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PCB Failure and Common Issues

PCB Common Issues and Failure

Table of Contents

In today’s advanced digital age, there is frequent use of printed circuit boards in all kinds o electronic devices and digital systems. Printed circuit boards are essential to integrating different components with each other with the help of complex configuration of circuit. There are different types of PCBs, which depend on the usage of your electronic device. Even though PCBs are designed meticulously and manufactured with keen attention, there may be a failure or issue during the developmental, assembly, fabrication, or manufacturing process.

Although various types of issues can result in PCB failure. The final result will always be the same, the PCB will reach a condition where it will no longer work properly. So, if printed circuit board fails to operate and does not function efficiently, the device or system we use will stop operating.

Since PCBs are marvelously important in electronic devices like medical equipment, communications systems, and industrial applications, it is essential that potential reasons for PCB failure be identified early so that necessary actions can be taken to prevent any crucial damage.

What are common PCB issues?

Printed circuit board issues are a major problem for PCB manufacturers. Any PCB issue that occurs makes things wrong at every phase of the PCB design and assembly process. By identifying such issues, PCB manufacturers can save the electronic device from malfunction and damage. Some major and common PCB issues are as follows:

Poor PCB soldering:

Poor PCB soldering can cause several issues in PCB assembly and design. A bad or poor PCB soldering issue is created when the PCB manufacturer does not heat-solder appropriately. The most common reason for solder issues is flux contamination. Flux is a cleaning chemical agent that is used before and during the PCB soldering process. Sometimes flux residues can absorb environmental moisture, which can short circuits.

Poor PCB soldering can also cause the disconnection of electrical components that are integrated into printed circuit boards. Sometimes poor soldering causes devices to burn.

Acid Traps

Acid traps can occur when the etchant solution becomes trapped at acute angles of the board and is unable to escape. As a result, the acid continues to eat away at the copper, which can cause the copper traces or pads to break, leading to a complete PCB failure.

Acid traps can be prevented by careful design and inspection of the PCB before manufacturing. Designers can avoid the issue by designing boards with minimal cavities or holes and by ensuring that there is enough clearance between the copper features and the edges of any holes or cavities. Additionally, manufacturers can use inspection processes to detect any acid traps and make the necessary circuit board repairs before the PCB is completed.

Plating Voids

It is also one of the crucial PCB issues that can cause potential failure. PCB plating is designed to form a conductive layer on a printed circuit board surface. Playing is often made of copper, which creates passes and traces to connect PCB components on the surface layer.

PCB voids are minor empty gaps or spaces that can form conducting paths during the PCB plating process. These plating voids can cause PCB failure in several ways. It can cause electrical connection breakdowns and circuit breaks. Plating voids can also cause PCB degradation and corrosion with time. This issue is caused by several factors, for example, improper cleaning of PCB surface layers, inadequate PCB plating quality, or applying the wrong plating parameters.

What is PCB Failure?

A printed circuit board failure can cause your electronic devices or project to malfunction. Due to PCB failure, your product and electronic devices may experience low-quality signals or delayed responses. There are many reasons for printed circuit board failure. It is very essential to avoid such failures as a first priority.

In this article, we will study common PCB failures and the reasons for PCB failure. It is better to pay attention to PCB failures before your electronic devices or projects start malfunctioning. Let’s study some PCB failure reasons.

What are Common Reasons for PCB Failure?

PCB failure is caused by many reasons. When PCB failure occurs, the device starts malfunctioning and not operating properly. Sometimes, a big loss occurs due to PCB failure.

Since printed circuit boards are used frequently in almost all electronic devices, such as medical devices, communication, aerospace technology, wearable devices, and military systems, their prevention from failure is very important.

Due to the complex design configuration and manufacturing process, there are more chances of PCB failure. The following are some common reasons for PCB failure:

Poor PCB-Quality Components

Selecting the appropriate PCB components is always a challenging task. PCB assembly and manufacturing processes are the main concerns for any electronic device. Inadequate electrical pathways, weak soldering of cold joints, poor integration of components on the circuit board, and the use of inappropriate PCB materials cause PCB failure.

Environmental Factors: Printed circuit boards are sensitive by nature. Excessive heat, exposure to heat, being subjected to extreme temperatures, moisture and dust, accidental factors( drops and falls), and circuit surges can result in PCB failure. Regardless of all these reasons, the most sensitive reason for PCB failure is electrostatic discharge during the assembly phase.

For electrostatic discharge reasons on the PCB, a sudden flow of electricity happens between two electrical components integrated on the circuit board. This failure is caused by a short circuit or may be caused by a dielectric breakdown.

PCB component Design Failure

There is less space on the circuit board, so sometimes the manufacturer doesn’t place the components accurately on the surface layer of the PCB, which results in PCB failure and device damage. Space is a crucial factor to consider in PCB design and assembly, as customers need an efficient and space-constrained product. Don’t forget to contact ELEPCB, which has certified and trained designers offering PCB assembly services, to avoid any issues or PCB failure. Some other factor that can affect your PCB design and assembly are:

  • Fluid leakage (Chemical)
  • Weak soldering
  • Inappropriate components placement
  • Damaged Components placement

PCB Age

The age of printed circuit board components or electronic devices also causes PCB failure. With the pass of time, certain PCB components will fail to work. While you can’t avoid PCB failure caused by age, you can control the cost by replacing the old components with new ones. Swapping old parts for new parts is more cost-effective than a new PCB design.

Fluid Leakage

Leakage of chemical fluid from any PCB competent can seriously damage the printed circuit board and cause PCB failure. Most fluids are removed early in the manufacturing phase. However, inside the packaging of PCB components, fluid leakage can happen, which can cause rapid ageing of the final product. Also, this chemical fluid leakage results in short circuits and corrosion.

PCB barrier Breakdown

Every PCB component is protected from the outside environment by the component barrier. If this barrier is removed or broken, PCB components will be exposed to environmental conditions. Oxygen, temperature, humidity, and moisture can cause PCB failure and electronic device aging issues.

PCB Layers Misalignment

If PCB layers like silkscreen and copper layers are not properly aligned, then it will create short circuits, signal interference issues, and open circuit issues. PCB failure can also happen if impure PCB materials are used to form layers.

PCB Thermal Stress

Heat and humidity can create PCB thermal stress, which is a crucial reason for PCB failure. Constant thermal stress can damage PCB components and break solder joints. If there are plating issues, thermal stress will increase.

PCB Cleanliness Issues

Sometimes PCB failure happens after the manufacturing process. Room temperature, if not maintained according to a specific temperature, can also cause PCB failure. One of PCB failure reason is not cleaning pcb after completing manufacturing and assembly process. Dust, small particles, fluids, or even bugs can cause PCB failure if cleanliness is not done properly.

How to Troubleshoot PCB Issues and Failure?

After gaining knowledge about all the common and major reasons for PCB failure, it’s essential to learn how to troubleshoot printed circuit boards. Before going to repair the faulty PCB, you should also know the root cause of the exact PCB failure.

So, first, identify any physical damage. This can cause broken components, cracked parts, burned pads or pathways, and corrosion effects.

Second, check the main power supply to the printed circuit board and other component’s power continuity to see if they are working fine. For this, you can use testing equipment like a multimeter.

If you find any damaged or faulty PCB parts, you can replace them with new ones. If there is no faulty, cracked, or damaged PCB part, then there may be a PCB design and manufacturing issue. In such a case, you can consult with an experienced PCB design expert to identify the reason for the PCB failure and solve it for you.

How can PCB Failure Affect Your Electronic Application?

If PCB issues are not solved, the ultimate loss will be that your electronic device will stop working. ELEPCB can help you out through various testing methods. If you want to avoid any PCB failure in the first phase, our expert team of PCB designers and manufacturers can develop, identify, implement, and execute the root cause and solution to your PCB assembly. Select a well-known and trusted PCB manufacturer today !

Conclusion

Printed circuit board failures and issues can happen due to many reasons, which result in electronic device failure and system failure. Some common reasons for pcb failure discussed are Poor PCB soldering, Plating Voids, PCB Age, Thermal Stress, and fluid leakage etc. Furthermore, environmental factors such moister, temperature humidity and extreme temperatures can cause pcb failure. These are reasons should be avoided in early pcb manufacturing process to prevent any huge damage to your electronic project. We have the best solutions, pcb assembly and pcb manufacturing expert team for you at ELEPCB.

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About Michael

Michael is the general manager of ELEPCB, a leading PCB design and manufacturing company based in China. He has over 10 years of experience in the PCB industry, and has been involved in various projects.

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