How to choose the right PCB assembly process

Choosing the right PCB assembly process is very important, as this decision has a direct impact on the efficiency and cost of your manufacturing process and the quality and performance of your application.

PCB assembly is typically carried out using one of two processes: surface-mount technology or through-hole manufacturing. Surface-mount technology is the most widely used PCB assembly. Through-hole manufacturing is used less but remains popular, especially in certain industries.

Your choice of PCB assembly process is dictated by a number of factors. To help you make the correct one, we have put together this short guide to choosing the right PCB assembly process.

PCB assembly: surface-mount technology

Surface-mount technology is the most commonly used PCB assembly process. It is used in a number of electronic products, ranging from USB flash drives and smartphones to medical devices and portable navigation systems.

  • This PCB assembly process allows the manufacture of products with ever smaller dimensions. If space is of a premium then this is your best choice if your design features components, such as resistors and diodes.
  • Surface-mount technology allows for greater automation, which means circuit boards can be assembled at a much quicker rate. This gives you the capacity to process PCBs in high volume and has the benefit of greater cost-efficiency vs through hole component placement.
  • If you have unique requirements, surface-mount technology may be the right choice because it is highly customisable. If you need a custom-designed PCB, this process has the flexibility and power to deliver the results you want.
  • With surface-mount technology, components can be attached to both sides of the circuit board. This dual-sided circuit board capability means you can apply more complex circuitry without making your application larger.

PCB assembly: through-hole manufacturing

Although through-hole manufacturing is used less and less, it remains a common PCB assembly process.

PCB assembly using through-hole manufacturing is used for large components, such as transformers, semi-conductors and electrolytic capacitors, and provides a stronger bond between circuit board and application.

As a result, through-hole manufacturing offers an enhanced level of durability and reliability. This extra security makes the process a preferred option for applications used by sectors such as the aerospace and military industries.

  • If your application has to endure high levels of stress during its operation, either mechanical or environmental, your best choice of PCB assembly may be through-hole manufacturing.
  • If your application has to operate at high speeds and perform at the highest level while subject to these conditions, through-hole manufacturing may be the right process for you.
  • If your application has to operate at extreme temperatures, both hot and cold, the enhanced strength, durability and reliability of through-hole manufacturing may be your best choice.
  • Through-hole manufacturing may be the best PCB assembly process for your application if it has to operate and maintain its performance in high-voltage conditions.

Furthermore, as a result of continued innovation and growing demand for increasingly complex electronic products that require ever-more complicated, integrated and smaller PCBs, your application may require both types of PCB assembly technology. This process is referred to as ‘mixed technology’.

Deciding on your PCB assembly process

This guide provides a quick insight into which PCB assembly process may be best suited to your application. However, there may be other factors that make the decision more complicated.

This is why choosing the right PCB assembly partner is critical. An expert and experienced electronics assembly specialist will be able to assess your PCB assembly needs and select the PCB assembly process that delivers greater manufacturing efficiency and better-performing applications.

To find out how MPE Electronics services can benefit your business, contact us on +44 (0)1825 764822 or enquiries@mpe-electronics.co.uk.