What is difference between PCB and PCBA​

PCB and PCBA are commonly used terms in the electronics manufacturing industry. Although the two differ only by an “A” letter, their inner meanings are worlds apart. For non-electronics industry practitioners, it may be ridiculed for improper use. So what is PCB or PCBA? What is the difference between PCBA and PCBLet’s take a quick look at each other’s relationship through the YouTube video below.

Is it PCB or PCBA in electronic equipment?

This article uses a mobile phone as an example. We disassemble the mobile phone to get different parts, and its internal composition mainly includes the following accessories: earpiece, speaker, microphone, battery, screen, keyboard, printed circuit board and various chips. These parts can be roughly divided into three categories:

  • Function Transmitter (Chip)
  • Functional Transport Carrier (PCB)
  • Function Releaser (Shell)
Disassembled mobile phone picture

From the point of view of electronic consumers, electronic products rely on the internal chip to function, which is right, but they mistakenly think that the green board is a chip. In electronic products, the green board is one of the protagonists of this article-PCBA board. After disassembling the PCBA board, the PCB bare board and electronic components can be obtained. An IC or chip is a type of electronic PCBA component. Presumably the reason we confuse chips with PCBs and PCBAs is because chips are also called integrated circuits.

PCBA chip

Breaking down the PCBA assembly process may help you distinguish the three relationships. Engineers program the required functionality into the chip, and then commission a turnkey PCBA assembly company to manufacture and assemble the PCB. The circuit board obtained after the assembly is completed is the PCBA board. Therefore, the circuit boards in the electronic equipment sold on the market are called PCBA boards.

PCB vs PCBA: A Comparison of Definitions

After reading the above article, I believe that most people can distinguish between PCB and PCBA. Below we will give a comprehensive analysis and introduction of the two from a more professional perspective, so that you can better understand the difference between the two.

What is PCB

PCB without components
  • The concept of PCB

At the beginning of the invention, we called it PWB, the full name of printed wiring board. To avoid panic, it was renamed printed circuit boards, or PCBs, because of its namesake with a toxic chemical.

  • The working principle of PCB

The working principle of the PCB is to provide a carrier for electronic parts and integrated circuits through the traces on the circuit board, to realize the electrical interconnection between the various components. If you are a college student or want to know more professional content, you can go to the printed circuit board organization website, these PCB org websites are generally assembled by the most authoritative organizations in the industry.

  • The role of PCB

PCBs are the foundation of modern electronic devices are an important electronic part, a support body for electronic components, and a carrier for electrical connection of electronic parts. Almost all electronic devices contain PCBs, from electronic watches and calculators to computers, communication electronics and military weapon systems.

  • Main types of PCBs

There are different types of circuit board according to different classification situations. The following are five conventional ways of distinguishing:

  1. Distinguish by the number of layers and faces: single-layer(single-sided), double-layer(double-sided), multi-layer PCB.
  2. Distinguish by degree of softness and hardness: flexible, rigid, rigid flex PCB.
  3. Differentiated by substrate material: rogers, aluminum, ceramic and FR-4 PCB.
  4. Distinguish by function: High Speed, HDI and High Frequency PCB.
  5. Divided by application: military electronics, aerospace, consumer electronics, medical PCB.

The picture above shows the bare PCB board. This concludes the content of what is a PCB. This article focuses on comparing PCBA and PCB. If you want to know more about what a PCB is, you can go to the dedicated page to view it.

What is PCBA

Optical Fiber PCB Assembly
  • The concept of PCBA

The full name of PCBA is printed circuit board assembly, which refers to the placement of electronic components on the bare PCB board through SMT assembly and DIP assembly technology. 

  • PCBA assembly process

After the PCB board is manufactured, it will enter the assembly workshop, and the PCB assembly process will be completed after SMT and DIP processing.

SMT Assembly ProcessIncoming Inspection → Silk Screen Solder Paste → Patch → Drying → Reflow Soldering → Cleaning → Inspection → Rework

DIP Assembly Process : Incoming Inspection → Manual Insertion → Wave Soldering → Trim Pins → Repair Soldering → Cleaning → Functional Test → Rework

  • The role of PCBA

As the brain of the electronic product, the CPU undertakes all the signal transmission work, but it is inseparable from the control of the PCBA, because it cannot work independently. It is different from PCB in that if the bare board is our body, then PCBA is more like the neural network of the human body. As a practitioner in the PCBA industry, we have always believed that PCBA is the core of electronic equipment and the bearer of future technological development. Because the lifespan, operating speed, reliability and stability of consumer electronic products have the most direct relationship with PCBA board.

  • Price Drivers for PCBA

Compared with the cost of finished products, the cost of PCB assembly is more transparent and open. PCB Assembly Cost Driver = Material Sourcing(parts and bare boards) + Bare Board Manufacturing + PCB Assembly (SMT and DIP) + Testing Services (except electrical inspection and visual inspection) + Shipping Costs.

Comparison of PCBA and PCB

  • Difference Conceptual: PCB is a bare board and does not contain components, while PCBA is a product that contains PCB and components.
  • Different Missions: The mission of PCB is to make a program that cannot run independently in a multiprogramming environment become a basic unit that can run independently. The mission of the PCBA board is to save costs for electronic products and provide good circuit performance and heat dissipation performance.
  • Different Manufacturing ProcessesPCB manufacturing is the manufacture of a board, while PCBA manufacturing is biased towards board assembly.
  • Different Manufacturing Costs: PCB assembly involves a variety of parts and processes. In contrast, the production of bare boards is simpler, so PCBAs are more expensive to manufacture.
  • Different Packaging Methods: The bare board is usually packaged by vacuum packaging, while the PCBA board is packaged with compartments or anti-static packaging.

Combination of PCB and PCBA


After understanding the relationship between PCB and PCBA, we take a double-layer PCB as a case to help you understand the process from PCB to PCBA.

There are many PCBA components in electronic products and these components are mounted on the circuit board. In order to make the circuit design more compact, electronic engineers usually use double-layer or multi-layer PCB structure, that is, use more components in a smaller space. For this purpose designer use as many SMD packages as he can so that a lot of components can be placed on both sides and if he faces difficulty in routing then he caters to this problem using vias and shift to another available layer. This makes the designing process easier and more compact. 

Double-sided PCB has clear Plated holes for DIP Components and plated pads for SMD packages along with components layout on both sides of PCB. For soldering THT package, flux flows through the conductive plated hole and fills it, and holds the component pin which passes through that hole. For SMD PCBA flux just form a conductive layer on the pin of SMD component and conductive pad in layout on PCB and create a path for current flow to create a circuit. After the tedious PCB assembly process, the work from double-layer PCB to double-layer PCBA is over.

Double-sided and multilayer PCBAs have many advantages and allow designers to build very complex circuits. It’s on to the circuit designer which component and its package he chooses for his circuit. It is most frequently prescribed to use at least a double-sided PCBA in designs to remain as simple and as compact as possible.


That’s all for the “The difference between PCB and PCBA”. If you have more interesting knowledge about PCBA, please feel free to contribute to FS Technology PCBA Blog, we can put a follow link for your website.

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