As the design and assembly of printed circuit boards (PCBs) evolves, the labels used to tag the boards — and communicate critical information about components during assembly — must remain effective, while enduring even more extreme conditions and temperatures. Fortunately, converters can help customers conquer the changing landscape of PCBs by offering label solutions that maintain label integrity in today’s harsher PCBA environment.
Labelling for PCBs
The automated PCBA process involves printing boards with circuitry and populating them with electronic components. Bonding the components to the raw boards is achieved by heating solder paste to high temperatures to ensure good adhesion. Chemical fluxes are added to prevent oxidation on the metal surfaces. After assembly, machines thoroughly clean the PCB to remove any remaining flux or residue that could cause failure, either during tests on the manufacturing line or during the end use.
Labels are affixed either manually or automatically to the raw boards before assembly begins. A barcode serializes each board and, when scanned, links to data about the manufacturers, part numbers and lot codes of each component added to the board during assembly. If a PCB (or the electronic product it operates) fails at any point, scanning the label’s barcode will identify which components were added to help electronics equipment manufacturers isolate defective parts. As a result, manufacturers rely heavily on PCB labels for automatic identification during the assembly process.
Smaller labels, bigger performance
Labels used in PCBA have shrunk to accommodate smaller PCB designs, and must now be engineered to withstand:
• Hotter ovens, where temperatures range from 260 to 300 degrees Celsius
• More aggressive fluxes used in the soldering process
• Harsher chemicals used in higher concentrations to clean PCBs after assembly
• Abrasion of higher pressure from the nozzles that spray detergent, water and air during multiple rounds of cleaning
PCB line of labels
Maintaining label adhesion, durability and legibility during manufacturing is paramount to an efficient PCBA process. All labels in the portfolio have been tested to meet key performance parameters for PCB assembly (polyimide (PI) facestock with topcoats optimized with heat, chemical and scratch-resistant properties).
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