What is Difference Between PCB and PCBA – 2024 Guide

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We all know about printed circuit boards and we know that the manufacturing process can be pretty complex. These boards are the main component of all our electrical devices and they cannot function without them. If you wanted to learn more about manufacturing and the different steps of the process then you will greatly benefit from this 2024 guide. Keep on reading to find out what is the difference between PCB and PCBA and how they relate to each other.

What are they?

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The first thing we are going to talk about is what PCB and PCBA are. The first one is the bare board which is still not the finished product and it consists of different layers of conducting and insulating materials that would, later on, complete the full electric circuit. On the other side, PCBA is the process that combines all the different electronic components on the printed circuit boards. The easiest way to describe these two things is to help you understand that they are extremely related as they are just different steps of the overall manufacturing process. The printed circuit board is the blank sheet that will later on, after adding all the components and soldering them, will become a full circuit board that is part of the assembly process.

If you are interested in learning more about the manufacturing process and how PCBs and PCBAs are related to each other, you can visit pcbasic.com.

Main differences

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The biggest difference between them is electrical. The former does not contain any electronic components, and it cannot function on its own. In the assembly process, this becomes a fully functional board that has different electronic components that do work.

When it comes to manufacturing, creating and manufacturing a printed circuit board is a pretty simple process that requires just a few steps. The time and investment needed to create a PCB are pretty low but when it comes to PCBA, the process is much more complex. It can take up to two dozen steps, depending on the exact board we are working with, and it can be pretty time-consuming and relatively expensive. Even though manufacturing printed circuit boards is not ultimately expensive, when we compare these two, we can easily see the difference in costs. The assembly process is more costly and it is ultimately a far more difficult process.

When it comes to the requirements for connection as well as insulation, PCB requires less wiring and less insulation on the other hand during the assembly process far more wiring and insulation are needed. In case the board does not have the needed connections as well as insulation when it is in the assembly process, the board may not end up functioning or there can be a lot of defects.

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Another thing that many people are wondering about is the uses of these two things. You should know that printed circuit boards on their own are mainly used when it comes to circuit design. They help designers and engineers create the right plan and design that would, later on, create the right components needed for different electronic devices. These boards are not directly used in electronic devices since they don’t have any wiring and electrical connections between them. On the other hand after the assembly process, the PCB a can be used in all electronic systems and devices and it is the finished, fully functional product. If you are interested in acquiring PCB you should know that it is going to be pretty easy and affordable to find blank boards on the market and even though the same is true for the latter, as we previously mentioned, the PCBA is going to cost more than the blank board itself.

During the assembly process and the designing stages, the latter is going to require far more maintenance and care. There is a lot of room for mistakes when creating PCBAs and the machines have to be specially calibrated in order to create a working product. On the other hand, when it comes to bare boards, they require far less maintenance and they can be kept safely without the risk of damage. Keep in mind that both of these need to be kept in special conditions so that they don’t rust or get damaged even before they are put on the manufacturing conveyor belt.

Once the boards need to be transported the transportation process for the PCB is going to be far less complex and cheaper when compared to the assembly boards. The bare boards are most commonly put in vacuum packaging and that is enough to keep them safe and secure until they are added to the assembly process. Once the board is fully finished and fully functional it requires antistatic packaging or compartmental packaging to ensure the safety of it. These finished boards are far easier to get damaged and they need to be transported with much care.

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In the past, the etching process was used during the manufacturing process of the PCB, and it was not required for the assembly process, however, nowadays it is completely discarded from both processes since it can be extremely harmful.

Finally, when it comes to the assembly process the biggest difference is soldering. The bare board on its own does not require any type of soldering since the electric components are not yet added. When it comes to PCBA, this process is required so that different electronic components can be added and connected to the board. There are a lot of other steps that are part of the assembly process, which makes this more complex. In some cases, decomposable glue can be added to the board along with the soldering paste so that it keeps the components in place before the soldering is finished. This, however, is not required and the manufacturers can choose if they want to implement it in their assembly process or if it’s a step that can be skipped.

There can be some additional differences when it comes to the advantages and drawbacks of these two steps in the same process, however, they are mostly focused on the things that we already mentioned here. The best way to learn more about the steps of the manufacturing process is to reach out to a manufacturer that can help you understand everything in detail.