, the Printed Circuit Board (PCB) was invented. Circuit boards could be pre-designed and then mass-produced, creating a stable platform onto which the rest of the components were inserted. The standardized design also allowed automation to be introduced, with assembly lines inserting components rapidly into the pre-made PCBs.

At this time, manufacturing was dominated by "Through-Hole" technology. Holes were drilled through the PCBs, with each individual component using a small "peg and hole" arrangement to stay in place before being secured on the opposite side.

While a huge step forward from previous hand-crafted solutions, this still had significant problems. The drilling made the process more expensive and difficult than it could be, and lowered the strength of the boards. As technology advanced and miniaturized, space on PCBs was at a premium.

A new solution was needed, one which would allow electronics manufacturing to be a swift,SMT production smooth process of sticking parts together with a minimum of other activity.

Surface Mounted Technology Smooths The Electronics Manufacturing Process

Surface mounted technology (SMT) took the basic concept of through-hole manufacturing and streamlined it. PCBs no longer had to have holes drilled through them. Instead, components could be applied using a solder paste that doubled as glue.

This simplified the process to the point that electronics could be produced nearly as fast as they could be envisioned, leading to the consumer electronics boom of the late 80s and 90s. While SMT-mounted components lacked some of the inherent strength of a through-hole mount, being able to place far more of them onto smaller spaces more than outweighed this minor disadvantage.

Contract electronics manufacturing flourished as a result.

Surface Mounted Technology: A Five Step Process

Modern SMT production is a remarkably streamlined process that, once set up, requires little intervention. It boils down to five main stages:

  1. The PCB itself is produced, with circuitry and solder points already laid out for solder paste to the solder points on each PCB.

  2. Silk-Screen -like printers precision deposit solder onto the pads that will join the components to the board.

  3. Pick-and-Place machines precisely apply components to the prepared solder points.

  4. Reflow soldering ovens then bake the combined PCBs at exact temperatures to harden the solder into its final state without damaging the surrounding components.surface mount technology

  5. Finally, the finished assemblies are visually and automatically inspected via automated optical inspection (AOI), with defective boards sent back for rework to fix improperly-bonded components.

From there, the finished board can be shipped off to its final assembly into the completed product.

The Tried and True Solution

Undoubtedly, one day someone will find something better than SMT electronics manufacturing, but that day is likely still many years ahead of us. It's hard to imagine a more streamlined process for electronics creation without a significant change in how we create circuitry.

Until that day, the technology will continue to be refined, placing more components into smaller spaces, to keep providing gadgets to meet the demands of consumers.

Although, it does leave one to wonder: what will come after surface mounted technology? What might the circuits of the future look like?

Topics: electronics manufacturing, electronic manufacturing company, electronic design and manufacture, PCB, printed circuit board, contract electronics industry, Electronics Contract Manufacturer, through hole technology, electronic design, surface mounted technology, electronics design

SMT Production Adds Efficiency To Any Process

Posted by Laura Austin on Tue, Dec 25, 2012 @ 07:00 AM

Why SMT?

Compact size and ability to get mounted on both sides of printed circuit boards have helped surface mounted technology (SMT) emerge as the preferred option in electronics and appliances. The SMT components occupy lesser space and a single component can perform multiple tasks. The advantages SMT has can be easily seen in both design and manufacturing. SMT production has added efficiency to many processes, which before this technology were much more difficult to carry out. 

SMT production has many benefits that have driven engineers and technicians to use this inSMT-production more and more devices. Just a few of these benefits are

  • Reduced board cost

  • The manufacturing is faster and more efficient

  • The cost of material handling is lowered

  • The board size gets reduced significantly

  • The number of holes that are to be drilled in the board are very few.

  • The components used in SMT reduce the conductor inductance and parasitic lead while adding to the resistance and capacitance.

  • The overall cost of production is lowered and the efficiency is increased

  • This new assembly technology has provided a competitive advantage to manufacturers

  • The yield by this method is higher

  • The pitch layouts are finer

  • The boards boast mixed technology with multi-layer circuitry

  • Achieving improved electrical performance seems easier that is offered due to high frequency and higher operating speed.

When To Opt For SMT In Production 

Most products in the current time are being manufactured using surface mounted technology. There has been a drastic improvement in the supplier infrastructure and skilled buyers number. But, theSMT criteria’s which best depict the use of SMT production methods are:

  • When the products to be manufactured are small in size

  • When the products can accommodate large amounts of memory

  • When final product needs to be sleek and light

  • When a product must function at high speed and frequencies

  • When the production is for large quantities and uses automated technology

  • When a product must transmit very little or no noise

  • When product can accommodate many large, high lead count complex ICs

SMT production: Myth Vs reality

SMT is an important method to improve the efficiency of many processes. The success of the process using SMT is based on both machines and human involvement. The operator for example must be familiar with the equipment that can help in enhancing product efficiency. Undertaking regular inspections and maintenance is vital to ensure full efficacy. Most companies think that the task is very arduous and thus prefer keeping away from SMT. But, if handled by a team of experienced professionals, benefits this can unveil in the long run are great to enjoy efficiency and cost effectiveness.

LED component assembly benefits from SMT production

LED technology has recently seen a rapid growth and has offered manufacturing and electronics industry a viable option. LEDs have overtaken the conventional bulbs almost completely and the greatest benefits associated are the smaller size and lower power consumption. The SMT production method helps in placing multiple components on the circuit boards at one time, which has led to a significant increase in the production rate while decreasing the labour cost thus adding efficiency to LED component manufacturing. Also, this is a “green technology”. SMT industries are now improving to become part of the LEDsurface mounted technology component assembly industry, to enjoy mutual advantage, as the potential applications for both LED and SMT are endless.

Future of SMT

SMT is evolving and all the components needed to carry out SMT production are evolving as well.. New components and technology is being developed, but the future seems very bright and has great potential.

Zentech offers a range of manufacturing solutions to clients while specializing in complex processes that require high reliability. The Company has a team of professionals who are well versed about the latest methods of production including SMT. 

The higher technical competency and ease of business that Zentech offers, has helped it emerge as a leader in the USA.

Topics: smt production, surface mount technology, smt manufacturing, surface mounted technology, American based SMT production