9 Common Problems and Solutions with Printed Circuit Boards

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Fri, Nov 22, 2019

Printed circuit boards are pieces of hardware made from insulating materials and coated with metal. The boards are thin and are considered “printed” because etches are made in the metal coating using acid to make pathways for electric signals to travel to different components.  

 

One could say that these pathways are almost like nerve endings for computers. Signals are sent through these pathways, making printed circuit boards an important component in many electrical devices.

 

While printed circuit boards are important, they are also fragile, and they can sometimes break or malfunction. In today’s post, you will learn some of the most common problems people run across with their printed circuit boards and how you can fix them.

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SOLDERING ISSUES

Soldering problems can lead to malfunctions in your circuit boards. Sometimes, technicians who assemble the boards do not heat their solder to a hot enough temperature. Because the metal isn’t as hot, it doesn’t adhere to components of the board very easily. This can cause components to break or can create issues in the pathways within the board.

 

The introduction of moisture during the soldering process can also cause issues, potentially causing the circuit board to catch on fire.

 

The fix: To repair issues that come about from poor soldering, reattach the disconnected joints using a solder gun along with some solder. You can tell when the solder joint or component is disconnected if you see cracks or components that are not attached to the board.

 

ACUTE ANGLES

As mentioned earlier, printed circuit boards are often created using acid. The acid creates pathways for electricity to travel throughout the board. During the creation process, acid may get trapped in and angle, which can cause the acid to make pathways that cause the device not to work properly.

 

The fix: If you’re noticing that the pathways seem off on your circuit board, you may have to go ahead and replace the board. However, if you’re purchasing a board to work with, try to find circuit boards made with cupric chloride. This won’t cause acute angles in your circuit boards to begin with!

 

ENVIRONMENTAL INFLUENCES

Unfortunately, your environment counts when it comes to printed circuit boards. This means extreme heat and cold as well as moisture and dirt can really impact how well the printed circuit board does its job.

 

The fix: Make sure that dust does not clog near the circuit board and try to avoid areas with extreme temperatures and moisture. If the circuit board is already damaged from these things, you will have to replace the board.

 

BURNT CIRCUIT BOARDS

Along these same lines, circuit boards that are clogged by dust or in extreme heat can actually catch fire and burn. This will make your device nearly unusable.

 

The fix: Assure that the all components are otherwise safe. Remove and replace the circuit board. To avoid this, keep your devices clean and in a mild environment.

 

SLIVERS

Slivers occur during the printed circuit board creation process. At times, the slivers may occur on a part of the board that causes it to be unaffected. But in other cases, the sliver (a piece of copper that breaks during chemical etching) can land on a pathway and disrupt the proper flow for electrical signals.

 

This should usually be caught in the manufacturing process, but some damaged printed circuit boards slip through the cracks in the process.

 

The fix: In most cases, you will have to replace the board. Slivers, however, are avoidable. During the design process, the technician must create section with minimum widths to reduce slivering.

 

THERMALS DEFECTIVENESS

Thermals are pads that connect to the circuit board plane. Their sole job is to dispurse heat so that the circuit board can do its job without overheating. When a circuit board has defective thermal padding or paste, it can overheat and potentially catch the circuit board or entire device on fire. It can also cause disruption in the processes the circuit boards are helping to perform.

 

The fix: Replace the thermal padding or paste on the circuit board.

 

AGE OF THE CIRCUIT BOARD

Over time, circuit boards will begin to slow and break down. This can cause performance issues on the devices the circuit boards are working for! This is one issue that is simply unavoidable because, unlike a lot of things, circuit boards can’t stand the test of time.

 

The fix: You can either replace some of the components on the board, or you can replace the entire board.

 

VOIDS IN THE PLATE

While creating a circuit board, gaps or voids can be created during the deposition process. These holes can make it difficult for electricity to pass through the board’s pathways and perform the action that was needed.

 

Some issues that can cause voids include contamination and air bubbles.

 

The fix: If you currently have a circuit board with voids that are causing interruptions, you will have to replace the circuit board. But, if you are creating a circuit board, assure that air bubbles are popped, the deposition process includes an even lay of the materials, and there is no possibility of contamination.

 

BADLY MADE COMPONENTS

In some cases, the circuit board itself isn’t the issue, but the components attached to the board. This could include wires that are used to send the electrical signals throughout the board. Faulty components can cause connection issues, leaving the circuit board unable to complete its job.

 

The fix: Simply replace all of the faulty components.

 

ELECTROMAGNETIC PROBLEMS

Again, issues that occur during the design process can result in unfixable problems with your circuit board. Electromagnetic issues include difficulties with electromagnetic interference and electromagnetic compatibility. Electromagnetic interference is not something you want to happen. This interference overloads the board and can open it up for the possibility of damage.

 

The fix: In this case, you will need to replace your circuit board.

 

In conclusion, these circuit board issues are easy to fix. Take a good look at your board and determine the issue before working on it.


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