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PCB panelization

In electronics assembly, small circuit boards can be tricky, causing mistakes and slowing production. To streamline the process, companies use PCB panelization that groups several PCBs onto one big panel. This article will cover popular techniques and design guidelines for PCB panelization.

What are PCB panels & panelization

PCB Panelization
PCB panel

Panelization

involves arranging multiple PCBs on a single larger board (the panel) for manufacturing. Smaller PCBs are organized in a grid or array within the larger panel and are then separated after manufacturing. This technique helps optimize production efficiency, reduce costs, and simplify handling during assembly and testing.

Advantages of PCB Panelization

  • Increased Production Efficiency:
    • Multiple PCBs are fabricated simultaneously, reducing the number of individual operations required.
    • It reduces the time needed for handling and setup during the manufacturing process.
  • Cost Reduction:
    • Material wastage is minimized since the panels use the substrate more efficiently.
    • The production and handling costs are reduced because fewer steps are needed than processing individual boards.
  • Simplified Assembly and Testing:
    • Panels are easier to handle with automated assembly and testing equipment.
    • It allows for batch processing, where multiple boards can be assembled and tested together.
  • Enhanced Board Protection:
    • Small or thin PCBs are less likely to be damaged during handling when they are part of a larger, more robust panel.

    Common Panelization Methods

    1. V-Groove (V-Cut)

    • V-Groove, also known as V-Cut or V-Scoring, involves cutting V-shaped grooves along the lines where the individual PCBs will be separated. The grooves allow the boards to be snapped apart easily after assembly.

    Vantaggi:

    1. Efficient Separation:
      • PCBs can be easily separated by hand or with minimal mechanical force.
      • Suitable for high-volume production due to fast separation speed.
    2. Space-Saving:
      • Requires minimal edge clearance, allowing more PCBs to fit on a single panel and increasing material utilization.
    3. Low Production Cost:
      • The V-Groove process is relatively simple and inexpensive to implement.

    Svantaggi:

    1. Design Limitations:
      • Only suitable for PCBs with straight edges and simple geometries.
      • Not ideal for complex shapes or designs.
    2. Mechanical Stress:
      • The snapping process can introduce mechanical stress, potentially causing damage or microcracks to the PCBs.
    3. Precision Issues:
      • Requires precise control over the depth and angle of the V-groove.
      • Excessive depth can damage the PCB.

    2. Tab-Routing (Tab-Route)

    • Tab-Routing involves using a router to cut around the individual PCBs, leaving small tabs that keep the PCBs attached to the panel. These tabs often have perforations or small cuts to facilitate easy separation.

    Vantaggi:

    1. Suitable for Complex Shapes:
      • Capable of handling irregular and complex PCB designs with high flexibility.
    2. Minimal Separation Damage:
      • Less mechanical stress during separation, reducing the risk of damage to the PCBs.
    3. Accurate Cutting:
      • High precision in mechanical cutting, providing clean edges and high-quality finishes.

    Svantaggi:

    1. Space Requirements:
      • Requires more edge clearance and space for tabs, reducing material utilization.
    2. Higher Production Cost:
      • The mechanical cutting process is more complex and time-consuming, leading to higher manufacturing costs.
    3. Post-Processing:
      • Additional cleaning and removal of tabs or burrs are required, adding to post-processing steps.

    3. Punching

    • Punching involves using a die to punch out individual PCBs from the panel. This method is common in high-volume production where PCBs have standard shapes and sizes.

    Vantaggi:

    1. High Production Efficiency:
      • Ideal for high-volume production with fast and efficient punching speed.
    2. Cost-Effective for Large Quantities:
      • One-time forming process reduces processing steps and time, lowering costs for large production runs.
    3. Consistency and Precision:
      • Punching molds ensure consistent and precise production for each batch.

    Svantaggi:

    1. High Initial Tooling Cost:
      • Punching molds are expensive to produce, leading to high initial setup costs.
      • More suitable for large production volumes to amortize the tooling cost.
    2. Design Limitations:
      • Best suited for standard shapes and sizes.
      • Not flexible for complex or irregular designs.
    3. Material Waste:
      • The punching process can produce more material waste, increasing overall costs.

    Conclusione

    Choosing the proper PCB panelization method helps designers and manufacturers optimize production efficiency, reduce costs, and ensure PCB quality and reliability.

    • V-Groove is ideal for straight-edged, high-volume production with low costs but has design limitations.
    • Tab-Routingis suitable for complex shapes with high flexibility but involves higher costs and additional post-processing.
    • Punching is efficient for standard shapes and large volumes but requires high initial tooling costs and can produce more material waste.

    PCB Panelization: 11 Fundamental Rules

    Following key guidelines in PCB panelization can lead to significant production savings and efficiency. Here are the 11 fundamental rules:

    1. Panel Size: Ensure one dimension exceeds 50 mm for handling, and consider machine limits for maximum dimensions.

    2. Panel Form: Panels should be rectangular, even if individual PCBs have irregular shapes.

    3. Panel Composition: Homogeneous panels containing identical PCBs are often more practical than heterogeneous ones.

    4. Handling Margin: Leave a margin (12.5 mm for single/double-sided, 25 mm for multilayer boards) for transport and handling.

    5. Singulation Preparation: Use tabs or V-grooves for panel separation, ensuring protective measures are in place.

    6. PCB Geometries: Consider mechanical and laser limitations; lasers are preferred for complex shapes but are limited to <2 mm thickness.

    7. Technical Cleanliness: Choose processes that ensure clean edges, which is crucial for high-purity requirements.

    8. Stress: Minimize mechanical and thermal stress with methods like laser cutting, especially for sensitive components.

    9. Mounting: Maintain appropriate distances between cutting channels and components to avoid collisions.

    10. Space Between PCBs: Design adequate spacing for cutting tools—2-3 mm for milling a few hundred micrometers for lasers.

    11. Full Cut: Utilize full cuts with lasers for efficient space utilization, potentially saving over 30% in material and process costs.

    Conclusione

    Panelization ensures both the efficiency and quality of PCBs. Every technique, such as V-Groove, Tab Routing, or Perforated Tabs, has unique benefits and drawbacks. By adhering to design requirements and using the appropriate technology, manufacturers may optimize their production processes, save costs, and guarantee excellent quality. 

    Thus, to ensure optimal PCB panelization services, carefully choose the proper PCB manufacturer.

    Collaborate with FS PCBA for professional solutions tailored to your requirements. At FS PCBA, we constantly deliver premium and best-quality products with high-quality engineering services. 

    Contact FS PCBA today to discuss your panel project and get ready to receive top-class services and products.

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