How PCB Design and Assembly Can Withstand Harsh Environments

PCB Design and Assembly Can Withstand Harsh Environments

Harsh environments are those that expose PCBs to conditions that can be damaging or dangerous to the electronic components inside. These include extreme heat, varying temperatures, humidity, moisture and exposure to chemicals, dust and vibrations. In addition, there may be an increased risk of corrosion and fungus. Some devices need to be able to withstand these conditions for long periods of time, such as medical equipment in a hospital or the electronics used by military and aerospace personnel.

The manufacture of PCBs that can work in these harsh environments is a complex process. It includes multiple steps, from design and layout to fabrication and assembly. The pcb design & assembly must also meet stringent industry and regulatory standards, such as EMC (electromagnetic compatibility).

A contract manufacturer specializing in military and aerospace PCB assembly will have extensive knowledge of different materials that can withstand high temperatures and harsh working conditions. It will also have experience using thermal compounds that insulate components and reduce the occurrence of cracking solder. A high-quality coating is also required to minimize the effects of electromagnetic radiation on the PCBs.

During the design process, engineers use software to create a schematic and layout that will determine how the PCB will be built. Then, a piece of substrate material, typically fiberglass-reinforced epoxy known as FR-4, is cut to size and copper cladded on both sides by either chemical or electroless deposition. A final layer of dielectric is then added between the copper layers to prevent electrical interference.

How PCB Design and Assembly Can Withstand Harsh Environments

When a PCB is being designed for harsh environments, engineers must be sure that the design will protect it from environmental factors like temperature extremes, humidity, moisture and other contaminants. It must also be capable of withstanding mechanical stress and vibrations. The best way to do this is through proper cooling. A heat sink, fan or other method of air circulation will help keep the circuit board from overheating and melting.

Another factor to consider when designing a PCB for harsh environments is the effect of altitude on the air density. The atmosphere becomes lighter at higher elevations, which can cause electricity to arc between conductors and short-circuit the system.

For these reasons, a good PCB for harsh environments will include space for fans, heat sinks and other types of cooling to prevent overheating. It will also be designed with all the components facing the same direction, which can save a significant amount of pick and place machine time during assembly. A good PCB for harsh environments will also be ruggedized, which means it will be encased in a protective casing to prevent damage from impacts and vibrations.

It will be insulated and protected from elements that can corrode or dislodge the components, such as abrasive particles and harsh chemicals. It should also be able to resist the buildup of dirt and debris that can lead to short circuits and corrosion. The use of conductive paint, epoxy, and potting is also common in harsh environment PCBs.

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