How to Check a Printed Circuit Board

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Technology is something that we’ve been using for a very long time.

It powers our lives by powering the world. Regardless of whom you are or what you do, technology is influencing your life in some way.  


Of the many things that enable the technological advancements that have taken place, one which has become rather commonplace is that of the common printed circuit boards or PCBs.

As simple as they may seem, they are backbone of the modern technological era, given how they’ve made their presence felt in just about every single possible application.

Indeed, one could say that the present state of technological development couldn’t be achieved if it wasn’t for PCBs.


When it comes to manufacturing of these PCBs or for that matter anything else, quality control is of utmost importance.

As with any other piece of technology, it is important to know that it works as intended.

This is where the many techniques to check and evaluate come into picture.

When it comes to the testing of the printed circuit board quality, there are a few strategies that are used for the same. Details of the same have been mentioned in the points below.

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1.) Basic Design Inspection

This is something that can be done with the naked eye, and doesn’t require the use of complex devices of any kind. In some cases however, some general lighting and a magnifying glass.

A general inspection of the printed circuit board is usually more than enough to know if there are any problems in it, whether it is major or minor.

Some of the typical issues that may be found include, but are not limited to, cracks, irregular surfaces, incomplete circuitry, loose components (such as resistors, capacitors, diodes, etc), peeling layers of insulation or protective material, etc.

These are rather easy to spot with some basic inspection. At the same time however, the same may not be apparent in case the damage is fine, in which case a magnifying glass can prove to be of good use.


2.) Physical Inspection

In some cases, the printed circuit board may ‘appear’ to be normal, but have underlying issues.

There are many ways in which these problems manifest, but the most common one is by heat. It is because these damages typically result in the overheating of the components, which then discharge the heat around them.

 All that one needs to know in order to determine whether this happens to be the case, is to touch the surface of the PCBs, typically that of components such as resistors and capacitors. The presence of heated components is an indication that there may be damages lurking in them and which requires the same to be removed and replaced.

Do note that although this is a great way to detect any potential flaws in the printed circuit board, it is not a very safe one. It is advisable to only limit it to those devices which use a low amount of electricity. Additionally, one may use a thermographic camera or a similar device for the same purpose, although this may prove to be rather expensive.

The point here is to find out problematic components by detecting the heat they give of, without getting an electric shock of any kind. Also, given that the components may be damaged, the potential for an electric shock is all the greater.


3.) Test the Capacitors

This step applies to any printed circuit boards which have capacitors as part of their design architecture.

A capacitor can be defined as a component which allows for alternating current to pass through it. This is something that is rather common in many of the printed circuit boards around.

The way to test a capacitor is to discharge it by touching its leads together.

Once this is done, they are to be tested with a voltmeter, with the resistance at its highest possible setting. The capacitor is to be probed with the power off and then again with the power back on; should the meter reading be zero, it is an indication that there are issues with the capacitor.


4.) Test the Resistance Points

Resistors are small components which control the flow of current through a printed circuit boards.

To test whether the resistors are functioning as intended, one needs to begin by disconnecting any power supply that is connected to the circuit.

Turning on the power, a volt meter is to be placed on the circuit directly at the first resistor. This can be done by 'tracing' the circuit path. One will need to check whether there is any voltage flowing through the circuit, which will be indicated by a reading in the volt meter; a reading of zero is an indication that there are issues with the resistors.

Typically, your average printed circuit board will comprise of several different resistors, spread out across the board. This means that one will have to follow the above step for all of the resistors that exist on the circuit board in the exact same way.


5.) Checking the Other Components

If in case one is checking a printed circuit board for damages, there is every chance that the real problem may not be with the circuit board.

On the contrary, the issue might actually have more to do with the other components in the device or gadget. In order to rule out the possibility that there is an issue with these other components of the device, it would be necessary to check them as well, in addition to that of the printed circuit board.

 This may seem like a rather time-consuming activity, but it is something which is absolutely necessary, if one wishes to find out the root cause of the issue on hand.



Last but not the least, it should be added that there are several other details as well, when it comes to checking the functioning of a printed circuit board.

The above are but some of the most important and indeed, standard ways in which the same is done across the industry level.

Depending on the needs and requirements, there is a chance that the same will vary in some cases.





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