What is difference between PCB and PCBA

The electronics manufacturing industry is filled with numerous terms and acronyms, which can be overwhelming and confusing, especially for those who are not familiar with the field. Additionally, the definitions of certain PCB terms may vary across different countries, adding to the confusion. In this article, the focus of TechSparks is to distinguish the two most basic words: PCB and PCBA.

Differences in Conceptual and Definitional

The complete form of PCB is a printed circuit board, or friends who know it will immediately realize that this is the green board in the computer host. Well, you seem to be the one who confused the concepts.

First of all, I want to say that this kind of confusion is not a mistake, but unprofessional. As industry knowledge is popularized to more ordinary people, this nuance has been eliminated.

From a professional point of view, PCB stands for bare board, that is, a circuit board that does not contain electronic components. It usually appears green and is found in workshops rather than electronics.

Why do we say this?

It is the components on the PCBA board that actually function in electronics, and the PCB acts as a carrier, which means that the printed circuit board itself does not have functions. To this end, a conceptual distinction can be made between the two:

  • PCB: stands for bare board.
  • PCBA: It stands for PCB board containing electronic components.
PCB circuit details
PCB circuit details
PCBA circuit details
PCBA circuit details

Differences in Functional

As we mentioned earlier, a bare board cannot function in electronics, and its function is to serve as a carrier to carry components. Then some people may ask, since it can’t function, why make it? Wouldn’t it be nice to connect the components directly?

This is certainly possible, but what TechSparks is saying is that before the advent of the PCB, the inside of the electronic device was directly using wires to connect components. As devices continue to evolve, this form of connection is no longer suitable because we need to use more components, which means a lot of intricate wires trapped inside the device. For this we can conclude that the role of the PCB is to sort out the messy wires and carry the components.

Since PCBA is the functional body in electronics, how does it work?

When the device is connected to the power supply, these currents will enter the PCBA board, and flow to the electronic components along with the circuit traces on the board and activate them to function.

Differences in Manufacturing Processes

When the circuit design is complete, these drawings are sent to the factory for fabrication. The first is to prepare the printed board, cutting the insulation and coating it with copper foil. Then, the circuit pattern is transferred to the copper foil using photolithography, and the unretained copper foil is removed by a chemical etchant. Finally, clean and check the quality.

Two processes of assembly and soldering are involved in the PCBA process. Solder paste is first applied to the pads of the PCB. Then, the components are precisely mounted onto the PCB surface. Finally, through high-temperature soldering, the pins of the components are connected to the pads to form a stable solder joint.

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