How to Panelise Small PCBs

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What is PCB Panelisation?

PCB panelisation is the process of combining multiple small printed circuit boards (PCBs) into a single larger panel for manufacturing. This technique is commonly used to reduce production costs and increase efficiency when producing high volumes of small PCBs. By panelising PCBs, you can optimize the use of materials, minimize handling, and streamline the assembly process.

Benefits of Panelising PCBs

  1. Cost reduction: Panelisation allows for the production of multiple PCBs in a single manufacturing run, reducing the overall cost per unit.
  2. Increased efficiency: Handling and assembling smaller PCBs can be time-consuming and challenging. Panelisation simplifies the process by allowing the assembly of multiple boards simultaneously.
  3. Improved quality: Panelised PCBs are less likely to be damaged during handling and transportation, as they are more robust than individual small boards.
  4. Faster turnaround times: By producing multiple PCBs at once, manufacturers can reduce lead times and deliver finished products more quickly.

Planning Your PCB Panel Layout

Before you begin the panelisation process, it’s essential to plan your PCB panel layout carefully. Consider the following factors:

PCB Size and Shape

Determine the size and shape of your individual PCBs and how they will fit together on the panel. Ensure that there is sufficient space between each PCB to allow for proper separation after manufacturing.

Tooling and Mounting Holes

Include tooling and mounting holes in your panel design to facilitate handling and assembly. These holes should be placed in areas that will not interfere with the functionality of the individual PCBs.

Fiducial Markers

Fiducial markers are reference points used by automated assembly equipment to accurately place components on the PCBs. Include fiducial markers in your panel design to ensure precise alignment during the assembly process.

Breakaway Tabs or Mouse Bites

To separate the individual PCBs from the panel after manufacturing, you’ll need to include breakaway tabs or mouse bites in your design. These small connecting points hold the PCBs together during production but can be easily broken apart afterward.

PCB Panel Design Software

Several software tools are available to help you design and panelise your PCBs. Some popular options include:

  1. Altium Designer
  2. KiCad
  3. Eagle CAD
  4. Cadence OrCAD

These software packages offer features specifically designed for PCB panelisation, such as automatic placement of breakaway tabs and fiducial markers.

PCB Panelisation Techniques

There are several techniques you can use to panelise your PCBs, depending on your specific requirements and the capabilities of your manufacturing partner.

Tab Routing

Tab routing involves connecting the individual PCBs with thin tabs of PCB material. These tabs are routed out during the manufacturing process, leaving small connecting points that can be easily broken apart after assembly.


V-scoring is a technique where shallow V-shaped grooves are cut into the panel between the individual PCBs. These grooves make it easy to snap the PCBs apart after manufacturing without the need for additional depaneling tools.

Perforated Tabs

Perforated tabs are similar to tab routing, but instead of solid tabs, small holes are drilled along the connecting points. This technique makes it easier to separate the PCBs without requiring special tools.

Designing for Manufacturability

When panelising your PCBs, it’s important to keep manufacturability in mind. Work closely with your manufacturing partner to ensure that your panel design meets their requirements and capabilities.

Material Selection

Choose a PCB material that is suitable for your application and compatible with your manufacturer’s processes. Common materials include FR-4, Rogers, and aluminum-backed PCBs.

Minimum Feature Size

Be aware of your manufacturer’s minimum feature size capabilities, such as the smallest trace width and spacing they can reliably produce. Design your PCBs accordingly to avoid manufacturing issues.

Solder Mask and Silkscreen

Consider the placement of solder mask and silkscreen on your panelised PCBs. Ensure that there is sufficient clearance around the edges of each PCB to prevent issues during the application of these layers.

Assembly Considerations

When panelising PCBs for assembly, there are several additional factors to consider:

Component Placement

Ensure that components are placed sufficiently far from the edges of each PCB to avoid interference with the panelisation features, such as breakaway tabs or v-scores.

Panelised PCB Handling

Consider how the panelised PCBs will be handled during the assembly process. Ensure that there is enough space around each PCB for automated pick-and-place equipment to operate without damaging adjacent boards.


Plan for the depaneling process after assembly. If using breakaway tabs or v-scores, ensure that there is sufficient clearance around each PCB to allow for clean separation without damaging components or the PCBs themselves.

Testing and Quality Control

After manufacturing and assembly, it’s crucial to test your panelised PCBs thoroughly to ensure they meet your quality standards.

Electrical Testing

Perform electrical tests on each PCB to verify that all connections are correct and that there are no short circuits or open connections.

Visual Inspection

Visually inspect each PCB for any manufacturing defects, such as incorrect component placement, solder bridges, or damaged traces.

Functional Testing

Test the functionality of each PCB to ensure that it performs as expected in its intended application.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

  1. What is the minimum size PCB that can be panelised?
  2. The minimum size of a PCB that can be panelised depends on the capabilities of your manufacturing partner. Generally, PCBs as small as 0.5″ x 0.5″ can be panelised, but it’s best to consult with your manufacturer for their specific requirements.

  3. How much space should I leave between individual PCBs on a panel?

  4. The amount of space required between individual PCBs on a panel varies depending on the panelisation technique used and the manufacturer’s capabilities. A general rule of thumb is to leave at least 0.1″ to 0.2″ of space between boards, but always confirm with your manufacturer.

  5. Can I Panelise PCBs with different thicknesses?

  6. Yes, it is possible to panelise PCBs with different thicknesses, but it may require special considerations during the manufacturing process. Consult with your manufacturer to determine the best approach for your specific requirements.

  7. What is the maximum number of PCBs that can be panelised on a single panel?

  8. The maximum number of PCBs that can be panelised on a single panel depends on the size of the individual PCBs and the overall panel size. Most manufacturers have standard panel sizes, such as 18″ x 24″, which can accommodate a large number of small PCBs.

  9. How do I choose the best panelisation technique for my PCBs?

  10. The best panelisation technique for your PCBs depends on various factors, such as the size and shape of your boards, the components used, and your manufacturing partner’s capabilities. Consult with your manufacturer to determine the most suitable technique for your specific project.


Panelising small PCBs is an effective way to reduce production costs, increase efficiency, and improve the overall quality of your PCBs. By carefully planning your panel layout, selecting the appropriate panelisation technique, and working closely with your manufacturing partner, you can streamline the production process and ensure the success of your project. Remember to consider factors such as PCB size and shape, tooling and mounting holes, fiducial markers, and breakaway tabs or mouse bites when designing your panels. Additionally, keep manufacturability and assembly considerations in mind to avoid potential issues during production. With the right approach and attention to detail, panelising your small PCBs can help you achieve your project goals more effectively and efficiently.