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Design for Assembly
by Tom Hausherr, CID+, CIT
CEO, PCB Libraries, Inc.

Every PCB layout must go through the component assembly process and there are several things that a PCB
designer can do to make the assembly process easier.

IPC Classes 1, 2 & 3 for defect reject / accept criteria
A PCB designer needs to design every layout to meet one of the IPC Product Classes so that the manufacturer
knows the category classification of the end electronic product being designed. A PCB designer can find these 3
Product Classes in almost every IPC standard publication.
CLASS 1 General Electronic Products
Includes products suitable for applications where the major requirement is function of the completed assembly.
CLASS 2 Dedicated Service Electronic Products
Includes products where continued performance and extended life is required, and for which uninterrupted
service is desired but not critical. Typically the end-use environment would not cause failures.
CLASS 3 High Performance/Harsh Environment Electronic Products
Includes products where continued high performance or performance-on-demand is critical, equipment
downtime cannot be tolerated, end-use environment may be uncommonly harsh, and the equipment must
function when required, such as medical life support, military battlefield or other critical systems.

The IPC-7351B for land pattern standard uses a 3-Tier PCB library system for various electronic device
applications. These include Most, Nominal and Least dimensional criteria. See Figure 1 for the 3-Tier footprint
density levels.



Figure 1

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These 3-Tiers are not directly related to the three IPC Classes, but picking the most appropriate land pattern might
help the manufacturer achieve a higher yield for a specific IPC Product Class. It is widely assumed that if a design
needs to meet IPC Product Class 3 that a Most Level A land pattern must be used. This is not true. Any of the
IPC-7351B 3-tier environments can be used to build a Class 3 board assembly. Its just that a Density Level A (Most
Environment) land pattern will make it easier for manufacturing to achieve a higher yield. However, an IPC-7351B
Nominal Environment land pattern can be used to create a Class 3 electronic product. And the Least environment
might also be used to create a Class 3 product but the manufacturing price will go up as the yield goes down.

Silkscreen under components / Useful silkscreen outlines
Silkscreen outlines add cost to PCB fabrication and in most cases is not necessary.
However, if you use silkscreen outlines, here are my guidelines for creating PCB library parts.
1. Silkscreen Outlines should never be located under the component because they are covered up during
assembly and do not provide any useful function to the assembly process
2. J-STD-001E Assembly Requirements Section 9.2 Silkscreen Polarity Marking, Reference Designators,
Revision Level and Serial Numbers Shall be visible after assembly as shown in Figure 2
3. Silkscreen outlines should be mapped to the maximum component body outline
4. Your companys Pad to Silkscreen drafting rule should override maximum component body mapping
5. Silkscreen outlines are used for assembly placement registration accuracy and post assembly inspection
6. The silkscreen line width and pad to line gap are normally the same value
7. Silkscreen outlines should always be located inside the Placement Courtyard. Otherwise the silkscreen
outlines can get confused with other components or overlap with other silkscreen outlines.
8. Only one line width should be used throughout the entire PCB library


Figure 2



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Silkscreen to pad clearance & Silkscreen on pads
IPC-7351C (to be released) will introduce guidelines for 3-Tier silkscreen lines widths as shown in Figure 3. Some
PCB designers allow silkscreen on pads and they expect the fabrication shop to trim the silkscreen away from the
pad. But what if the fabrication shop doesnt do that? Silkscreen ink on a solder pad becomes a solderability issue.
The assembly shop will be scrapping the silkscreen ink off the pads prior to applying the solder paste via stencil if
fabrication shop does not. But assembly will be dealing with soldering issues from the pad contamination!


Figure 3

Polarity Marking & Sometimes No Marking is Polarity
Components that can be inverted (like Resistors) during assembly do have polarity marking. All parts that have to
be inserted in a particular rotation require a silkscreen marker to indicate polarity or Pin 1. My recommendation
for silkscreen polarity is to extend the silkscreen line the full length of the Pin 1 pad as shown in Figure 4.


Figure 4



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For bottom-termination components, the placement courtyard hugs the package body or the pads. In this case,
the absence of silkscreen is the best polarity marker as shown in Figure 5 for a QFN package.


Figure 5


Assembly Outlines and Polarity Marking
The assembly drawing component outlines should be a simple closed polygon and the polarity marker should be a
simple chamfer to locate Pin 1 as shown in Figure 6.


Figure 6



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Courtyard Excess
Courtyard Excess as shown in Figure 7 is used as a guideline for part placement. Every assembly shop has their
unique tolerances and if the guidelines place the components too close the assembly shop has a manufacturing
allowance which will be the necessary gap between courtyards.


Figure 7

If the assembly shop does not require a manufacturing allowance the PCB designer can place the courtyards so
they touch, but not overlap as shown in Figure 8. Crowding & overlapping courtyards can lead to solder bridging
during assembly.


Figure 8


Part Placement & Alignment
In the 1980s assembly shops preferred all polarized parts should be pointed in the same direction. With todays
technology that is no longer necessary however, aligning parts in nice neat rows will add aesthetic value to the
final PC board. And if youre selling boards on the open market, consumers will naturally choose the pretty board.
Also, nicely ordered parts are better for signal routing and use of space.

Footprint Origins
Components come packaged in Tape & Reel, Tubes & Trays. The pick & place machines pick up the component at
the center of gravity. When PCB designers put the origin of the PCB library part in the center, they are aiding the
assembly shop. However, some component packages have irregular shapes and the center is difficult to
determine. And for PCB design layout routing, through-hole connector pins might need to fall on a grid pattern

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and making Pin 1 the origin optimizes signal routing. A centric origin marker helps the PCB designer identify the
location of the footprint origin. However, some CAD tools auto-generate an origin marker in the software and in
that case there is no need to add an additional origin marker in the PCB library part.

Figure 9

Assembly Rails or Frames
The assembly shop needs the board edge to clamp onto while the board travels through the pick & place
machines and the solder reflow oven. If the PCB designer places components close to the board edge due to high
density part placement, then a breakaway panel must be added to aid the assembly line. The breakaway tab could
also contain the Global Fiducials and Tooling Holes as shown in Figure 10.


Figure 10

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When the board is completely assembled the breakaway tabs must be removed. There are two methods o f
separating the breakaway tabs. The first and most popular method is Routing and Mouse Bites as shown in Figure
11. The trace routing must be at least 1 mm away from the finished board edge and the mouse bites. And
components should be located at least 2 mm away from the Routed Edge and Mouse Bite holes as shown in
Figure 12.


Figure 11




Figure 12


The other process of separating the breakaway panel is V-Scoring as shown in Figure 13.

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Figure 13

Some PCB designers like to insure that the breakaway tabs are secure and wont breakaway during handling. In
this case the PCB designer will add a frame around the entire PCB design and use mouse bites and routing
channels. Adding a frame reduces the number of boards you can get on a panel but it does add rigidity to the
individual board to insure the breakaway tabs do not prematurely break away during assembly handling.

Global and Local Fiducials
Global Fiducials are a must for the Pick & Place machine to optically bombsite the fiducial locations to register the
board for machine placement accuracy as shown in Figure 14.


Figure 14

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Local Fiducials are used for Fine Pitch QFP components when the pin pitch is less than 0.625 mm and BGA
components when the pin pitch is less than 0.8 mm and shown in Figure 15. With todays modern equipment,
many assembly shops do not require local fiducials however; they might come in handy for repair/replacement.

Figure 15

Surface Mount Solder Joints
These 7 factors are used to calculate the optimum Land Size per IPC-7351
1. Component Body Tolerance
2. Component Terminal Tolerance
3. Fabrication Tolerance 2 Mil (0.05 mm)
4. Placement Tolerance 1 Mil (0.025 mm)
5. Land Size Round-off
6. Land Spacing Round-off
7. Solder Joint Goals for Toe, Heel and Side See Figure 16

Gull Wing Lead
Pitch > 0.625
Least
Level C
Nominal
Level B
Most
Level A
Toe 0.15 0.35 0.55
Heel 0.25 0.35 0.45
Side 0.01 0.03 0.05
Round-off Factor Round-off to the Nearest 0.01 or 0.05
Courtyard Excess 0.10 0.25 0.50


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Figure 16

The heel fillet in a gull-wing lead component is very important. Lots of reliability studies establish that 60-80% of
gull-wing solder strength is in the heel. Land position or length that precludes forming the minimum heel fillet is a
failure mechanism.

Plated Through-hole (PTH) Hole and Pad Size Calculations
Before you calculate the pad size, you must first calculate the hole-size per Figure 17.


Figure 17

Once you figure out the hole-size, the annular ring can be calculated by adding a minimum annular ring value of 2
mil (0.05 mm) plus a minimum fabrication allowance of 16 mil (0.4 mm) to the hole-size. The nominal fabrication
allowance is 20 mil (0.5 mm) and the maximum fabrication allowance is 24 mil (0.6 mm).

You can also use the PCB Libraries, Inc. Proportional Padstack Chart to auto-generate a good known annular ring.
The Proportional Padstack starts out using the least annular ring for small holes and nominal annular ring for
average hole sizes and most annular ring for large hole sizes. Download the Proportional Padstack Chart and many
other important library construction documents here - http://www.pcblibraries.com/forum/pcb-library-
construction-guidelines_forum30.html

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Manufacturer Recommended Footprint Patterns
IPC-7351B has standard mathematical formulas for calculating Standard Component Families. Over 50% of all
component packages in the electronics industry today are Non-standard Packages. These non-standard
packages require the component manufacturer to provide a recommended footprint pattern. Typically the
component manufacturer will create test patterns and run them through the assembly process to select which
pattern has the best solder joints.

Minimum Pad to Pad Clearance
The minimum pad to pad clearance is defined by the assembly shop. Before you create your PCB library parts,
discuss this issue with your assembly shop engineer. The IPC-7351 calculator default minimum pad to pad
clearance is set to 6 mil (0.15 mm) but some assembly shops require 8 mil (0.2 mm) pad to pad clearance to
optimize their assembly process and reduce scrap and increase yield.

Pad Trimming Under Components
Pad trimming is used exclusively for Gull Wing component leads for low profile component packages that have no
space under the component (between the PCB and the component bottom). However, IPC says that regardless of
the component stand-off value, a PCB designer should not trim the pads under low profile components. See
Figure 18.


Figure 18

Zero Component Orientation
Zero component orientation indicates the location of pin 1 and the rotation the PCB library was built to. This is
important for automating the pick & place assembly line. When an assembly shop starts a project, they have to
insure the rotation of every part on the PCB layout to insure that every component is attached with the correct
rotation. This currently is a manual time consuming process. IPC-7351C will introduce two acceptable rotations,
see Figure 19 Part 1. Level A is pin 1 in the upper left corner and Level B is pin 1 in the lower left corner. If a PCB
designer creates the entire PCB library with a known rotation, they can indicate that in the assembly drawing to
provide the assembly shop with a known starting point. When every PCB designer in the electronics industry
organizes their entire PCB library using either Level A or Level B (not both) then the assembly shop can start the
process of automation however, the assembly shops will continue to verify zero component orientations until
they have consistency in the X/Y pick & place data.

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Figure 19 Part 1

Figure 19 Part 2 illustrates IPC-7351C Level B zero component orientation rotated counterclockwise by 90.


Figure 19 Part 2


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X / Y Coordinate File
The PCB designer creates a pick & place file normally in M/S Excel format. The spreadsheet contains the reference
designator of every component in the PCB layout and its associated X & Y location from the PC Board Origin and
the rotation of each component per the Zero Component Orientation of the PCB library part. If the PCB designer
does not provide an X/Y coordinate file, the assembly shop will take hours to calculate the center of each
component to program the pick & place assembly line.

Thermal Pad Paste Mask Reduction
These component families have Thermal Tabs QFN, PQFN, SON, PSON, SOP and QFP
The paste mask stencil must be reduced by a value between 40 65% and evenly dispersed in a checker board
pattern so when the PCB goes through the reflow oven, the thermal pad paste mask spreads out evenly. See
Figure 20 for an example of a QFN with a thermal pad and its associated paste mask stencil reduced by 50%.


Figure 20

Rounded Rectangle Pad Shape
Surface mount pad shapes have been at the center of controversy since the 1980s. IPC has always recommended
either a full radius or corner radius pad shape while the component manufacturers recommend a rectangular pad
shape. The goal is to aid the assembly process to make it more efficient. The number one issue with the industry
not adopting the Rounded Rectangle Pad Shape is that many CAD tools did not support it until recently. In my
opinion, the rounded rectangle pad shape should be used for every surface mount component package. It is the
universal pad shape that improves fabrication and assembly and meets IPC standards. The only goal now is to get
the component manufacturers to adopt it in their datasheet drawings. See Figure 21 for the optimal sizing.


Figure 21

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If you look at an assembled PC board you will notice that most of the solder pulls away from the corners of the
pad (land). See Figure 22. The rounded rectangle pad shape also opens up additional routing channels for dense
layouts.


Figure 22



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Via-in-pad Technology
Via-in-pad technology is just starting to take off because of new component packages like Land Grid Array (LGA)
where there is no room for a typical dog bone via fanout. See Figure 23.



Figure 23


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Also, fine pitch BGAs need to use the via-in-pad technique and sometimes not locating the via in the center of the
pad is necessary to open routing channels on inner layers. See Figure 24 for an example of a routing solution for a
0.6 mm pitch BGA.



Figure 24

The main assembly problem with using via-in-pad technology is the fabrication process must insure that the via is
plated, plugged, capped and surface finish with a flat surface. Its the Flat Surface that is the most important
issue. If there is a slight dimple in the pad, the paste mask will trap air that will get super heated in the reflow
oven and blow a hole into the component lead and create a void. See Figure 25 for an example of a BGA void.


Figure 25

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Non-Solder Mask Defined Pads
Either the PCB designer or the fabrication shop must swell the solder mask to prevent solder mask from
encroaching on the solder pad (land). Depending on the solder mask fabrication process, there is a manufacturing
tolerance. If you are using multiple fabrication facilities, it is best not to swell the solder mask in the PCB library or
in the Gerber data that is provided to fabrication. Let the fabrication shop swell the solder mask to a value that is
compatible with their solder mask registration tolerances to insure that no solder mask will end up on an exposed
pad. Most BGAs have collapsing balls that needs to collapse around the edge of the pad. If the solder mask is not
swelled, the BGA ball cannot collapse around the pad edge and this will compromise the BGA solder joint
connection. In Figure 26, the image on the left is a non-solder mask swell and no Ball collapse around the pad. The
image on the right has a solder mask swell and the BGA ball collapsed around the pad.


Figure 26

Note: J-STD-001E and IPC-A-610E have looser criteria for solder mask than bare board fabrication. Solder mask
has a purpose during assembly keep solder from wetting in specific areas. But during the assembly process high
temp cycles and mechanical actions may degrade the mask material. At that point it probably doesnt matter.
However, it would become an issue if the solder mask darkened so much that silkscreen markings required to be
discernible were not.

Solder Mask Defined Pads
Solder mask defined pads are only used in two applications that I know of. When designing library parts for
Flexible Circuits it is best to solder mask define the Toe and the Heel to assist in holding the pad down to the PCB
during flexing.

The other reason is solder mask defining BGA pads in hand held devices such as cell phones. The BGA pin pitch in
an average cell phone is 0.4mm or less and the ball and pad sizes are very small. During drop testing, it has been
proven that the BGA solder joint holds up better than the pad to pregreg adhesion. The pad will break away from
the PCB before the ball breaks away from the pad. So solder mask defining BGA very fine pitch BGAs helps to hold
the pad to the PCB which decreases failure in dropping the device. See Figure 27.


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Figure 27

Paste Mask Stencil for Micro-miniature Components
The average paste mask stencil thickness is 0.125 - 0.15 mm (5 6 mils) thick. The stencil manufacturer must thin
out the stencil areas around all chip components less than 0402. Figure 28 is an example of a real 1:1 scale 0201
chip resistor that has a 0.033 mm thickness and placed on 0.15 mm paste mask. You can easily see that the solder
volume is way too much for this miniature component. So the paste mask stencil must be thinned out to reduce
the solder volume.

Figure 28





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Mounting Hardware
Every PCB layout has mounting holes to attach the PCB to an enclosure. It is important for the PCB Designer to
add keep-outs to allow for the hardware manufacturing tolerance to prevent short circuiting the hardware to a
trace, via, copper pour or component pad. See Figure 29.


Figure 29

For non-plated (unsupported) mounting holes I highly recommend a pad so that the metal hardware (screw head,
washer or nut) contact a pad rather than the bare board. For many years I created unsupported mounting holes
with no pad annular ring, but I never saw the damage that metal hardware does when it comes in contact with
the bare board FR4 material. The solder mask and woven glass get roughed up when torque is applied to tighten
the screw and when too much torque is applied, the FR4 material crushes. I also recommend that the pad be
constructed using a Donut Pad with the inside diameter of the pad to be pulled away from the hole by 5 mil (0.12
mm) so that the drill bit goes straight through FR4 material and does not hit any metal. See Figure 30 for non-
plated mounting-hole construction.


Figure 30

Written By: Tom Hausherr CID+, CIT
Founder & CEO of PCB Libraries, Inc.
Tom.Hausherr@PCBLibraries.com
www.PCBLibraries.com