Circuit Board Prototyping is an essential phase in prototype manufacturing and assembly. The process of coming up with a prototype model is delicate from designing stage to the final product. Prototype circuit boards allow circuit designers to test the feasibility and reliability of a design in relation to its target functionality. This process is crucial in determining whether or not the design will function as it is supposed to, and also to identify bugs and correct any error before mass production.
Other than reliability and feasibility testing, prototypes are also passed through several categories to ensure quality. These are working prototype, visual model and functioning prototype. After a PCB design has passed through these quality checks, it can now enter the manufacturing stage. Prototyping is very important in that it accelerates the production process of circuit boards and also minimizes errors which are often costly and time-consuming to fix. A slight mistake in design can further affect soldering of electronic components posing a risk to the end product.
In more complex PCB designs, build-outs prototypes are designed with more functions and the increased complexity can help in quality assessment. The process of prototype PCB manufacturing will begin from circuit board schematic. This is an important debugging stage that enables rectification of errors during design. Depending on the complexity the circuitry, you can either use proto boards or create a prototype board from scratch. Before coming up with a circuit board, you need to first have a visual of PCB layout that clearly shows the path, traces and points where components will be soldered on.
Manufacturing of prototype circuit boards involves a series of complex processes, which are.
In this stage, a CAD PCB software program is used to design the photomask, which is fused with chemical etching used to eliminate copper surface from the circuit board substrate. In addition, laser printers are also used to design photomasks.
This is the second process in making of circuit boards and it entails bonding together of multiple layers of printed circuit boards through the process of lamination.
After bonding of the layers, it’s important they connect to another. This is made possible through drilling of small holes, a process that is done with a sophisticated automated drilling machine.
The layer is then fitted with pads where electronic components will be soldered later on. The pads and lands are necessary considering the resistance copper has in soldering. Earlier designs used lead plating, but due to new compliance, materials such as gold and nickel are now widely used in plating.
The last stage of making prototype circuit boards is obviously testing. Before electronic components are soldered on to the board, testing has to be done to ensure error-free design and smooth functionality. Typically, testing can be done using materials like flying probe tester or nail tester.
Lastly, apart from the above processes, manufacturers will consider a number of other features when choosing or applying prototype design software. These features include ease of use, price and support, which are essential factors that determine how fabrication process will turn out.