Printed circuit boards (PCBs) play an essential role in today’s highly connected, tech-forward society. From TV remotes to smartphones, countless devices are only operational thanks to the conductive pathways provided by PCB. However, a properly made printed circuit board won’t just power an electronic device—it will also provide that device’s manufacturer with important information about the PCB itself.
This information takes multiple forms and is placed on the PCB in different ways. For instance, towards the end of the manufacturing process, PCB developers will use silkscreen printing to outfit the board’s solder mask with a legend that contains information like:
- Serial numbers
- Manufacturer title and location
- Part identification numbers
- Circuit identification data
- Voltage and grounding information
In addition to legend text, PCB manufacturers also print traceable pieces of information directly onto the components themselves. Traceable data markings (e.g., part numbers, lot codes, manufacturing numbers, etc.) are placed on these components at the very end of the manufacturing process to aid PCB assembly, improve tracking/reporting, and prevent counterfeiting.
Given the importance of this information, PCB manufacturers must take certain precautions to ensure that all printed codes and markings remain legible throughout the circuit board’s lifecycle.
If your operation is tasked with printing on PCB components, here’s what you need to keep in mind.
Your Ink Needs To Withstand Extreme Heat
PCBs can be assembled in a variety of ways. Smaller-scale methods, like selective soldering and manual soldering, are used to create boards one unit at a time. Larger-scale methods, such as wave soldering and reflow soldering, on the other hand, are ideal for creating larger product batches.
Regardless of which assembly process one uses, however, extreme heat is a common element. As such, all printed codes and markings on the individual PCB components must be able to withstand exposure to temperatures around 300° F.
To improve code durability and avoid reductions in readability, ink producers today offer a number of formulas specifically built for printing on PCB components. Depending on assembly specifics, one can select an ink with specialty properties like:
- High heat-resistance
- Fast drying times
- Anti-migration qualities
With the right ink formula, PCB manufacturers can make sure that all of their product codes remain legible until the end of the circuit board’s lifecycle.
Consider Any Relevant Coding Legislation
Like pharmaceutical development and chemical production, PCB manufacturing is a highly regulated industry. Strict traceability standards are common throughout the field, and as a PCB manufacturer, it will be on you to fulfill the requirements for your specific boards.
Similar to how regulatory standards like ISO 13485 require manufacturers to place certain codes, certain pieces of legislation determine how these codes can be made. Around the world, governments are becoming increasingly aware of how certain inks can negatively impact the environment. As such, controversial ink ingredients such as methyl ethyl ketone (MEK) and mineral oil have become restricted in certain countries, forcing companies to use more sustainable ink formulas instead.
To avoid fines, recalls, and other expensive consequences arising from non-compliance, seek out all relevant coding legislation before committing to a specific formula.
Use Hardware That Will Meet Your Output Needs
Just as printed circuit boards can be assembled in a variety of ways, printing on PCB components can compete with a range of hardware. While PCB legend text is almost invariably applied via silkscreen printing, component marking applications can be completed with a few different machines.
One of the most common machines used to complete PCB component printing is the continuous inkjet (CIJ) printer. Capable of printing 24 hours a day at speeds above 300 m/min, CIJ printers are ideal for coding industrial quantities of electronic components. CIJ printers like the DuraCode Touchscreen are also built with environmental protections and IP-rated outer structures, enabling them to operate in potentially challenging work environments.
Beyond printers, laser date coders are also sometimes used to code PCB components, although some particularly small parts will be adversely affected by a laser beam. As always, we recommend speaking with a coding/marking expert about your operational needs to find the right marking solution to meet your production requirements.
Looking for Help Printing on PCB Parts? Find the Perfect Marking Solution for Your Operation Today
Printing on PCB components can be a tricky task. Due to a combination of manufacturing requirements and strict legislation, PCB manufacturers need to use the perfect combination of specialty ink and hardware to achieve code success. At InkJet, Inc. we can help you find it.
Offering high-powered CIJ printers and several formulas specifically designed for electronic component printing, InkJet, Inc. can provide your company with a custom-built coding solution that’s ideal for your unique needs. Call today to learn more.
For help printing on PCB components, contact us online today or call 1(800) 280-3245.