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What is the Difference between PCB and PCBA in 6 Aspects

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Mon, Feb 10, 2020

Created as a sturdy and stable alternative to wires, printed circuits have become an industry-standard across the world.

It was found that these printed circuits were far more durable and efficient, in comparison to the wires that were being used before. Also, the rise of multi-layer circuit boards allowed for the technology to reach a level of efficiency and productivity that couldn’t be achieved until then.

As a result of this, they are now found everywhere, ranging from handheld gadgets to high-tech applications.


heavy copper PCB


When it comes to printed circuits, it can be said that there are two main types, namely Printed Circuit Board Assemblies or  PCBA s, more commonly called Printed Circuit Assemblies or PCBAs and Printed Circuit Boards or PCBs.

consigned pcb assembly

Although they both run on the same principles, there are a few differences that distinguish one from the other.

 Some of the major differences are listed out in the points below.


1.) Basic Design

One of the most important differences between the two is in the basic design.

Printed circuit boards, or PCBs, are the mainboards, comprising of the substrate and the copper circuits that are printed on them. It doesn’t have any of the other components on it, such as the capacitors, transistors, etc.

Printed circuit assemblies or PCBA s on the other hand, are those  PCB s which have the various elements mentioned above, like capacitors, etc. It can be thought of as PCBs with an assortment of components.  

In simple words, a Printed Circuit Board is the board itself, while Printed Circuit Assembly is the board, along with all the other elements that are installed on it.


2.) Terminology

There is a difference in the way the two terms are used.

In the tech industry, PCBA s and PCBs are very distinct from each other, with their own abilities and features.

At the same time, however, it doesn’t hold true in everyday language. To a layman, the two are the same, with the term Printed Circuit Board is used to broadly refer to both PCBA s as well as PCBs.

In other words, the average person doesn’t understand the difference between the two and often uses the term printed circuit Board in a generalized sense, as opposed to the way it is used in the industry.


3.) Construction

The term ‘construction’ here refers to the way in which PCBA s and PCBs are manufactured.

In the case of PCBs, the main aspect of construction is that of ‘etching’, where a circuit pathway is ‘etched’ on a copper surface, which in turn sits on a non-conducting board made from materials like fiberglass.

In addition to this, there are certainly other variations that can also exist, depending on the nature of the design. In the case of double or multi-layered PCBs, the board may require drilling, the use of conductive tracks, pads, etc.

PCBA s on the other hand is made by soldering the various components onto the boards, although other strategies may also be utilized.

In addition to this, PCBA s are also heat treated as well, to ensure that a suitable mechanical link is established between the components and the PCB.


4.) Functionality

Both PCBA s and PCBs are used for end-use applications. At the same time, however, the degree of scope varies broadly between the two.

Printed Circuit Boards are used in applications where all that is required is a simple circuit to transfer electricity or data, and nothing more. Given that it is an efficient alternative to wires, it is preferred over the latter.

Printed Circuit Assemblies, on the other hand, are used in cases where there is a demand for applications beyond just the transfer of data or electricity. A good example of this is that of computer motherboards, which is a printed circuit board complete with a vast number of components installed on it.

Quite often, both PCBA s and PCBs are used together in the case of practical applications, as opposed to them being used individually.


5.) Manufacturing Time

It is usually faster to manufacture Printed Circuit Boards, in comparison to Printed Circuit Assemblies.

This is because there is far less work involved in creating the circuits, in comparison to the installation of the various components on the board.

Due to these factors, Printed Circuit Boards can be manufactured a lot faster in comparison to Printed Circuit Assemblies.

It should be noted that some exceptions exist here. The time variations will certainly be influenced by the kind of printed board being considered, i.e. whether it is a single-layered, double-layered or multi-layered one.


6.) Cost Factor

In general, PCBs are cheaper in comparison to PCBA s.

This is due to the fact that PCBs are just the bare board, without any of the components, the manufacture of PCBs is relatively easy, making it generally low when it comes to the cost factor.

  PCBA s on the other hand, tend to be expensive, due to the fact that they are far more complex. In other words, there is a lot of effort that goes into the making of PCBA s, ranging from the initial installation of the assemblies to the final checks, making them relatively more expensive.

It should be noted that this cost variation holds true, as long as the baseboard is the same in both cases. For example, the price of a base multi-layer PCB will always be lower than that of a multi-layer PCBA . At the same time, however, a multi-layer PCB may be more expensive in comparison to a single-layer PCBA .

In other words, the design of the baseboard will play a major role in determining the variations in the final cost.




As a whole, these are some of the major differences that exist, between PCBA s and PCBs.

In addition to this, it should also be added that there are many more as well, albeit which are of a lesser significance.