A printed circuit board (PCB) is crucial for many electronic devices since it enhances their performance. However, the quality of the PCB used have direct proportional to the quality of the device. Therefore, manufacturers know the significance of maintaining quality throughout the PCB manufacturing phases. Furthermore, the technological advances have facilitated cheap PCB manufacturing costs and the gadget’s complex performance.
Additionally, a failure in PCB can lead to the complete failure of the entire system. Therefore, it is essential to follow some quality measures in the PCB manufacturing and designing processes.
IPC PCB Standards
IPC is a global trade organization that sets standards for manufacturing PCBs and other electronic components. The organization was formerly known as the Institute of Printed Circuits Boards, but currently, it is referred to as the Association Connecting Electronics Industries. The organization was established in 1957, and its mandate is to release the required standards for Printed Circuit Boards.
Currently, the industry association has over 4000 members who design, make, and assemble PCBs. The members include but are not restricted to the following industries.
- Military and aerospace
- Industrial equipment
- Medical equipment and devices
Therefore, IPC standards are industry-adopted requirements for almost every step in PCB manufacturing, starting with design, production, and eventually electronic assembling.
Primary Advantages that Arise from Sticking to IPC Standards Issued by the Industry Body
- Improved Communication. Since the IPC certification requires PCB manufacturers and vendors to use the same terminology, there is no miscommunication. It is, therefore, a common language between the designers, assemblers, and testers.
There is an improved speed and no possibility of confusion when everyone is on the same page. In addition, the improvement in cross-channel communication ensures that the overall production time and efficiencies are also improved.
- Consistency and Quality. The IPC certifications promote the consistent production of quality PCBs. As a result, it leads to improved business since customers are satisfied.
- Reduced Costs. The quality standards set by IPC ensure minimal material loss, manufacturing errors, and reduced testing and inspection.
The following are the advantages of being certified and trained to use IPC standards as per IPC.
- Standardized training programs increases understanding and application
- The process and teaching methods enhance skills
- Teaching techniques that you can use on different criteria of production
- To give an understanding of the accept and reject criteria
There are a variety of classes that come with IPC standards. The most commonly used is the IPC-A-610 that covers the following elements but is not restricted to:
- Heat sinks
- Component mounting
- Terminal connections
- Chip components
- Laminate conditions
Some of the fundamental principles of IPC-A-610 are:
Class 1 is appropriate for General Electronic Products, where the main requirement is the function of the completed assembly. The class is regarded as one of the most sympathetic when permitting potential defects making it not the class that OEMs requests.
The class 2 standard is mainly used for non-critical assemblies where the qualification is not long-term reliability. The class also has room for imperfections.
Class 3 is the highest level suggested for more critical PCB assemblies. Class 3 standards are standards a good CEM provider will use to manufacture products. However, the class has a high cost of extra inspection and slowing down surface mount machines to ensure required placement accuracy.
The dominance of using IPC standards is because they are accepted globally and have been tested in many industries. However, as per the IPC, whenever there is a dispute in acceptance of the product, the following order applies:
- Procurement as acknowledged and documented between supplier and customer.
- Master drawing
To refine the process above, IPC has defined conditions which include:
- Target Conditions. Although it is not always achievable, it is the near-perfect condition that should be aimed.
- Acceptable conditions. This condition preserves reliability, although it may not be perfect since there could be an adjustment between design and performance.
- Defect Conditions. The product is rejected and needs repair or rework.
- Process Indicator Conditions body. These conditions come from design, material, or machine-related factors but do not affect the product’s function or form.
IPC standards are critical in PCB manufacturing. They enable the manufacturer to understand the customers’ requirements and deliver as per their expectations.