- Aug 13, 2018-


PCB with test connection pads

In assembly the bare board is populated (or "stuffed") with electronic components to form a functional printed circuit assembly (PCA), sometimes called a "printed circuit board assembly" (PCBA).In through-hole technology, the component leads are inserted in holes surrounded by conductive pads; the holes keep the components in place. In surface-mount technology (SMT), the component is placed on the PCB so that the pins line up with the conductive pads or lands on the surfaces of the PCB; solder paste, which was previously applied to the pads, holds the components in place temporarily; if surface-mount components are applied to both sides of the board, the bottom-side components are glued to the board. In both through hole and surface mount, the components are then soldered; once cooled and solidified, the solder holds the components in place permanently and electrically connects them to the board.

There are a variety of soldering techniques used to attach components to a PCB. High volume production is usually done with a "Pick and place machine" or SMT placement machine and bulk wave soldering or reflow ovens, but skilled technicians are able to hand-solder very tiny parts (for instance 0201 packages which are 0.02 in. by 0.01 in.) under a microscope, using tweezers and a fine-tip soldering iron, for small volume prototypes. Some SMT parts cannot be soldered by hand, such as BGA packages. All through-hole components can be hand soldered, making them favored for prototyping where size, weight, and the use of the exact components that would be used in high volume production are not concerns.

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. Or, even if all components are available in through-hole packages, it might be desired to take advantage of the size, weight, and cost reductions obtainable by using some available surface-mount devices. Another reason to use both methods is that through-hole mounting can provide needed strength for components likely to endure physical stress (such as connectors that are frequently mated and demated or that connect to cables expected to impart substantial stress to the PCB-and-connector interface), while components that are expected to go untouched will take up less space using surface-mount techniques. For further comparison, see the SMT page.

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

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, by using circuitry in the ICs to employ the IC pins themselves as test probes. JTAG tool vendors provide various types of stimuli and sophisticated algorithms, not only to detect the failing nets, but also to isolate the faults to specific nets, devices, and pins.

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