A must-read guide for the PCBA industry—IPC standards

Almost all practitioners in the PCBA industry know what the IPC standard is: It is rather a norm or a document based on science also on technological tests or experience that has been approved by a national or international entity and that defines characteristics, requirements, specifications or specific points to achieve a process or service performed successfully. There are different recognized organizations to certify products or to issue such standards, such as ISO, ITU, IEC and the one we have been talking about IPC PCB organization.

Concept of IPC PCB standard

IPC standards are a best practice guide for the design, assembly and manufacture of printed circuit boards(PCB). It is an invaluable tool for the electronic designer, as well as being used to define specifications for cables, connectors, soldering, lab testing and many other inputs or elements used in the assembly of electronic devices. All these definitions of the standard help us to achieve high levels of quality in our printed circuit boards and in the final device that contains them (the device that will use them as a fundamental part).

The IPC (Institute for Printed Circuits, they connect electronic manufacturers) is an association of worldwide participants from the electronics industry, designers, PCB assembly company, manufacturers of electronic products or devices, as well as some educational and government entities. It was created since 1957 and has more than 3500 members, works on standards issuance, certification, education, professional development, studies, marketing, regulatory programs and industrial programs within the range of the electronic PCB components manufacturing industry.

The positive side of knowing the IPC standards is that they provide quick and timely information about technology trends and of course, the market indicating where the industry is moving forward helping us to implement better techniques. It also provides information about trade fairs, technical conferences and other events promoted by the electronics industry and also by IPC itself.

  • The stamp of a standard on a PCBA can certify that those products or services meet or are in compliance with the standards of the defined standard;
  • Printed circuit board design and electronic circuit design do not escape these standards, they are used in the design and manufacturing stages and allow us to guarantee a quality final product;
  • The IPC circuit board standard plays an important role in the circuit board industry, and the standard can be viewed on their website.

How IPC Standards Help PCBA Projects

Referring to IPC standards in our PCBA projects (design, assemble, manufacture, deliver) can bring us many benefits: Doing things guided by the best practices of the industry and paying attention to their needs; Committing and demonstrating the efficiency of our company and our service regarding the turnkey PCBA which allows us to demonstrate to our customers the quality of our work and gain recognition as designers of quality parts.

As the standards are to be used by designers in their work, they help to eliminate problems of interpretation between manufacturers, designers and users of PCBA by providing a standard that helps the exchange of information.

It helps to constantly improve products as the standards are constantly being revised and every few years a new version is released that includes improvements from lessons learned during each period.

PCB IPC standards also help us to reduce delays in product development as it eliminates misunderstandings between the different stages involved in the design and manufacture of PCBA. Since the designs are oriented to manufacturing and to an environment that the manufacturer can understand our designs very well, reducing rework time and making the product can be launched to the market in a shorter time.

Using IPC standards is not mandatory, but if you use them you can get a better product, you can contribute with a robust, reliable and long-lasting product. It can also be used with other standards to obtain other certifications such as “low electromagnetic contamination emission” certification. To contribute to pass other tests and obtain some additional certifications to which some electronic devices are subjected so that they can be marketed internationally. Since in some regions there are additional standards that depend on laboratory tests for their approval and their commercialization in that region be authorized.

What is the most commonly used IPC standard in the PCBA industry?

The most famous standard among all IPC standards for PCB is 2221B since this standard is the most widely used as it defines the requirements for PCB manufacturing in general, as well as the aspects of electronic board assembly, recommendations, tips, suggestions and design principles, including the mounting and assembly of DIP or SMD components. IPC 2221 is used in conjunction with the ancillary standards 7351 and IPC T50 and IPC D325.

There are organizations specialized in providing courses and training on the use of IPC standards (the IPC Institute is one of them), however a deep search on the internet can provide you with the basic guidelines to be able to assemble quality PCBA following these standards, or at least getting closer to the purpose of having a good quality PCBA boards. 

Having access to the IPC standards is not economical since obtaining a copy of these standards can have a significant economic value for most electronic designers. Therefore, institutions that can obtain these standards are typically large companies or universities that specialize in one-stop PCBA services, or other educational institutions that may have the financial resources to obtain these standards. Next, FS Technology will introduce various IPC standards:

  • IPC 2220 standard, which helps the designer who is interested in designing, improving or working on a PCB to obtain a clear guide of the procedure to follow. It is also useful for those who want the manufacturer to provide PCB design, PCB fabrication, PCB assembly consulting services. The IPC 2220 standard is not a single standard, but consists of a series of standards that define the PCBA service part.
  • Standard 2221B explains general printed circuit board(PCB) layout.
  • Standard 2222A Explains design by sections for rigid PCB with Bakelite and FR4 fiberglass materials as well as deposited on aluminum and other rigid materials.
  • Standard 2223D Defines design standards for semi-rigid or flexible PCB.
  • Standard 2224 defines the standard for the manufacture of printed circuit boards to be used in personal computers, laptops and other computer systems, whether for users or for industrial applications, terminals, servers, etc.
  • 2225 is a design standard for MCM-L multi-chip modules.
  • The 2226 standard is a design standard for high density interconnect or HDI PCB.

Summarize

The most important thing when you start in the world of electronic design is to understand the assembly process, understand how each component is assembled or fixed on the printed circuit board(SMT assembly, DIP assembly or mixed assembly), how much space it occupies, what is its height etc. in this way common sense will be a great ally to design quality circuits. However, my recommendation is that you can enroll in a course where you can have access at least to the IPC 2221 Standard, so that you have a basis that will give you confidence when designing printed circuit boards.

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