Eurocircuits Printed circuits blog

What keeps us busy at Eurocircuits, projects we are working at, new idea's, background information and a platform where you can participate, give your opinion and guide us to what is important for you as an electronics developer

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Posted by   Lengyel Norbert  on 21 Oct 2014  | Posted under   Technology Hits: 56

Quality assurance -  Microsection analysis

Introduction

Microsectioning or cross-section analysis is a destructive sample testing procedure, used throughout the PCB fabrication industry. We make regular microsections each day, as they allow us to see inside the PCB and make precise measurements to check our production processes and to confirm the quality of the finished PCBs.

We use microsectioning to check the quality of:

  • PCB base material
  • inner structure of multilayer boards
  • plating in plated-through holes
  • thickness and registration of external and internal conductors
  • connection between the layers
  • soldermask cover
  • surface finish thickness

Microsectioning procedure

  1. Select the appropriate PCB or quality-control test coupon
  2. Cut out a piece for sample
  3. Embed the sample in resin
  4. Grind down to a flat surface
  5. Polish and etch back if needed

Multilayer build checking

We check the build-up of the multilayer PCB, the thickness of the cores, copper foils and prepregs, and the effectiveness of the bonding process. We also look for any defects in the laminate after thermal stress (delamination, blistering, voids or cracks etc.)

We inspect the registration of inner copper lands to the holes. The next picture shows the same PCB as the last one, but when we measure the registration of the hole to the inner layer copper we see that there is some misalignment (in this case within tolerance).  We also use a special test coupon on all multilayer production panels to confirm the position of the drilled holes relative to the (already printed) inner layers.

 

 

There should be a robust connection between the wall of the plated through hole and the inner layer copper as shown in the next picture.  A poor or broken connection points to process issues in drilling or hole-wall cleaning.  A broken internal connection on a finished board would be caught by electrical test.

 

Through hole plating

We make 5 non-destructive measurements of the thickness of the plated copper in the holes on every production panel.  We back this up with regular microsectioning to get more information about process quality. For this we use the test coupon which we put on every production panel.

The plating thickness is the average of six measurements taken three on each side of the hole roughly a quarter, a half and three-quarters down.

 

Our standard tolerance for component holes is +/- 0,1 mm. We measure the finished hole diameters at final inspection using a tapered gauge.  Microsectioning backs this up and provides more detailed information on the quality of our processes.  The next picture shows the actual width of a plated hole with nominal diameter of 250 microns.

 

Copper thickness

Inner layers

Inner layers are not plated so the copper thickness is that of the copper foil used.  However, some copper is lost during the cleaning processes.  The IPC A 600 Class 2 standard gives the following values for the minimum acceptable copper foil thickness after processing:

Start copper

Minimum thickness after processing

12 µm

9,3 µm

18 µm

11,4 µm

35 µm

24,9 µm

70 µm

55,7 µm

 

This image show the copper thickness after processing for an inner layer with 35 µm start copper:

 

Outer layers.

Outer layers are plated up when we plate through the holes, so that the final copper thickness is the start copper foil less any copper lost during cleaning plus the plated copper.  IPC A 600 Class 2 gives the minimum acceptable finished copper thickness after processing as:

Start copper

Minimum thickness after processing

12 µm

29,3 µm

18 µm

33,4 µm

35 µm

47,9 µm

70 µm

78,7 µm

 

Microsectioning shows the thickness of an outer layer track with 18 µm start copper:

 

We can also measure separately the thickness of the base copper and of the plated copper.  The base copper foil in this case was 12 microns.

 

Solder mask

The minimum solder mask thickness over the copper conductors should be 8 µm.

 

Surface finish

We can use microsectioning to measure the thickness of Leadfree Hot Air Levelling (HAL). For electroless gold over nickel (ENIG or Che Ni/Au) we can only use microsectioning to measure the nickel thickness (as shown in the picture) as the gold thickness is under 0.1 µm. For measuring the thickness of the gold and for Immersion silver we use non-destructive X-ray measurement.

 

Posted by   Dirk stans  on 17 Jun 2014  | Posted under   PCB Design Hits: 1265

Can standard Gerber still be used to order PCBs?

As you can read from Ucamco's announcement, Standard Gerber (RS-274D) is declared obsolete as input format for their Computer Aided Manufacturing tools for PCB production.

Eurocircuits has for a long time promoted the use of Extended Gerber (RS-274X) for communicating PCB designs as described in our BLOGs:

It's safer, faster and fully compatible with our PCB Visualizer tools.  PCB Visualizer cannot process Standard Gerber files as they are incomplete, lacking the built-in shape definition tables etc...

We therefore support Ucamco's decision to declare the Standard Gerber (RS-274D) format obsolete.

=> Yes, you still can use Standard Gerber (RS-274D) but we STRONGLY recommend you to use Extended Gerber (RS-274X) instead.

If you have any questions on outputting Extended Gerber, please contact us via our Chat service or email us at euro@eurocircuits.com This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .  If you need boards made from old files which are only available in Standard Gerber, please contact us on a case by case basis.

We recommend you to also read Ucamco's announcement in this BLOG.

Open Letter to the Gerber User Community

Please use Extended Gerber for all your operations.
Standard Gerber is technically obsolete.  If you are still using it, you are putting your business and that of your clients and business partners at a useless risk, without benefit.

As the developer and custodian of the Gerber format, Ucamco hereby wishes to communicate the following important information about Standard Gerber.

Standard Gerber is now technologically obsolete.

  • Despite its name, Standard Gerber is not a defined standard for PCB data transfer:  Units and aperture definitions, rather than being governed by a recognisable standard, are in an informal document, the interpretation of which is unavoidably subjective. As a result, Standard Gerber files cannot be machine-read in a standardized, reliable way.
  • Standard Gerber requires aperture painting and copper pours, both of which create manual work in CAM, adding cost, delay and risk to the PCB manufacturing process.
  • Standard Gerber does not support attributes.

Extended Gerber files ARE machine readable, they do not require painting, and they do support attributes. Virtually all software read Extended Gerber and many new implementations no longer support Standard Gerber. There is not a single good reason left to use Standard Gerber. Using of Standard rather than Extended Gerber is a self-inflicted competitive disadvantage.

Extended Gerber fully supersedes Standard Gerber. Extended Gerber is the current Gerber format. Standard Gerber files therefore do not comply with the Gerber specification.

Ucamco's position regarding the Gerber format is therefore as follows:  Any party that chooses Standard rather than fully standardized Extended Gerber is responsible for any issues that might arise as a result of its use.

Thank you.

Karel Tavernier
Managing Director
Ucamco

Read the full article - with detailed motivation - in pdf format

 
Posted by   Luc Samyn  on 14 Aug 2014  | Posted under   Technology Hits: 1864
This blog is also available in following languages

What is UL?

The Underwriters Laboratory (UL) was set up around 120 years ago in the USA as an independent facility to test the safety of new products and new technologies.  Today it has a network of sites around the world focussed on product safety.  It test products, certifies manufacturers, and produces and updates safety standards across a broad range of industrial and commercial sectors. More.

For PCBs the main standards are UL 796, the specific PCB standard, and UL 94 for flammability testing of all plastics.  These specify a number of performance tests to measure the long-term reliability and fire safety of the PCB.  If a board is released to these standards, it is marked with the UL logo, the fabricator’s logo and the board type.  So here for Eurocircuits, we see on the left the UL logo, then Eurocircuits’ UL trademark, and last ML for “multilayer”.

 
UL on the PCB

When is UL marking used?

UL marking is required whenever safety, especially flammability, is a critical issue.  For European OEMs it is often required on any boards that go into equipment that will be imported into the USA.  The requirement may be set by the OEM or by the end customer.

What does UL marking mean?

  1. The base material meets the specified flammability level laid down in UL94.  For FR4 the level required is UL94 V0.  This means that when a vertical sample of the material is introduced into the test flame and then removed, it will self-extinguish within 10 seconds.  It will not drip flaming particles.
    All Eurocircuits FR4 materials meet the requirements of UL 94 V0.  For boards requiring UL marking we use Isola and Nan Ya materials
    • For STANDARD pool multilayer boards we use IS400 Mid Tg 150°C (this Tg is higher than standard FR4 to ensure full compatibility with lead-free soldering).
    • For all high Tg (170° - 180° C) requirements we use Isola PCL-FR4-370-HR.
    • For one and two layer boards we use IS400 Tg 150°C or Nan Ya NP-155F Tg 150°C
      => For more information on their properties see UL Certificate E41625 for Isola materials and E98983.
  2. The base material meets the specified level for ability to resist ignition from electrical sources.  For the values see E41625 and E98983.
  3. The base material meets the specified electrical breakdown (tracking) or Comparative Tracking Index (CTI) value.  This is the voltage difference at which the insulation properties of the base material may break down, causing safety and performance issues.  The Isola and Nan Ya FR4 materials meet the requirements of Class 3 (175 – 249 V).
  4. The base material meets the performance profile levels specified for direct support of current carrying PCBs (DSR).  These are specified in UL Standard ANSI/U/796A.
  5. The boards meet the other specifications set out in the table under UL marking in STANDARD pool below.

Eurocircuits UL specs

Our UL certificate E142920 can be found on the UL website

Abbreviations used.

  • Cond = conductor
  • Edge: this is explained below
  • Thk = thickness
  • SS = One copper-clad side
  • DS = Two copper clad sides including single-sided and multilayer
  • DSO = Double-sided only
  • Max Area Diameter: this is explained below
  • Meets UL796 DSR requirement.  See item 4 above.
  • CTI = Comparative Tracing Index.  See item 3 above.

TIPS.

  1. UL marking is free of charge.
  2. To add UL marking to your order, click on “Advanced options” at the bottom of the Price calculator menu, and then tick the “UL marking” box.  The smart Price calculator menu will flag any options that are not UL-compatible.
  3. When data has been uploaded, the Marking editor can be used to define the UL logo position.

General.

  1. All boards requiring UL marking are made in our factory in Eger, Hungary.
  2. We offer UL marking in STANDARD pool only.
  3. We have 3 active board classes, each with its own UL marking:
    1. i. Multilayer boards: designator ML; marking:

       
      UL ML
    2. ii. 1- and 2-layer boards with minimum thickness 0.63 mm: designator DV; marking:

       
      UL DV
    3. iii. 1- and 2-layer boards with thickness 0.38 mm – 0.62 mm: designator DS; marking:

       
      UL DS

The other classes listed in the certificate are no longer used.

UL marking in STANDARD pool

UL marking is only available for PCBs which are conform to the parameters listed here (the numbers in brackets indicate more information below). This includes poolable and non-poolable options.

UL type Designator

ML

DV

DS

Usable for

Multilayer

Single and Double sided

Single and Double sided

Base Materials

IS400

PCL-FR-370HR

IS400

NP-155F

PCL-FR-370HR

IS400

NP-155F

PCL-FR-370HR

UL 94 Flame Class

V-0

V-0

V-0

Min. build-up thickness (mm) (1)

0,63

0,63

0,38

Min. bonding sheet (prepreg) thickness (microns) (2)

126

Minimum outer layer conductor thickness (microns) (3)

18

18

18

Maximum inner layer conductor thickness (micron) (4)

70

Minimum track width (mm) (5)

0,10

0,10

0,10

Minimum edge track width (mm) (6)

0,15

0,15

0,15

Maximum conductor area diameter (mm) (7)

76,20

76,20

76,20

Surface finishes:

Leadfree HAL

Immersion NiAu (ENIG) (8)

Immersion Ag

 

Yes

Yes

Yes

 

Yes

Yes

Yes

 

Yes

NO

Yes

Hard gold edge connector

Yes

Yes

Yes

PTH on the board edge

Yes

Yes

Yes

Round-edge plating

Yes

Yes

Yes

Copper up to board edge (9)

NO

NO

NO

Carbon paste

Yes

Yes

Yes

ViaFill (10)

Yes

Yes

NO

Heatsinkpaste (11)

NO

NO

NO

Soldermask types (12)

ELPEMER 2467

XV501T Screen XV501T-4 Screen

ELPEMER 2467

XV501T Screen XV501T-4 Screen

ELPEMER 2467

XV501T Screen XV501T-4 Screen

Hole plugging material (ViaFill)

XV501T-4 Screen

XV501T-4 Screen

Peelable soldermask

Yes

Yes

Yes

Carbon ink

SD 2841 HAL *IR

SD 2841 HAL *IR

SD 2841 HAL *IR

Solder limit

Maximum temperature (°C) (13)

265

265

265

Solder limit

Maximum time (sec) (13)

20

20

20

Maximum operating temp (°C)

130

130

130

1. Minimum build-up thickness (mm)

This is the thickness of the PCB measured over the laminate where there is no internal or external copper.

The minimum  STANDARD pool thicknesses which can be UL marked are:

 

UL-ML

UL-DV

UL-DS

UL min. build-up thickness (mm)

0,63

0,63

0,38

Min. STANDARD pool thickness (mm)

0.80

0.80

0.50

TIP

For UL marking of UL-DS PCBs the surface finish must be Che Ag or No surface finish (leadfree/leaded HAL is not possible due to the min board thickness requirement of 0.80mm for HAL and Che Ni/Au is not available for UL-DS-marked PCBs due to the fact that we always use  a via-fill in combination with Che Ni/Au).

2. Minimum bonding sheet (prepreg) thickness (microns)

Minimum prepreg thickness in a multilayer. This may be one prepreg or a combination of different prepreg.

 

UL-ML

UL-DV

UL-DS

UL min. bonding sheet (prepreg) thickness (microns)

126

In STANDARD pool most of the 700+ pre-defined builds meet this requirement. The smart Price calculator menu will flag any pre-defined build that is not UL-compatible.

3. Minimum outer layer conductor thickness (microns)

Specifies the minimum END copper thickness for the outer layers.

 

UL-ML

UL-DV

UL-DS

UL min. outer layer conductor thickness (microns)

18

18

18

For 2-layer and multilayer boards all start copper foil thicknesses may be used: 12µm (end +/-30µm), 18µm (end +/-35µm), 35µm (end +/-60µm), 70µm (end +/-95µm) and 105µm (end +/-130µm).

For 1-layer boards the start copper foil is the same as the end copper thickness, so following start copper foils are available: 35µ (end +/-35µm), 70µm (end +/-70µm) and 105µm (end +/-105µm).

4. Maximum inner layer conductor thickness (micron)

Specifies the maximum END copper thickness for the inner layers.

 

UL-ML

UL-DV

UL-DS

UL max. inner layer conductor thickness (micron)

70

On inner layers start copper foil is the same as end copper thickness.  UL marking is available only for 12µm, 18µm, 35µm and 70µm (not 105 µm)

5. Minimum standard track width (mm)

The minimum width of any track on any layer placed more than 0.40mm from the edge of the board.

 

UL-ML

UL-DV

UL-DS

UL min. standard track width (mm)

0,10

0,10

0,10

eC PCB Classification pattern class

Class 8

Class 8

Class 8

6. Minimum edge track width (mm)

The minimum width of any track on any layer placed less than 0.40mm from the edge of the PCB-board.

 

UL-ML

UL-DV

UL-DS

UL min. edge track width (mm)

0,15

0,15

0,15

eC PCB Classification pattern class

Class 6

Class 6

Class 6

This is a UL requirement to prevent damage to fine tracks near the edge of the PCB.

TIPS.

  1. Eurocircuits’ standard specifications still apply.  If a PCB is break-routed, there can be no copper on the outer layer within 0.25 mm of the edge of the board or 0.40 mm on the inner layer.  For V-cut scoring the clearance must be 0.45 mm on all layers.
  2. Copper up to the board edge is not allowed under UL rules – see (9) below.

7. Maximum conductor area diameter (mm)

This specifies the maximum solid, unpierced conductor area on any layer of a PCB-board, measured by the diameter of the largest circle that can be inscribed within the conductor pattern.

 

UL-ML

UL-DV

UL-DS

UL max. conductor area diameter (mm)

76,20

76,20

76,20

A “solid, unpierced copper area” is defined as any “full” or “solid” copper plane that does not have any PTH or NPTH holes in it.  This rule has been introduced by UL to reduce the thermal mismatch between a large solid copper plane and the laminate.

The diameter is measured thus:

 
UL maximum copper area

TIP

In most cases copper planes will include clearances for drill holes and so are not solid.  Otherwise if UL marking is required for designs with very large unbroken copper areas, consider using cross-hatching.

8. Surface finish - Immersion NiAu (ENIG)

To ensure optimum quality on immersion nickel-gold PCBs with closed vias we use ViaFill. As we do not offer UL marking on ViaFill for boards less than 0.63 mm thick, we cannot offer UL marking on type UL-DS PCBs (less than 0.63 mm).

9. Copper up to board-edge

This is not permitted under UL rules (risk of exposed or torn copper).

10. ViaFill

We do not offer UL marking for ViaFill for boards less than 0.63mm thick.

11. Heatsinkpaste

We do not offer UL marking for heatsinkpaste.

12. Soldermask types

All colours that we offer are covered.

13. Solder limit – temperature and time

These are the values that we use in our quality checks.

 

If you have any questions, please contact us by email at euro@eurocircuits.com This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or use our online Chat.

 

Posted by   Dirk stans  on 10 Mar 2014  | Posted under   Meet Eurocircuits Hits: 278

World of Electronics 2014 - Een leuk beursgadget - registreer nu reeds !

 

"De virtuele memo", het beursgadget voor de branche Industriële Elektronica, is een praktisch dagelijks gebruiksvoorwerp met een plezante functie:"geheugensteun".

De virtuele memo stuurt draadloos, via de lage energievariant van Bluetooth, een unieke code uit gelinkt aan een geheugensteuntje wat u er voordien heeft in geplaatst. Deze code ontvangt u via uw smart phone waar de "memo APP" u het geheugensteuntje weer laat zien. Vermits meerdere personen deze info kunnen ontvangen kan men zo boodschapjes aan mekaar doorgeven: "Schat, vanavond komt mijn moeder op bezoek." Het aantal mogelijkheden is daardoor zeer uitgebreid.

Voor de elektronicaliefhebber zullen we uiteraard weer alle ins en outs beschrijven en kenbaar maken.

 

Het gadget kan u alleen bekomen, als u zich als bezoeker voor de beurs aanmeldt en tijdens de registratie aangeeft dat u het gadget wil ophalen.

Registreer nu als Eurocircuits klant als eerste via deze link en verzeker u van uw gadget en een gratis toegangsbewijs. Vanaf eind maart zal iedereen kunnen registreren en is het aantal gadgets mogelijk snel uitgeput.

Meer info over de World of Electronics vindt u hier.

Posted by   Patrick Martin  on 26 May 2014  | Posted under   PCB Visualizer Hits: 3228
  1. Panel editor - the next level of efficiency in PCB Visualizer

“I want my boards delivered as a panel, but I need to see what it looks like before I place my order”

“I want to make sure that I have got the maximum number of circuits on my assembly panel”

“My assembly people need fiducials and tooling-holes in exactly the right place.  I haven’t got time to make a drawing, but they want to check the panel’s OK for them before I order.”

Eurocircuits have always had options to deliver a customer’s circuits in a panel (see our Panel Guidelines), but there has never been an opportunity to see the panel before placing the order, to experiment to find the best circuit “fill”, or to order a special layout without providing a drawing.  The new PCB Visualizer tool, Panel Editor, changes that.  Now you can view the Eurocircuits panelisation you have specified before you place your order.  Or, if you need a special panelisation, you can create your own panel directly on-screen.  Place your order confident that what you have seen or what you have laid out is what you will get as your finished panel – and there will be no delays while our engineers query your requirements.

How do I …..?

  1. Use PCB Visualizer Panel Editor to get a fast price without uploading data?
  2. View or modify my eC-panel by Eurocircuits?
  3. Make a custom panel?
  4. Set up/change panel and board properties?
  5. Change the step and repeat values?
  6. “Fill” a panel?
  7. Define special panel settings (stepped blocks, rotated circuits/blocks, custom blocks e.g. “nested” for L- and T-shaped circuits?)
  8. Add my own border features (tooling holes, fiducials, text etc.)?
  9. Specify panels with several different circuits (multipanels)?
  10. Get confirmation I did it all right, even if I did it for the first time? Use our pre-production approval process.

Our BLOG explains it all and contains 2 movies to illustrate the processes.

See separate sections for each topic.  If you have any questions, use our online chat line to talk to one of our engineers.

1. Use PCB Visualizer Panel Editor to get a fast price without uploading data?

Most Panel Editor options can be used before you upload your data.  For this, PCB Visualizer  uses dummy PCBs.

There are three panel options.  To select one, go to the Delivery format box at the top of the screen.  For more details of each, see our Panel Guidelines.  Selecting eC-panel by Eurocircuits or Custom panel by Eurocircuits automatically opens the Panel menu.

 
delivery format

eC-panel by Eurocircuits

Specify the repeats you want in X and Y.  Select the panel border, and the PCB spacing from the pull-down boxes.  All eC-panels are eC-registration compatible.  This means that they have the necessary tooling holes in the border if you want to use a solder-paste stencil with our eC-stencil-mate or eC-stencil-fix.  As they also have our standard pattern tooling holes and fiducials in the corners (see Panel Guidelines p. 6), they are 100% suitable for use with other registration systems.

Click Panel editor to see the panel with the dummy PCBs.  For the full range of options, see below.

Customer panel by Eurocircuits

Click the Panel editor wizard and proceed as below to specify the step and repeat, border and separation distance required.  Ignore the red warning message about the 0,0 panel size – this will be changed by the Panel editor.  PCB Visualizer will display the default board size, so for an accurate price enter the correct circuit size, make any other size changes required and click Apply.

TIP: Don’t put in the border elements at this stage as they will be lost when you upload the real board data.

Customer panel by customer.

Use this panel option if you have already prepared Gerber files with the complete panelisation for a special layout or for a multi-panel (panel with several different designs).  Your layout should meet our panelisation requirements for panel border and distance between the circuits.  This option won’t open Panel Editor as the files will display correctly in PCB Visualizer.

TIP: All delivery panels require a border to hold them together during transport and handling.  If you have not included a border or want to put additional features into the border, select Custom panel by Eurocircuits and specify a 1-up panel using the Panel editor wizard.

2. View or modify eC-panel by Eurocircuits

Step 1.  Load the job into PCB Visualizer.

Use the “Price Calculator” option to get a price and then upload your data.  Or choose the “Analyse your data” route, so that PCB Configurator fills out the board parameters for you.  Go to Shopping basket and click the PCB Visualizer column for the job you want.

Step 2.  View eC-panel by Eurocircuits.

If you have already specified the step and repeat, border size, PCB separation method and distance, click the Panel editor wizard to see the panelised circuit.

NOTE:

The router path is shown as a hatched area.  Our engineers will place rout tabs in this area to ensure a stable panel.

TIP: If there are areas in which you do not want rout tabs to appear due to sensitive components etc., specify them in a mechanical drawing.

You can now change:

  • Repeat in X and/or Y
  • PCB separation method
  • Panel border
  • PCB spacing

For any other changes, click “Advanced panel options”.

Click “Apply” at the bottom of the screen and the price in PCB Configurator will automatically update to the new configuration.  Click the orange “Save changes” box to update the basket.

 
price summary

In the next menu just click Continue.  There is no need to re-upload the job.

MOVIE: create and view an eC-panel with panel editor

 

This film gives an overview of how to make an eC-panel with our new panel  editor module, part of our PCB Visualizer software.

 
YouTube settings

You can always view this video in full screen mode by clicking the right symbol  on the navigation bar and upgrade the resolution by clicking the setting symbol .

3.  Lay out a custom panel by Eurocircuits.

TIPS:

  1. For hints and tips on designing stable panels including panelising round circuits and handling overhanging and heavy components, click here.
  2. If you are using an external assembly company and they supply a detailed dimensioned drawing of their requirements, you may find it easier to use the Launch inquiry route to get a price.  Upload your single circuit data, the drawing and your step and repeat instructions (as a README file) and our engineers will lay out the panel and give you a price.  This may take up to 1 working day.

PROCESS

Step 1.  Load the job into PCB Visualizer as Section 2 step 1 above.

Click the Panel editor wizard.  Ignore the red warning about the 0,0 panel size – the Panel editor will complete the correct size.

Step 2.  Select your panel border and enter your preferred value:

Step 3. Set up the circuit separation method and spacing:

Step 4. Choose the panel content type.

Select:

  1. Stepped PCB if you want to build your PCB out of single circuits.
  2. Stepped block if you want to build your panel out of a custom block of two or more interlocked or “nested” circuits, typically L- or T-shaped.  For this option, see below.

 

Step 4. Select “Stepped PCB”. And click “Next >”.

Step 5. Set up the basic step and repeat, and the rotation if required.  Additional options will be available in the editor.

Step 6. PCB Visualizer now shows the board together with top and bottom birds-eye view, the Panel and board properties menu and the panel tools menu.

  1. Swap top and bottom views by clicking on the bird’s eye menu, or using the tool menu icon.
  2. Pan and zoom with your mouse or use the pull-down zoom menu.

Click the orange “Apply” button to accept the panelisation and go back to the PCB Configurator menu.

4. Change panel and board properties.

Use this menu to change:

  • Panel size.
  • Panel border
  • Board separation method
  • Board separation distance

Or to add eC-compatible registration holes if you want to use a solder-paste stencil with our eC-stencil-mate or eC-stencil-fix.

TIP: If the board size is incorrect, PCB Visualizer will show a dummy panel.  Correct the size in the menu (“Board size”).

5. Change the step and repeat of the job

Click within the existing stepped circuits to select the block.  This opens the “Stepped PCB properties” menu.  You can now change the repeat and the rotation of the PCB.  Use to action

6. To “fill” a panel

  • Un-tick the Automatic X and Automatic Y boxes in the “Panel and board properties” menu.
  • Select the panel size you require (e.g. the Eurocircuits recommended maximum panel 350 X 250 mm, or your assembly company’s maximum size e.g. 300 x 200 mm)
  • Use the “Step/repeat block properties” menu to change the step and repeat and rotation to find the best fit
  • Re-click the Automatic boxes to get the final panel size.

7. Define special panel settings.

  • Stepped PCB
  • Stepped Block
  • Block (Custom block of nested PCBs: L-shapes, T-shapes, etc...)

These allow you to customise your panel layout.

Tools

 

TIPS:

  1. To deselect a tool, double-click the Select button or pick the next tool.
  2. To select a border element that is below another border element, you need to click with the right mouse button to first highlight it (orange border), then you can click with the left mouse button to select it.
  3. Use “Reset the panel definition” to
    • restart the Panel wizard – select “Create new panel definition”
    • clear everything and go back to the PCB Configurator menu – select “Clear panel definition”

7.1.  Add stepped PCB pattern

TIP: Use this function to step and repeat PCB blocks or to add rotated PCBs.

  1. Click the tool “Add stepped PCBs”.
  2. Select the orange location box where you want to repeat the same circuit pattern.



  3. This opens the “Stepped PCB properties” menu.  Enter the repeat values you require and click the location boxes as required.



    TIP: By default PCB Visualizer will retain the last repeat values used.  If these are incorrect, simply change them and the screen image will correct automatically.
    .
  4. Add spacers as required to control the distance between the blocks. Click “Select the object to edit” to clear the location boxes and show the true distances.

    TIP:
    The spacers change the distance between the blocks of circuits, not the individual circuits.  Change the distance between circuits in the “Panel and board properties” menu.

7.2.  Rotated blocks:

There are two ways to panelise with rotated and non-rotated circuits depending on your requirements.  To build a panel with rotated circuit patterns, follow the procedures here.  To put rotated and non-rotated in a set, see below.

  1. Click the tool “Add stepped PCBs”.
  2. Select the orange location box where you want to add the rotated pattern
  3. Enter the required repeat and rotation values



  4. Add a spacer to control the exact distance between the blocks.

7.3.  Panelise with stepped blocks (“nested” PCBs).

Use this function to interlock (“nest”) L-shaped or T-shaped PCBs.

  1. Open the Panel editor
  2. Select the border required
  3. Set your preferred PCB spacing and separation
  4. Set the Panel content type to “Stepped Blocks”
  5. Click “Next>” to open the “Edit block definition” box.  Click “Edit block”.



  6. This opens the editing screen.



  7. The offset will normally remain at X = 0, Y = 0 for the first circuit.  For the demo job, change the rotation to 180°.



  8. To add a second circuit, click “Add a PCB”.  To avoid a second circuit being placed directly over the first circuit, it is given a notional offset, roughly 20% of its X & Y dimensions.



  9. Add the desired offsets for the finished set. Click Apply to return to the wizard.



  10. Click “Next>” to move to the “Define step values menu”.  Enter your preferred repeat and click “Finish”.




7.4.  Add a spacer.

Use this function to increase the width of a single border or the space between blocks of circuits.

  1. Select “Add a spacer” tool.
  2. Click on the orange locator box where you want to insert the space
  3. Enter your chosen spacer value.



  4. Click on “Select the object to edit” or “Apply” to show the new image.

TIP: Tick the Automatic box if you have a fixed panel size which the circuits do not fill exactly and you want to maintain e.g. the relationship between the circuits and the panel edge.  The automatic spacer will push the circuits into the required position.

8.  Define customer specific border elements.

TIPS:

  1. To see how these different options work together, see the illustration of an eC-panel above or the finished panel at the end of this section.
  2. All border elements are dimensioned from 8 reference points.  These are placed in the middle of the laminate border in the 4 corners and on the centre line of the panel.  For each tool click the tool, select the (first) reference point, and the tool menu will open.
  3. Border elements (except drill holes) can be placed on copper, soldermask or legend layers, and on top, bottom or both sides.


8.1 Add a drill hole border element.

  1. Select the “Drill hole border element” tool and the reference point.
  2. Enter the drill hole diameter plus the copper, soldermask and legend clearances and any offset required.



  3. Click to insert the hole.  Select the next reference point – the values entered will carry over.


8.2 Add a frame border element.

 

Specify the width, the side and the layer required (copper, soldermask and/or legend). Unless an offset is specified this will appear in the centre of each border.

 

8.3. Add a clearance border element.

 

Tooling holes, fiducials and text come with automatic clearances to your chosen values.  Use the clearance function if you need to clear copper, soldermask or legend for any reason.  The cut-off allows the corner to be rounded.

8.4. Add copper pad.

 

For example as a fiducial.  You can specify the pad size, the clearances from copper, soldermask and legend, and the offset from each reference point.

 

8.5. Add text border element.

 

 

 

Enter the text, dimensions, layer (copper, soldermask or legend), and the clearances required.  The cut-off value gives a curved clearance.  The soldermask and legend clearances will default to the copper values but they can be changed if you prefer.

8.6. Add hash fiducials

 

You can set copper, soldermask and legend clearances for hash fiducials.

 

8.7. Finished panel

Including eC-compatible tooling holes

 

MOVIE: use panel editor to create your own custom panel

 

This film gives an overview of how to make a custom panel using our new panel editor module, part of our PCB Visualizer software.

You can always view this video in full screen mode by clicking the right symbol  on the navigation bar and upgrade the resolution by clicking the setting symbol .

9. Specify panels with several different circuits ("Multipanels")

PCB Visualizer has been developed as a Gerber file analyser to run Design Rule (DRC) and increasingly Design for Manufacturability (DFM) checks on single circuits.  There is at present no functionality to allow you to import and place interactively separate circuits into one delivery panel.

If you want to put several different circuits on one delivery panel, you have three options:

  1. Prepare a single Gerber file for each layer including the circuits you require in the positions where you want them in the panel.  Make sure that you provide a suitable border and distance between circuits. More …

    TIPS
    • You can use PCB Visualizer to analyse the panel as though it is a single circuit. If you need to add a border or border features, load the job as a 1 x 1 Customer panel by Eurocircuits.
    • To ensure optimum manufacturability we have rules for the maximum size and copper balance for panels with multiple different circuits.

  2. Use the Launch inquiry route.  Upload a single .zip file including separate .zip files for each circuits and an exact drawing how you want them panelised.  Our engineers will check the data files and build the panel for you.  We will send you a quotation and you will be able to see the finished panel in PCB Visualizer.
  3. Place your order and upload a single .zip file including separate .zip files for each circuits and an exact drawing how you want them panelised.  Skip PCB Visualizer.  If you want to check the panel before it goes into production click the box “Request pre-production approval” in the Running menu.

10. Pre-production approval

Not sure about the panel you have created and need reassurance before your panel goes into production? Use our pre-production approval check. More info in our BLOG.