PCB Assembly Drawing: Designing for Seamless Fabrication

Table of Contents

Introduction

Printed circuit board (PCB) assembly drawings are essential for seamless fabrication and assembly. These technical drawings provide clear instructions for PCB manufacturers, ensuring your design gets built accurately and functions as intended.

PCB Assembly 3D Drawing
PCB Assembly 3D Drawing

 

Everything you need to know to master PCB assembly drawing will be covered in this comprehensive guide, allowing you to avoid delays and costly mistakes.

 

PCB Assembly Drawing

A PCB assembly drawing visually depicts how electronic components should be assembled onto a printed circuit board. It contains vital details like:

  • Location of each component on the board
  • Reference designators for identification
  • Orientation of polarized components
  • Solder pad definitions
  • Routing of traces
  • Mechanical holes and cutouts
  • Special assembly instructions
PCB Assembly 2D Drawing
PCB Assembly 2D Drawing

 

PCB assembly drawings serve several crucial purposes:

Provides Clear Instructions for Manufacturing

The drawing eliminates guesswork, allowing assemblers to place accurately and solder components. Without it, errors and defects can quickly occur.

Ensures Design Intent is Followed

The drawing captures your design intent, ensuring PCBs are assembled to your specifications. This prevents functionality issues or performance problems.

Streamlines Manufacturing Workflow

With all assembly details in one place, assemblers don’t waste time figuring out unclear areas. This speeds up manufacturing and reduces costs.

Enables Quality Control

The drawing makes it easy to inspect PCBs and identify any defects. It’s an indispensable tool for meeting quality standards.

Comprehensive PCB assembly drawings are vital for efficient, error-free manufacturing. They ensure your design works exactly as planned.

 

Critical Elements of PCB Assembly Drawing

While assembly drawings vary based on specific manufacturer requirements, certain elements are commonly included:

Board Outline and Dimensions

The board outline and dimensions section visually defines the size and shape of the PCB. Details provided here include:

  • Outlines the exact shape of the PCB, including any cutouts or notches
  • Provides the length, width, and other critical overall dimensions of the board
  • Calls out locations of cutouts for connectors, displays, etc.
  • Indicates positions of any slots or other mechanical PCB features
  • It may contain reference dimensions to aid in proper component placement

Layer Stack-up

PCB Layer Stack-up Drawing
PCB Layer Stack-up Drawing

 

The layer stackup diagram is crucial for understanding the layered construction of multilayer boards. This section illustrates:

  • Illustrates the sequence of materials used in multilayer PCB fabrication
  • Denotes dielectric materials used in the layer construction, such as FR-4, Rogers, polyimide, etc.
  • Specifies the copper thickness and copper weight of each conductive layer
  • Lists the dielectric thickness between adjacent copper layers
  • Illustrates any unique core materials such as metal or ceramic
  • May designate unique laminate materials for controlled impedance layers
  • Guides PCB fabricator in correctly laminating the multilayer board

Drill Drawing

The drill drawing specifies all required hole sizes and locations. Details include:

  • Displays the location and size of all holes to be drilled in the PCB
  • Denotes which holes are plated through-holes versus non-plated holes
  • Calls out any slotted holes requiring routing instead of drilling
  • Lists the total quantity of holes for each unique hole size
  • May specify different hole sizes needed in different board regions
  • Can illustrate where panels of boards require breakaway tab holes
  • Provides drill tolerances when holes must meet precision requirements

Component Placement Drawing

The component placement drawing accurately maps parts onto the board. Key details are:

  • Shows location, orientation, and reference designator for every component
  • Uses lines, arcs, or other indicators to denote the orientation of polarized components
  • Places important components like connectors first, setting position reference for other parts
  • Can group components into functional sections for easier assembly
  • Often, it will include an assembly order number next to components, indicating the sequence
  • May annotate components needing special assembly handling or soldering
  • It should accurately reflect the PCB layout, with components shown as true-to-scale

Assembly Notes

Supplementary assembly instructions are provided in this section:

  • Provides supplementary instructions to the assembler
  • Specifies steps for attaching any hardware or mechanical components
  • Describes any necessary gluing, adhesive application, or staking operations
  • Indicates parts needing solder paste application or hand soldering instead of reflow
  • Lists the soldering sequence for multi-row connectors and other components
  • Details any specific torque requirements for screw fasteners or bindings
  • Calls out precautions in handling electrostatic-sensitive devices

Bill of Materials

The bill of materials completely lists all components:

  • It comprehensively lists every component required for the PCB assembly
  • Correlates component designators on drawing to individual lines in BOM
  • Provides manufacturer part numbers for all parts for procurement
  • Specifies component packaging types, such as reel, tube, tray, etc.
  • Indicates single-use parts like power clips that should not be reused
  • Lists any recommended substitute component alternatives
  • Specifies if specific components are already pre-assembled modules
  • May designate parts intended for specific manufacturing sites
PCB Assembly Bill of Materials (BOM)
PCB Assembly Bill of Materials (BOM)

 

Board Fabrication Drawing

Fabrication details for the bare PCB itself are covered:

  • Illustrates conductive layer patterns showing traces, pads, polygons, etc.
  • Displays top and bottom side solder mask extents and openings
  • Indicates legend text and lines for the silkscreen layer
  • Provides a solder paste layer defining solder stencil openings
  • Calls out surface finish material and thickness, such as ENIG or Imm. Ag
  • Specifies requirements for PCB edges like chamfers or rounded corners
  • Lists maximum allowable fabrication tolerances for board features
  • Can include layer stack up diagram, if not shown separately

Additional Visuals

Supplemental graphics help illustrate complex areas:

  • It may contain exploded views of stacked components for clarity
  • Can provide detailed close-up views of dense component groupings
  • Uses cutaway drawings to reveal hidden components and junctions
  • Illustrates interconnections between multiple PCBs in an assembly
  • It contains isometric projections to visualize complex geometry better
  • Provides cross-sectional drawings showing layers and vertical interfaces
  • It can include photos of physical parts, harnesses, connectors, etc.
  • Uses color coding and highlighting to emphasize key areas of interest

 

Best Practices for PCB Assembly Drawing

Follow these guidelines to create thorough, unambiguous assembly drawings:

Use Your PCB Layout File

Leveraging the PCB layout file as the foundation for assembly drawings saves immense time and guarantees total accuracy between the design data and documentation:

  • Import board outline from layout to avoid manually recreating the shape
  • Pull in component footprints directly from PCB library parts
  • Automatically assign reference designators matched to schematic
  • Ensure component locations precisely mirror layout placements
  • Maintain design intent without transcription errors

Follow Assembly Process Sequence

PCB Assembly Drawing Overview
PCB Assembly Drawings Overview

 

Structure the assembly drawing based on the actual manufacturing sequence:

  • Place board outline, mechanical drilling, and lamination steps first
  • List SMT component population steps in the sequence of most minor to most extensive parts
  • Follow with through-hole component insertion flow
  • Add any post-assembly operations like conformal coating, testing, etc.
  • Number assembly steps sequentially and match component callouts
  • Group related items like connectors into sub-sequences

Include All Reference Designators

Account for every component by listing all reference designators:

  • Check designators against the schematic to ensure none are missed
  • Include designators even for parts like wire bridges added only in the layout
  • List small components like 0201 resistors that may be overlooked
  • Call out every connector pin, even if repeated multiple times
  • For BGA parts, list each ball on outer rows and representative inner balls
  • Avoid generic descriptions like “10x caps” that are ambiguous

Show Component Polarity

Unambiguously denote polarization requirements:

  • Use arrows, “+”/”-” symbols, or other indicators on polarized components
  • Illustrate the orientation of diagonally placed caps and diodes
  • Angle shapes of polarized connectors, switches, relays, etc. properly
  • Mirror symbols on bottom side drawings to maintain correct polarity
  • Specify polarity for LEDs and any other direction-sensitive semiconductors
  • Add polarity markers to custom footprints lacking inherent indicators

Provide Component Orientation

Properly orient all direction-dependent parts:

  • Angle IC outlines to match pin 1 locations marked on drawings
  • Rotate irregular connector shapes to match physical configurations
  • Illustrate edge mount or vertical placements where relevant
  • Indicate which direction LED lenses point or EMI shield cans face
  • Position any ribbon cable connectors to align with the cable routing
  • Show how heat sinks align with devices thermally attached

Use Contrasting Colors

Make layers, objects, and text easily distinguishable:

  • Style top/bottom side drawings differently through color, line weights, etc.
  • Vary component line weights to separate from substrates, notes, etc.
  • Use intense colors for essential items needing emphasis
  • Make sure reference designators and leaders stand out
  • Give appropriate real-world colored representations for components
  • Ensure drawings reproduce clearly in black-and-white, too

Add Helpful Labels

Supplement drawings with ample annotations:

  • Dimension critical distances between mounting points, components, etc.
  • Use leader lines to associate notes with respective items
  • Insert balloons/callouts to explain crucial details without cluttering the drawing
  • Identify odd component shapes with part numbers or descriptions
  • Designate component height clearance requirements if constrained
  • Specify adhesive dots, screw locations, and other assembly points

Include Notes for Special Cases

Provide supplementary instructions for non-standard operations:

  • Detail soldering methods needed for large ground planes, heat sinks, etc.
  • Describe sealing, potting, or gluing for ruggedizing, environmental protection
  • Specify torque sequences for multi-point mounts to avoid damage
  • List the thermal compounds and thicknesses required for CPUs, etc.
  • Provide guidelines on wire management, strand bundling, harness routing
  • Explain post-assembly cosmetic finishing steps if needed

List Mounting Hardware

Fully define mechanical hardware required:

  • Identify screw types, sizes, lengths, flat/lock washers, and quantities
  • Specify torquing requirements for each screw size and location
  • Describe the sequence for installing mounting hardware and brackets
  • Include drawings or models of non-standard brackets if needed
  • List thread sizes for heat sink standoffs, nut plates, spacers, etc.
  • Provide instructions for applying thread locker, lubricants, anti-seize, etc.

Double-check Accuracy

Thoroughly validate the drawing’s correctness:

  • Review dimensions, annotations, polarities, designators, and BOM correlation
  • Have a second person audit the drawing to spot potential issues
  • Confirm that the drawing meets manufacturer requirements and your standards
  • Check that separate top/bottom/layer drawings align precisely
  • Validate against source schematic, layout, BOM, and netlist data
  • Correct any discrepancies before drawing release

 

How PCB Design Tools Help Generate Drawings

Modern PCB design suites make creating assembly drawings far easier. Capabilities like the following help accelerate the process:

  • Automatically generating board outlines from layouts
  • Importing live component footprints from PCB libraries
  • Assigning reference designators from schematics
  • Controlling visual styling of layers and objects
  • Adding customizable text, tables, callouts, and dimensions
  • Producing drawing templates for reuse
  • Exporting drawings in manufacturing-friendly formats like PDF

Engineers can quickly produce detailed, professional assembly drawings from their design data by leveraging these features. This avoids having to create drawings purely from scratch in CAD programs.

 

Drawing Tips for Specific PCB Assemblies

Specific assembly scenarios call for extra care when making drawings. Here are some tips:

Double-Sided Boards

Effectively illustrate top and bottom component placements:

  • Use separate drawings for increased clarity and to avoid confusion
  • In a single drawing PDF, place top and bottom views on different pages
  • Mirror orientations on the bottom side drawing to match the circuit layout
  • Cross-reference off-page items between top and bottom drawings
  • Indicate layer color-coding in the drawing legend for quick identification

Multi-Up Panels

Clarify individual PCBs and their relationship to panels:

  • Illustrate PCB array with assembly details for one board instance
  • Use leaders to designate locations of other PCBs on the panel
  • Provide panel outline with array spacing and breakaway tab details
  • List panel-level drilling, routing, and lamination requirements
  • Include panel milling drawing to show V-scores or other outlines

Rigid-Flex PCBs

Depict bends, folds, and material transitions:

  • Illustrate routing of flex/rigid portions and indicate bends with dimensioning
  • Specify minimum bend radii and reference neutral bend axis
  • Highlight layer transitions between rigid and flex with bold outlines
  • Call out polyimide/Kapton flexible material regions versus FR4 zones
  • Locate and dimension any stiffening bars, plates, or shims providing rigidity

High Density Interconnects

Assembly Drawing Top
Assembly Drawing Top

 

Enhance clarity for crowded component areas:

  • Use magnifying cutouts for dense sections like BGA/QFP zones
  • List pitch spacing for fine-pitch ICs and connectors
  • Provide rotational orientation indicators for tightly packed connectors
  • Illustrate routing and isolation for traces in high-density regions
  • Specify inspection criteria for solder fillet presence on hidden joints

Large Format Boards

Aid assembly of oversized boards:

  • Break into smaller PCB segments with overall placement reference index
  • Use machines to designate segment divisions and interconnections
  • Provide assembly order numbering segmented into regions
  • Detail segment interfaces, routing, and connectors between segments
  • List handling precautions related to board weight and fragility

High Pin Count Packages

Emphasize pin-1 and clarify array numbering:

  • Use significant pin-1 indicators for zero ambiguity even without silkscreen
  • Number all pins/balls and list totals for complex grid array packages
  • Provide pinout tables for dense ball grid arrays
  • Include magnified detailed pin diagrams for high-quantity connectors

Odd-Shaped and Non-PCB Parts

Add custom 3D documentation:

  • Generate 3D models or drawings for brackets, chassis, housings, etc.
  • Illustrate screw terminals, connector backshells, and cable ties
  • Explode views of assemblies to reveal internal structures
  • Provide isometric projections from multiple angles
  • Include photos of assemblies for reference

Dense BGA Components

Provide soldering and inspection guidance:

  • Specify solder paste volume per pad for consistent application
  • List the maximum voiding percentage considered acceptable
  • Highlight what constitutes defects for artistry criteria
  • Detail underfill application and curing procedures if used
  • Explain X-ray, thermographic, and optical inspection techniques

Helpful Habits for Developing PCB Assembly Drawing

Following consistent routines helps reduce errors and omissions in assembly drawings:

Start Drawings Early

Don’t leave drawing creation until the end. Begin developing the assembly drawing as the design progresses.

Use Checklists

Checklists ensure no information gets overlooked, like polarization markings, annotations, BOM, etc.

Review Drawings Meticulously

Scrutinize drawings to spot any missing details before release. Double-check accuracy.

Use Drawing Templates

Standard templates speed up drawing creation and provide consistency.

Confirm Requirements with CM

Ask your contract manufacturer if they need any special instructions called out.

Have Others Review the Drawing

Fresh eyes can catch things you may have missed. Take advantage of design reviews.

Include Revision Numbers

As drawings get changed, increment revision numbers for tracking. Highlight revisions.

 

Drawing Approaches for Specific Manufacturing Processes

Specific assembly methods require tailored drawing strategies. Here are some examples:

Wave Soldering Drawings

  • Locate heat-sensitive parts far from hot solder wave
  • Ensure sufficient solder fillet clearance around plated holes
  • Call out any components needing hand soldering

Selective Soldering Drawings

  • Provide mini assembly drawings for localized rework zones if needed
  • Specify allowable clearance between neighboring joints
  • Mark components and joints for soldering, if not assembling fully

Conformal Coating Drawings

  • Mask areas exempt from coating with keep-out outlines
  • Identify any secondary curing requirements
  • Note handling precautions during coating and afterward

Box Build Assembly Drawings

  • Include drawings for enclosures, faceplates, brackets, etc.
  • Provide diagrams showing the mounting of PCBs and hardware sequencer
  • Illustrate interconnects between PCBs and external wiring

 

Handling Complex Geometries in Drawings

Some complex component arrangements require creative drawing solutions:

Dense Fine-Pitch Components

Use enlarged isometric views to show detailed solder joint patterns under BGAs.

Multi-Row Connectors

Illustrate connectors depopulated into single-row sections for clarity.

Miniaturized Clusters

Provide magnified corner views of grouped tiny components like 0201s.

Tall Shield Cans

Draw transparent lids on shields to reveal interior components underneath.

Multi-board Stacks

Illustrate board spacing and interconnects in multi-board sandwiches.

Curved Flex Circuits

Add reference dimensions showing neutral axis, bend radii, fold angles, etc.

 

Dealing with Design Changes Impacting PCB Drawings

Engineering changes can quickly invalidate existing drawings. Here are some management tips:

Archive Old Revisions

Save copies of superseded drawing versions in case you must revert changes.

Highlight Significant Modifications

When changes occur, use revision clouds to call out affected areas prominently.

Update BOMs Promptly

Component substitutions or additions must flow to BOMs immediately to stay synchronized.

Alert Manufacturers of Changes

Notify your CM about pending drawing revisions that impact assembly work in progress.

Limit Unnecessary Tweaks

Avoid minor drawing tweaks that don’t improve manufacturing. This adds revision churn.

 

Key Drawing Deliverables for PCB Assembly

To ensure a smooth handoff to manufacturing, provide all the following:

-PDF print drawing package containing:

  • Assembly drawings for all board sides
  • Drill/hole drawings
  • Stackup diagrams for multilayer boards
  • Exploded or detailed assembly views were useful
  • Layer plots showing solder masks, silkscreen, etc.
  • Bill of Materials listing every component
  • NC drill, gerber, and pick-and-place manufacturing files
  • Readme file detailing drawing packages, file versions, and design data
  • Drawing revision list summarizing changes

Bundling these together in a comprehensive package avoids manufacturing delays and errors.

 

Conclusion

Well-executed PCB assembly drawings are vital for transforming your design into reality. You empower PCB manufacturers to assemble boards right the first time by detailing every assembly step clearly and accurately.

The guidelines outlined here will help you develop professional, unambiguous assembly drawings without room for improper fabrication. Pair that with modern PCB design tools to accelerate the drawing creation process.

With mastery of PCB assembly drawings, you can eliminate countless hours of manufacturing rework and get products to market faster. Achieving your design intent ultimately hinges on arming assemblers with all the instructions needed for success through comprehensive drawings.

 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the critical elements of a PCB assembly drawing?

The essential elements are the board outline, layer stack up, drill drawing, component placement drawing with reference designators, assembly notes, bill of materials, board fabrication drawing, and visuals like close-up views.

How can PCB design tools help in creating assembly drawings?

Tools like Altium Designer automatically import details like board outlines and component footprints from PCB source files. This accelerates drawing creation.

What drawing tips help for assembling double-sided boards?

Use separate drawings for the top and bottom sides. Or place both views in different sheets within the same PDF drawing package.

What should I include in the drawings for flex PCB assemblies?

Illustrate bends, folds, and stiffener locations. Call out transitions between rigid and flexible PCB sections. Provide neutral axis and bend radius dimensions.

What extra items should be included in box build assembly drawings?

Include drawings for all enclosures, brackets, and hardware parts. Provide diagrams showing PCB mounting sequences and external wiring interconnections.

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