Some useful tips in caring for printed circuit boards
Printed circuit boards or PCBs are some of the most common things you can see in most consumer electric products. TVs, computers, radios, and even some toys contain these circuit boards. Not surprisingly, many electronic devices do not function well when printed circuit boards are faulty or defective.
So how do we care for printed circuit boards?
This article provides some of the steps:
1. Create a perfectly sealed enclosure
Simply having an enclosure for the circuit boards won’t cut it. Make sure that the enclosure is durable and made from quality grade materials that are sure to prevent moisture and light debris from building up.
2. Learn more about conformal coating
Conformal coating is a practice in the electronic industry where conformal coating material is applied to the circuit boards to ensure its protection against light debris like dust as well as moisture and extreme temperatures. This practice helps prevent damage to the boards which could cause it to malfunction. Coating can be done in various ways which includes, but is not limited to, brushing, spraying, and/or dipping. There are also machines which are specifically designed to perform the task of conformal coating.
3. If possible, avoid DC voltage gradients
It is a good practice to choose the lowest voltage possible and also consider the placement of the pins. Doing so will help avoid constant voltage gradient which can cause further corrosion for the circuit boards.
4. Avoid placing PCBs or their enclosures in an area with extreme environments
Consider the placement of the circuit boards. If possible, it is best to place it in a dry, place with the right room temperature.
5. Provide heat sinks and other ways to dissipate heat
After some time, boards and their respective devices will produce a considerable amount of heat and more often than not, it will be cause damage to the circuit boards. Heat sinks and other available cooling technology will help prevent heat from building up which can have a significant damage to the boards.
6. Make sure to practice proper handling of PCBs
Printed circuit boards are very sensitive to static electricity. Antistatic measures can be taken like storing or keeping them in bags which are designed to minimize static electricity. Wearing clothes suited to prohibit the build-up of static electricity will also help ensure the safety of the boards. It is also a good practice to remove materials which are known to generate static electricity. Commonly known materials that generate static electricity are Styrofoam and plastics. It also needs to be handled at the edges. Touching them by the components could also cause also lead to further damage.
7. Avoid stacking of PCBs
Stacking the boards against each other may cause considerable physical damage and should therefore be avoided.
8. Regular cleaning
Like any other thing, dirty circuit boards can be overrun by dust and other dirt which could lead to other problems. For dust removal, an old toothbrush or any other fine-toothed material that can gently brush off the dust from the surface of the circuit boards can be used. Metal cleaners and polishers are also available in the market for the removal of some metal oxidation that forms around the electrical components attached to the circuit boards.
Always remember that PCBs are delicate materials which need proper care and regular maintenance for them to function well. Leaving these circuit boards unattended might be alright for the first few times but ultimately, they have to be checked and proper maintenance procedures should be applied to them to increase their shelf life and prolong their operational function.