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Archive for June, 2013

5
Jun

Service

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HUBNER & AMICON XYCOM & WARNER ELECTRIC
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How Programmable Logic Works

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Siemens Simatic S7-400 system at rack, left-to-right: power supply unit PS407 4A,CPU 416-3, interface module IM 460-0 and communication processor CP 443-1.

A programmable logic controller (PLC) or programmable controller is a digital computer used for automation of electromechanical processes, such as control of machinery on factory assembly lines, amusement rides, or lighting fixtures. PLCs are used in many industries and machines. Unlike general-purpose computers, the PLC is designed for multiple inputs and output arrangements, extended temperature ranges, immunity to electrical noise, and resistance to vibration and impact. Programs to control machine operation are typically stored in battery-backed or non-volatile memory. A PLC is an example of a hard real time system since output results must be produced in response to input conditions within a bounded time, otherwise unintended operation will result.

History

The PLC was invented in response to the needs of the American automotive manufacturing industry. Programmable logic controllers were initially adopted by the automotive industry where software revision replaced the re-wiring of hard-wired control panels when production models changed.

Before the PLC, control, sequencing, and safety interlock logic for manufacturing automobiles was accomplished using hundreds or thousands of relays, cam timers, and drum sequencers and dedicated closed-loop controllers. The process for updating such facilities for the yearly model change-over was very time consuming and expensive, as electricians needed to individually rewire each and every relay.

In 1968 GM Hydramatic (the automatic transmission division of General Motors) issued a request for proposal for an electronic replacement for hard-wired relay systems. The winning proposal came from Bedford Associates of Bedford, Massachusetts. The first PLC, designated the 084 because it was Bedford Associates’ eighty-fourth project, was the result. Bedford Associates started a new company dedicated to developing, manufacturing, selling, and servicing this new product: Modicon, which stood for MOdular DIgital CONtroller. One of the people who worked on that project was Dick Morley, who is considered to be the “father” of the PLC. The Modicon brand was sold in 1977 to Gould Electronics, and later acquired by German Company AEG and then by French Schneider Electric, the current owner.

One of the very first 084 models built is now on display at Modicon’s headquarters in North Andover, Massachusetts. It was presented to Modicon by GM, when the unit was retired after nearly twenty years of uninterrupted service. Modicon used the 84 moniker at the end of its product range until the 984 made its appearance.

The automotive industry is still one of the largest users of PLCs.

Development

Early PLCs were designed to replace relay logic systems. These PLCs were programmed in “ladder logic”, which strongly resembles a schematic diagram of relay logic. This program notation was chosen to reduce training demands for the existing technicians. Other early PLCs used a form of instruction list programming, based on a stack-based logic solver.

Modern PLCs can be programmed in a variety of ways, from ladder logic to more traditional programming languages such as BASIC and C. Another method is State Logic, a very high-level programming language designed to program PLCs based on state transition diagrams.

Many early PLCs did not have accompanying programming terminals that were capable of graphical representation of the logic, and so the logic was instead represented as a series of logic expressions in some version of Boolean format, similar to Boolean algebra. As programming terminals evolved, it became more common for ladder logic to be used, for the aforementioned reasons. Newer formats such as State Logic and Function Block (which is similar to the way logic is depicted when using digital integrated logic circuits) exist, but they are still not as popular as ladder logic. A primary reason for this is that PLCs solve the logic in a predictable and repeating sequence, and ladder logic allows the programmer (the person writing the logic) to see any issues with the timing of the logic sequence more easily than would be possible in other formats.

Programming

Early PLCs, up to the mid-1980s, were programmed using proprietary programming panels or special-purpose programming terminals, which often had dedicated function keys representing the various logical elements of PLC programs. Programs were stored on cassette tape cartridges. Facilities for printing and documentation were very minimal due to lack of memory capacity. The very oldest PLCs used non-volatile magnetic core memory.

More recently, PLCs are programmed using application software on personal computers. The computer is connected to the PLC through Ethernet, RS-232, RS-485 or RS-422 cabling. The programming software allows entry and editing of the ladder-style logic. Generally the software provides functions for debugging and troubleshooting the PLC software, for example, by highlighting portions of the logic to show current status during operation or via simulation. The software will upload and download the PLC program, for backup and restoration purposes. In some models of programmable controller, the program is transferred from a personal computer to the PLC though a programming board which writes the program into a removable chip such as an EEPROM or EPROM.

Functionality

The functionality of the PLC has evolved over the years to include sequential relay control, motion control, process control, distributed control systems and networking. The data handling, storage, processing power and communication capabilities of some modern PLCs are approximately equivalent to desktop computers. PLC-like programming combined with remote I/O hardware, allow a general-purpose desktop computer to overlap some PLCs in certain applications. Regarding the practicality of these desktop computer based logic controllers, it is important to note that they have not been generally accepted in heavy industry because the desktop computers run on less stable operating systems than do PLCs, and because the desktop computer hardware is typically not designed to the same levels of tolerance to temperature, humidity, vibration, and longevity as the processors used in PLCs. In addition to the hardware limitations of desktop based logic, operating systems such as Windows do not lend themselves to deterministic logic execution, with the result that the logic may not always respond to changes in logic state or input status with the extreme consistency in timing as is expected from PLCs. Still, such desktop logic applications find use in less critical situations, such as laboratory automation and use in small facilities where the application is less demanding and critical, because they are generally much less expensive than PLCs.

In more recent years, small products called PLRs (programmable logic relays), and also by similar names, have become more common and accepted. These are very much like PLCs, and are used in light industry where only a few points of I/O (i.e. a few signals coming in from the real world and a few going out) are involved, and low cost is desired. These small devices are typically made in a common physical size and shape by several manufacturers, and branded by the makers of larger PLCs to fill out their low end product range. Popular names include PICO Controller, NANO PLC, and other names implying very small controllers. Most of these have between 8 and 12 digital inputs, 4 and 8 digital outputs, and up to 2 analog inputs. Size is usually about 4″ wide, 3″ high, and 3″ deep. Most such devices include a tiny postage stamp sized LCD screen for viewing simplified ladder logic (only a very small portion of the program being visible at a given time) and status of I/O points, and typically these screens are accompanied by a 4-way rocker push-button plus four more separate push-buttons, similar to the key buttons on a VCR remote control, and used to navigate and edit the logic. Most have a small plug for connecting via RS-232 or RS-485 to a personal computer so that programmers can use simple Windows applications for programming instead of being forced to use the tiny LCD and push-button set for this purpose. Unlike regular PLCs that are usually modular and greatly expandable, the PLRs are usually not modular or expandable, but their price can be two orders of magnitude less than a PLC and they still offer robust design and deterministic execution of the logic.

PLC Topics

Features

Control panel with PLC (grey elements in the center). The unit consists of separate elements, from left to right; power supply, controller, relay units for in- and output

The main difference from other computers is that PLCs are armored for severe conditions (such as dust, moisture, heat, cold) and have the facility for extensive input/output (I/O) arrangements. These connect the PLC to sensors and actuators. PLCs read limit switches, analog process variables (such as temperature and pressure), and the positions of complex positioning systems. Some use machine vision. On the actuator side, PLCs operate electric motors, pneumatic or hydraulic cylinders, magnetic relays, solenoids, or analog outputs. The input/output arrangements may be built into a simple PLC, or the PLC may have external I/O modules attached to a computer network that plugs into the PLC.

System scale

A small PLC will have a fixed number of connections built in for inputs and outputs. Typically, expansions are available if the base model has insufficient I/O.

Modular PLCs have a chassis (also called a rack) into which are placed modules with different functions. The processor and selection of I/O modules is customised for the particular application. Several racks can be administered by a single processor, and may have thousands of inputs and outputs. A special high speed serial I/O link is used so that racks can be distributed away from the processor, reducing the wiring costs for large plants.

User interface

See also: User interface and List of human-computer interaction topics

PLCs may need to interact with people for the purpose of configuration, alarm reporting or everyday control.

A Human-Machine Interface (HMI) is employed for this purpose. HMIs are also referred to as MMIs (Man Machine Interface) and GUIs (Graphical User Interface).

A simple system may use buttons and lights to interact with the user. Text displays are available as well as graphical touch screens. More complex systems use programming and monitoring software installed on a computer, with the PLC connected via a communication interface.

Communications

PLCs have built in communications ports, usually 9-pin RS-232, but optionally EIA-485 or Ethernet. Modbus, BACnet or DF1 is usually included as one of the communications protocols. Other options include various fieldbuses such as DeviceNet or Profibus. Other communications protocols that may be used are listed in the List of automation protocols.

Most modern PLCs can communicate over a network to some other system, such as a computer running a SCADA (Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition) system or web browser.

PLCs used in larger I/O systems may have peer-to-peer (P2P) communication between processors. This allows separate parts of a complex process to have individual control while allowing the subsystems to co-ordinate over the communication link. These communication links are also often used for HMI devices such as keypads or PC-type workstations.

Programming

PLC programs are typically written in a special application on a personal computer, then downloaded by a direct-connection cable or over a network to the PLC. The program is stored in the PLC either in battery-backed-up RAM or some other non-volatile flash memory. Often, a single PLC can be programmed to replace thousands of relays.

Under the IEC 61131-3 standard, PLCs can be programmed using standards-based programming languages. A graphical programming notation called Sequential Function Charts is available on certain programmable controllers. Initially most PLCs utilized Ladder Logic Diagram Programming, a model which emulated electromechanical control panel devices (such as the contact and coils of relays) which PLCs replaced. This model remains common today.

IEC 61131-3 currently defines five programming languages for programmable control systems: FBD (Function block diagram), LD (Ladder diagram), ST (Structured text, similar to the Pascal programming language), IL (Instruction list, similar to assembly language) and SFC (Sequential function chart). These techniques emphasize logical organization of operations.

While the fundamental concepts of PLC programming are common to all manufacturers, differences in I/O addressing, memory organization and instruction sets mean that PLC programs are never perfectly interchangeable between different makers. Even within the same product line of a single manufacturer, different models may not be directly compatible.

PLC compared with other control systems

Allen-Bradley PLC installed in a control panel

PLCs are well-adapted to a range of automation tasks. These are typically industrial processes in manufacturing where the cost of developing and maintaining the automation system is high relative to the total cost of the automation, and where changes to the system would be expected during its operational life. PLCs contain input and output devices compatible with industrial pilot devices and controls; little electrical design is required, and the design problem centers on expressing the desired sequence of operations. PLC applications are typically highly customized systems so the cost of a packaged PLC is low compared to the cost of a specific custom-built controller design. On the other hand, in the case of mass-produced goods, customized control systems are economic due to the lower cost of the components, which can be optimally chosen instead of a “generic” solution, and where the non-recurring engineering charges are spread over thousands or millions of units.

For high volume or very simple fixed automation tasks, different techniques are used. For example, a consumer dishwasher would be controlled by an electromechanical cam timer costing only a few dollars in production quantities.

A microcontroller-based design would be appropriate where hundreds or thousands of units will be produced and so the development cost (design of power supplies, input/output hardware and necessary testing and certification) can be spread over many sales, and where the end-user would not need to alter the control. Automotive applications are an example; millions of units are built each year, and very few end-users alter the programming of these controllers. However, some specialty vehicles such as transit busses economically use PLCs instead of custom-designed controls, because the volumes are low and the development cost would be uneconomic.

Very complex process control, such as used in the chemical industry, may require algorithms and performance beyond the capability of even high-performance PLCs. Very high-speed or precision controls may also require customized solutions; for example, aircraft flight controls.

Programmable controllers are widely used in motion control, positioning control and torque control. Some manufacturers produce motion control units to be integrated with PLC so that G-code (involving a CNC machine) can be used to instruct machine movements.[citation needed]

PLCs may include logic for single-variable feedback analog control loop, a “proportional, integral, derivative” or “PID controller”. A PID loop could be used to control the temperature of a manufacturing process, for example. Historically PLCs were usually configured with only a few analog control loops; where processes required hundreds or thousands of loops, a distributed control system (DCS) would instead be used. As PLCs have become more powerful, the boundary between DCS and PLC applications has become less distinct.

PLCs have similar functionality as Remote Terminal Units. An RTU, however, usually does not support control algorithms or control loops. As hardware rapidly becomes more powerful and cheaper, RTUs, PLCs and DCSs are increasingly beginning to overlap in responsibilities, and many vendors sell RTUs with PLC-like features and vice versa. The industry has standardized on the IEC 61131-3 functional block language for creating programs to run on RTUs and PLCs, although nearly all vendors also offer proprietary alternatives and associated development environments.

Digital and analog signals

Digital or discrete signals behave as binary switches, yielding simply an On or Off signal (1 or 0, True or False, respectively). Push buttons, limit switches, and photoelectric sensors are examples of devices providing a discrete signal. Discrete signals are sent using either voltage or current, where a specific range is designated as On and another as Off. For example, a PLC might use 24 V DC I/O, with values above 22 V DC representing On, values below 2VDC representing Off, and intermediate values undefined. Initially, PLCs had only discrete I/O.

Analog signals are like volume controls, with a range of values between zero and full-scale. These are typically interpreted as integer values (counts) by the PLC, with various ranges of accuracy depending on the device and the number of bits available to store the data. As PLCs typically use 16-bit signed binary processors, the integer values are limited between -32,768 and +32,767. Pressure, temperature, flow, and weight are often represented by analog signals. Analog signals can use voltage or current with a magnitude proportional to the value of the process signal. For example, an analog 0 – 10 V input or 4-20 mA would be converted into an integer value of 0 – 32767.

Current inputs are less sensitive to electrical noise (i.e. from welders or electric motor starts) than voltage inputs.

Example

As an example, say a facility needs to store water in a tank. The water is drawn from the tank by another system, as needed, and our example system must manage the water level in the tank.

Using only digital signals, the PLC has two digital inputs from float switches (Low Level and High Level). When the water level is above the switch it closes a contact and passes a signal to an input. The PLC uses a digital output to open and close the inlet valve into the tank.

When the water level drops enough so that the Low Level float switch is off (down), the PLC will open the valve to let more water in. Once the water level rises enough so that the High Level switch is on (up), the PLC will shut the inlet to stop the water from overflowing. This rung is an example of seal-in (latching) logic. The output is sealed in until some condition breaks the circuit.

|                                                             |  |   Low Level      High Level                 Fill Valve      |  |------[/]------|------[/]----------------------(OUT)---------|  |               |                                             |  |               |                                             |  |               |                                             |  |   Fill Valve  |                                             |  |------[ ]------|                                             |  |                                                             |  |                                                             |

An analog system might use a water pressure sensor or a load cell, and an adjustable (throttling) dripping out of the tank, the valve adjusts to slowly drip water back into the tank.

In this system, to avoid ‘flutter’ adjustments that can wear out the valve, many PLCs incorporate “hysteresis” which essentially creates a “deadband” of activity. A technician adjusts this deadband so the valve moves only for a significant change in rate. This will in turn minimize the motion of the valve, and reduce its wear.

A real system might combine both approaches, using float switches and simple valves to prevent spills, and a rate sensor and rate valve to optimize refill rates and prevent water hammer. Backup and maintenance methods can make a real system very complicated.

See also

  • The Westinghouse sign
  • Distributed control system, (DCS).
  • Industrial control systems, (ICS).
  • Industrial safety systems
  • Programmable automation controller, (PAC).
  • Signature image processing, (SIP)
  • SCADA

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Category : Electronic Repair Services | Industrial Controls Repair | Industrial Repair Group | Industrial Repair Service | Programmable Logic Controller - PLC Repair | Blog
3
Jun

Service

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How Circuit Boards Work

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Part of a 1983 Sinclair ZX Spectrum computer board; a populated PCB, showing the conductive traces, vias (the through-hole paths to the other surface), and some mounted electrical components


A printed circuit board, or PCB, is used to mechanically support and electrically connect electronic components using conductive pathways, tracks or signal traces etched from copper sheets laminated onto a non-conductive substrate. It is also referred to as printed wiring board (PWB) or etched wiring board. A PCB populated with electronic components is a printed circuit assembly (PCA), also known as a printed circuit board assembly (PCBA). Printed circuit boards are used in virtually all but the simplest commercially-produced electronic devices.

PCBs are inexpensive, and can be highly reliable. They require much more layout effort and higher initial cost than either wire wrap or point-to-point construction, but are much cheaper and faster for high-volume production; the production and soldering of PCBs can be done by totally automated equipment. Much of the electronics industry’s PCB design, assembly, and quality control needs are set by standards that are published by the IPC organization.

History

The inventor of the printed circuit was the Austrian engineer Paul Eisler who, while working in England, made one circa 1936 as part of a radio set. Around 1943 the USA began to use the technology on a large scale to make rugged radios for use in World War II. After the war, in 1948, the USA released the invention for commercial use. Printed circuits did not become commonplace in consumer electronics until the mid-1950s, after the Auto-Sembly process was developed by the United States Army.

Before printed circuits (and for a while after their invention), point-to-point construction was used. For prototypes, or small production runs, wire wrap or turret board can be more efficient. Predating the printed circuit invention, and similar in spirit, was John Sargrove’s 1936-1947 Electronic Circuit Making Equipment (ECME) which sprayed metal onto a Bakelite plastic board. The ECME could produce 3 radios per minute.

During World War II, the development of the anti-aircraft proximity fuse required an electronic circuit that could withstand being fired from a gun, and could be produced in quantity. The Centralab Division of Globe Union submitted a proposal which met the requirements: a ceramic plate would be screenprinted with metallic paint for conductors and carbon material for resistors, with ceramic disc capacitors and subminiature vacuum tubes soldered in place.[1]

Originally, every electronic component had wire leads, and the PCB had holes drilled for each wire of each component. The components’ leads were then passed through the holes and soldered to the PCB trace. This method of assembly is called through-hole construction. In 1949, Moe Abramson and Stanislaus F. Danko of the United States Army Signal Corps developed the Auto-Sembly process in which component leads were inserted into a copper foil interconnection pattern and dip soldered. With the development of board lamination and etching techniques, this concept evolved into the standard printed circuit board fabrication process in use today. Soldering could be done automatically by passing the board over a ripple, or wave, of molten solder in a wave-soldering machine. However, the wires and holes are wasteful since drilling holes is expensive and the protruding wires are merely cut off.

In recent years, the use of surface mount parts has gained popularity as the demand for smaller electronics packaging and greater functionality has grown.

Manufacturing


Materials






A PCB as a design on a computer (left) and realized as a board assembly populated with components (right). The board is double sided, with through-hole plating, green solder resist, and white silkscreen printing. Both surface mount and through-hole components have been used.







A PCB in a computer mouse. The Component Side (left) and the printed side (right).







The Component Side of a PCB in a computer mouse; some examples for common components and their reference designations on the silk screen.


Conducting layers are typically made of thin copper foil. Insulating layers dielectric are typically laminated together with epoxy resin prepreg. The board is typically coated with a solder mask that is green in color. Other colors that are normally available are blue, black, white and red. There are quite a few different dielectrics that can be chosen to provide different insulating values depending on the requirements of the circuit. Some of these dielectrics are polytetrafluoroethylene (Teflon), FR-4, FR-1, CEM-1 or CEM-3. Well known prepreg materials used in the PCB industry are FR-2 (Phenolic cotton paper), FR-3 (Cotton paper and epoxy), FR-4 (Woven glass and epoxy), FR-5 (Woven glass and epoxy), FR-6 (Matte glass and polyester), G-10 (Woven glass and epoxy), CEM-1 (Cotton paper and epoxy), CEM-2 (Cotton paper and epoxy), CEM-3 (Woven glass and epoxy), CEM-4 (Woven glass and epoxy), CEM-5 (Woven glass and polyester). Thermal expansion is an important consideration especially with BGA and naked die technologies, and glass fiber offers the best dimensional stability.

FR-4 is by far the most common material used today. The board with copper on it is called “copper-clad laminate”.

Copper foil thickness can be specified in ounces per square foot or micrometres. One ounce per square foot is 1.344 mils or 34 micrometres.

Patterning (etching)

The vast majority of printed circuit boards are made by bonding a layer of copper over the entire substrate, sometimes on both sides, (creating a “blank PCB”) then removing unwanted copper after applying a temporary mask (e.g. by etching), leaving only the desired copper traces. A few PCBs are made by adding traces to the bare substrate (or a substrate with a very thin layer of copper) usually by a complex process of multiple electroplating steps. The PCB manufacturing method primarily depends on whether it is for production volume or sample/prototype quantities.

Commercial (production quantities, usually PTH)



  • silk screen printing -the main commercial method.

  • Photographic methods. Used when fine linewidths are required.


Hobbyist/prototype (small quantities, usually not PTH)



  • Laser-printed resist: Laser-print onto paper (or wax paper), heat-transfer with an iron or modified laminator onto bare laminate, then etch.

  • Print onto transparent film and use as photomask along with photo-sensitized boards. (i.e. pre-sensitized boards), Then etch. (Alternatively, use a film photoplotter).

  • Laser resist ablation: Spray black paint onto copper clad laminate, place into CNC laser plotter. The laser raster-scans the PCB and ablates (vaporizes) the paint where no resist is wanted. Etch. (Note: laser copper ablation is rarely used and is considered experimental.)

  • Use a CNC-mill with a spade-shaped (i.e. 45-degree) cutter or miniature end-mill to route away the undesired copper, leaving only the traces.

There are three common “subtractive” methods (methods that remove copper) used for the production of printed circuit boards:


  1. Silk screen printing uses etch-resistant inks to protect the copper foil. Subsequent etching removes the unwanted copper. Alternatively, the ink may be conductive, printed on a blank (non-conductive) board. The latter technique is also used in the manufacture of hybrid circuits.

  2. Photoengraving uses a photomask and developer to selectively remove a photoresist coating. The remaining photoresist protects the copper foil. Subsequent etching removes the unwanted copper. The photomask is usually prepared with a photoplotter from data produced by a technician using CAM, or computer-aided manufacturing software. Laser-printed transparencies are typically employed for phototools; however, direct laser imaging techniques are being employed to replace phototools for high-resolution requirements.

  3. PCB milling uses a two or three-axis mechanical milling system to mill away the copper foil from the substrate. A PCB milling machine (referred to as a ‘PCB Prototyper’) operates in a similar way to a plotter, receiving commands from the host software that control the position of the milling head in the x, y, and (if relevant) z axis. Data to drive the Prototyper is extracted from files generated in PCB design software and stored in HPGL or Gerber file format.

“Additive” processes also exist. The most common is the “semi-additive” process. In this version, the unpatterned board has a thin layer of copper already on it. A reverse mask is then applied. (Unlike a subtractive process mask, this mask exposes those parts of the substrate that will eventually become the traces.) Additional copper is then plated onto the board in the unmasked areas; copper may be plated to any desired weight. Tin-lead or other surface platings are then applied. The mask is stripped away and a brief etching step removes the now-exposed original copper laminate from the board, isolating the individual traces. Some boards with plated through holes but still single sided were made with a process like this. General Electric made consumer radio sets in the late 1960s using boards like these.

The additive process is commonly used for multi-layer boards as it facilitates the plating-through of the holes (to produce conductive vias) in the circuit board.







  • PCB copper electroplating machine for adding copper to the in-process PCB









  • PCB’s in process of adding copper via electroplating




The dimensions of the copper conductors of the printed circuit board is related to the amount of current the conductor must carry. Each trace consists of a flat, narrow part of the copper foil that remains after etching. Signal traces are usually narrower than power or ground traces because their current carrying requirements are usually much less. In a multi-layer board one entire layer may be mostly solid copper to act as a ground plane for shielding and power return. For printed circuit boards that contain microwave circuits, transmission lines can be laid out in the form of stripline and microstrip with carefully-controlled dimensions to assure a consistent impedance. In radio-frequency circuits the inductance and capacitance of the printed circuit board conductors can be used as a delibrate part of the circuit design, obviating the need for additional discrete components.

Etching

Chemical etching is done with ferric chloride, ammonium persulfate, or sometimes hydrochloric acid. For PTH (plated-through holes), additional steps of electroless deposition are done after the holes are drilled, then copper is electroplated to build up the thickness, the boards are screened, and plated with tin/lead. The tin/lead becomes the resist leaving the bare copper to be etched away.

Lamination

Some PCBs have trace layers inside the PCB and are called multi-layer PCBs. These are formed by bonding together separately etched thin boards.

Drilling

Holes through a PCB are typically drilled with tiny drill bits made of solid tungsten carbide. The drilling is performed by automated drilling machines with placement controlled by a drill tape or drill file. These computer-generated files are also called numerically controlled drill (NCD) files or “Excellon files”. The drill file describes the location and size of each drilled hole. These holes are often filled with annular rings (hollow rivets) to create vias. Vias allow the electrical and thermal connection of conductors on opposite sides of the PCB.

Most common laminate is epoxy filled fiberglass. Drill bit wear is partly due to embedded glass, which is harder than steel. High drill speed necessary for cost effective drilling of hundreds of holes per board causes very high temperatures at the drill bit tip, and high temperatures (400-700 degrees) soften steel and decompose (oxidize) laminate filler. Copper is softer than epoxy and interior conductors may suffer damage during drilling.

When very small vias are required, drilling with mechanical bits is costly because of high rates of wear and breakage. In this case, the vias may be evaporated by lasers. Laser-drilled vias typically have an inferior surface finish inside the hole. These holes are called micro vias.

It is also possible with controlled-depth drilling, laser drilling, or by pre-drilling the individual sheets of the PCB before lamination, to produce holes that connect only some of the copper layers, rather than passing through the entire board. These holes are called blind vias when they connect an internal copper layer to an outer layer, or buried vias when they connect two or more internal copper layers and no outer layers.

The walls of the holes, for boards with 2 or more layers, are made conductive then plated with copper to form plated-through holes that electrically connect the conducting layers of the PCB. For multilayer boards, those with 4 layers or more, drilling typically produces a smear of the high temperature decomposition products of bonding agent in the laminate system. Before the holes can be plated through, this smear must be removed by a chemical de-smear process, or by plasma-etch. Removing (etching back) the smear also reveals the interior conductors as well.

Exposed conductor plating and coating

PCBs[2] are plated with solder, tin, or gold over nickel as a resist for etching away the unneeded underlying copper.[3]

After PCBs are etched and then rinsed with water, the soldermask is applied, and then any exposed copper is coated with solder, nickel/gold, or some other anti-corrosion coating.[4][5]

Matte solder is usually fused to provide a better bonding surface or stripped to bare copper. Treatments, such as benzimidazolethiol, prevent surface oxidation of bare copper. The places to which components will be mounted are typically plated, because untreated bare copper oxidizes quickly, and therefore is not readily solderable. Traditionally, any exposed copper was coated with solder by hot air solder levelling (HASL). The HASL finish prevents oxidation from the underlying copper, thereby guaranteeing a solderable surface.[6] This solder was a tin-lead alloy, however new solder compounds are now used to achieve compliance with the RoHS directive in the EU and US, which restricts the use of lead. One of these lead-free compounds is SN100CL, made up of 99.3% tin, 0.7% copper, 0.05% nickel, and a nominal of 60ppm germanium.

It is important to use solder compatible with both the PCB and the parts used. An example is Ball Grid Array (BGA) using tin-lead solder balls for connections losing their balls on bare copper traces or using lead-free solder paste.

Other platings used are OSP (organic surface protectant), immersion silver (IAg), immersion tin, electroless nickel with immersion gold coating (ENIG), and direct gold plating (over nickel). Edge connectors, placed along one edge of some boards, are often nickel plated then gold plated. Another coating consideration is rapid diffusion of coating metal into Tin solder. Tin forms intermetallics such as Cu5Sn6 and Ag3Cu that dissolve into the Tin liquidus or solidus(@50C), stripping surface coating and/or leaving voids.

Electrochemical migration (ECM) is the growth of conductive metal filaments on or in a printed circuit board (PCB) under the influence of a DC voltage bias.[7][8] Silver, zinc, and aluminum are known to grow whiskers under the influence of an electric field. Silver also grows conducting surface paths in the presence of halide and other ions, making it a poor choice for electronics use. Tin will grow “whiskers” due to tension in the plated surface. Tin-Lead or Solder plating also grows whiskers, only reduced by the percentage Tin replaced. Reflow to melt solder or tin plate to relieve surface stress lowers whisker incidence. Another coating issue is tin pest, the transformation of tin to a powdery allotrope at low temperature.[9]

Solder resist

Areas that should not be soldered may be covered with a polymer solder resist (solder mask) coating. The solder resist prevents solder from bridging between conductors and creating short circuits. Solder resist also provides some protection from the environment. Solder resist is typically 20-30 micrometres thick.

Screen printing

Line art and text may be printed onto the outer surfaces of a PCB by screen printing. When space permits, the screen print text can indicate component designators, switch setting requirements, test points, and other features helpful in assembling, testing, and servicing the circuit board.

Screen print is also known as the silk screen, or, in one sided PCBs, the red print.

Lately some digital printing solutions have been developed to substitute the traditional screen printing process. This technology allows printing variable data onto the PCB, including serialization and barcode information for traceability purposes.

Test

Unpopulated boards may be subjected to a bare-board test where each circuit connection (as defined in a netlist) is verified as correct on the finished board. For high-volume production, a Bed of nails tester, a fixture or a Rigid needle adapter is used to make contact with copper lands or holes on one or both sides of the board to facilitate testing. A computer will instruct the electrical test unit to apply a small voltage to each contact point on the bed-of-nails as required, and verify that such voltage appears at other appropriate contact points. A “short” on a board would be a connection where there should not be one; an “open” is between two points that should be connected but are not. For small- or medium-volume boards, flying probe and flying-grid testers use moving test heads to make contact with the copper/silver/gold/solder lands or holes to verify the electrical connectivity of the board under test.

Printed circuit assembly

After the printed circuit board (PCB) is completed, electronic components must be attached to form a functional printed circuit assembly,[10][11] or PCA (sometimes called a “printed circuit board assembly” PCBA). In through-hole construction, component leads are inserted in holes. In surface-mount construction, the components are placed on pads or lands on the outer surfaces of the PCB. In both kinds of construction, component leads are electrically and mechanically fixed to the board with a molten metal solder.

There are a variety of soldering techniques used to attach components to a PCB. High volume production is usually done with machine placement and bulk wave soldering or reflow ovens, but skilled technicians are able to solder very tiny parts (for instance 0201 packages which are 0.02 in. by 0.01 in.)[12] by hand under a microscope, using tweezers and a fine tip soldering iron for small volume prototypes. Some parts are impossible to solder by hand, such as ball grid array (BGA) packages.

Often, through-hole and surface-mount construction must be combined in a single assembly because some required components are available only in surface-mount packages, while others are available only in through-hole packages. Another reason to use both methods is that through-hole mounting can provide needed strength for components likely to endure physical stress, while components that are expected to go untouched will take up less space using surface-mount techniques.

After the board has been populated it may be tested in a variety of ways:


  • While the power is off, visual inspection, automated optical inspection. JEDEC guidelines for PCB component placement, soldering, and inspection are commonly used to maintain quality control in this stage of PCB manufacturing.



  • While the power is off, analog signature analysis, power-off testing.



  • While the power is on, in-circuit test, where physical measurements (i.e. voltage, frequency) can be done.



  • While the power is on, functional test, just checking if the PCB does what it had been designed for.

To facilitate these tests, PCBs may be designed with extra pads to make temporary connections. Sometimes these pads must be isolated with resistors. The in-circuit test may also exercise boundary scan test features of some components. In-circuit test systems may also be used to program nonvolatile memory components on the board.

In boundary scan testing, test circuits integrated into various ICs on the board form temporary connections between the PCB traces to test that the ICs are mounted correctly. Boundary scan testing requires that all the ICs to be tested use a standard test configuration procedure, the most common one being the Joint Test Action Group (JTAG) standard. The JTAG test architecture provides a means to test interconnects between integrated circuits on a board without using physical test probes. JTAG tool vendors provide various types of stimulus and sophisticated algorithms, not only to detect the failing nets, but also to isolate the faults to specific nets, devices, and pins.[13]

When boards fail the test, technicians may desolder and replace failed components, a task known as rework.

Protection and packaging

PCBs intended for extreme environments often have a conformal coating, which is applied by dipping or spraying after the components have been soldered. The coat prevents corrosion and leakage currents or shorting due to condensation. The earliest conformal coats were wax; modern conformal coats are usually dips of dilute solutions of silicone rubber, polyurethane, acrylic, or epoxy. Another technique for applying a conformal coating is for plastic to be sputtered onto the PCB in a vacuum chamber. The chief disadvantage of conformal coatings is that servicing of the board is rendered extremely difficult.[14]

Many assembled PCBs are static sensitive, and therefore must be placed in antistatic bags during transport. When handling these boards, the user must be grounded (earthed). Improper handling techniques might transmit an accumulated static charge through the board, damaging or destroying components. Even bare boards are sometimes static sensitive. Traces have become so fine that it’s quite possible to blow an etch off the board (or change its characteristics) with a static charge. This is especially true on non-traditional PCBs such as MCMs and microwave PCBs.

Design



  • Schematic capture or schematic entry is done through an EDA tool.

  • Card dimensions and template are decided based on required circuitry and case of the PCB. Determine the fixed components and heat sinks if required.

  • Deciding stack layers of the PCB. 4 to 12 layers or more depending on design complexity. Ground plane and Power plane are decided. Signal planes where signals are routed are in top layer as well as internal layers.[15]

  • Line impedance determination using dielectric layer thickness, routing copper thickness and trace-width. Trace separation also taken into account in case of differential signals. Microstrip, stripline or dual stripline can be used to route signals.

  • Placement of the components. Thermal considerations and geometry are taken into account. Vias and lands are marked.

  • Routing the signal trace. For optimal EMI performance high frequency signals are routed in internal layers between power or ground planes as power plane behaves as ground for AC.

  • Gerber file generation for manufacturing.


Safety certification (US)

Safety Standard UL 796 covers component safety requirements for printed wiring boards for use as components in devices or appliances. Testing analyzes characteristics such as flammability, maximum operating temperature, electrical tracking, heat deflection, and direct support of live electrical parts.

“Cordwood” construction






A cordwood module.


Cordwood construction can save significant space and was often used with wire-ended components in applications where space was at a premium (such as missile guidance and telemetry systems) and in high-speed computers, where short traces were important. In “cordwood” construction, axial-leaded components were mounted between two parallel planes. The components were either soldered together with jumper wire, or they were connected to other components by thin nickel ribbon welded at right angles onto the component leads. To avoid shorting together different interconnection layers, thin insulating cards were placed between them. Perforations or holes in the cards allowed component leads to project through to the next interconnection layer. One disadvantage of this system was that special nickel leaded components had to be used to allow the interconnecting welds to be made. Some versions of cordwood construction used single sided PCBs as the interconnection method (as pictured). This meant that normal leaded components could be used. Another disadvantage of this system is that components located in the interior are difficult to replace.

Before the advent of integrated circuits, this method allowed the highest possible component packing density; because of this, it was used by a number of computer vendors including Control Data Corporation. The cordwood method of construction now appears to have fallen into disuse, probably because high packing densities can be more easily achieved using surface mount techniques and integrated circuits.

Multiwire boards

Multiwire is a patented technique of interconnection which uses machine-routed insulated wires embedded in a non-conducting matrix (often plastic resin). It was used during the 1980s and 1990s. (Kollmorgen Technologies Corp., U.S. Patent 4,175,816) Multiwire is still available in 2010 through Hitachi. There are other competitive discrete wiring technologies that have been developed (Jumatech [2]).

Since it was quite easy to stack interconnections (wires) inside the embedding matrix, the approach allowed designers to forget completely about the routing of wires (usually a time-consuming operation of PCB design): Anywhere the designer needs a connection, the machine will draw a wire in straight line from one location/pin to another. This led to very short design times (no complex algorithms to use even for high density designs) as well as reduced crosstalk (which is worse when wires run parallel to each other—which almost never happens in Multiwire), though the cost is too high to compete with cheaper PCB technologies when large quantities are needed.

Surface-mount technology


Main article: Surface-mount technology





Surface mount components, including resistors, transistors and an integrated circuit


Surface-mount technology emerged in the 1960s, gained momentum in the early 1980s and became widely used by the mid 1990s. Components were mechanically redesigned to have small metal tabs or end caps that could be soldered directly on to the PCB surface. Components became much smaller and component placement on both sides of the board became more common than with through-hole mounting, allowing much higher circuit densities. Surface mounting lends itself well to a high degree of automation, reducing labour costs and greatly increasing production and quality rates. Carrier Tapes provide a stable and protective environment for Surface mount devices (SMDs) which can be one-quarter to one-tenth of the size and weight, and passive components can be one-half to one-quarter of the cost of corresponding through-hole parts. However, integrated circuits are often priced the same regardless of the package type, because the chip itself is the most expensive part. As of 2006, some wire-ended components, such as small-signal switch diodes, e.g. 1N4148, are actually significantly cheaper than corresponding SMD versions.

See also










Nuvola apps ksim.png Electronics portal






Schematic Capture. (KiCAD)







PCB layout. (KiCAD)







3D View. (KiCAD)




  • Breadboard

  • C.I.D.+

  • Design for manufacturability (PCB)

  • Electronic packaging

  • Electronic waste

  • Multi-Chip Module

  • Occam Process – another process for the manufacturing of PCBs



PCB Materials




  • Conductive ink

  • Heavy copper

  • Laminate materials:

    • BT-Epoxy

    • Composite epoxy material, CEM-1,5

    • Cyanate Ester

    • FR-2

    • FR-4, the most common PCB material

    • Polyimide

    • PTFE, Polytetrafluoroethylene (Teflon)






PCB layout software



  • List of EDA companies

  • Comparison of EDA software



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