PCB V-Scoring

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V-scoring or V-grooving is a process used in printed circuit board (PCB) manufacturing to facilitate the separation of individual PCBs from a larger panel. It involves creating V-shaped grooves on the edges of the PCB panel prior to final separation.

V-scoring provides several benefits:

  • Cleaner separation: The V-shaped grooves create a stress point that allows the PCBs to be snapped off cleanly from the panel along the scored lines. This prevents damage like cracking or delamination.
  • Improved yield: Since the boards can be separated without damaging the edges, v-scoring improves panel yield and allows more boards to pass quality inspection.
  • Faster depaneling: V-scoring enables quick, simple mechanical separation rather than using a router or laser which takes more time. This increases throughput.
  • Flexibility: V-scoring allows depaneling after assembly, enabling panelization and assembly in strip format for efficiency then later separation into individual boards.

This article provides a detailed overview of PCB v-scoring, covering the v-scoring process, tools used, design considerations, effects on manufacturing, and more.

What is V-Scoring?

V-scoring creates V-shaped grooves along the borders of a PCB panel that facilitate cleaving the individual boards out of the panel. This process is also known as V-cutting or V-grooving.

The V-shaped grooves serve as predetermined breaking points. By applying a controlled bending force, the panels snap precisely along the score lines leaving a clean edge on the separated boards.

V-scoring grooves created along borders of a PCB panel

The grooves are made using a v-shaped cutting tool. This is usually done by the PCB manufacturer after completing all board fabrication processes but before final PCB testing and shipment.

The depth of the V-scoring will depend on the board thickness but is typically around 30% to 50% of the total board thickness. The width at the top of the V is usually between 0.1 to 0.2 mm.

V-scoring may be performed on one or both sides of the PCB panel depending on the board construction. For multilayer boards, scoring is often done only on the side with fewer lamination layers.

Benefits of V-Scoring PCB Panels

V-scoring panels before depaneling provides the following advantages:

Clean Edges After Separation

The stress concentration created by the V-shape groove ensures the fracture propagates precisely along the scoreline when snap-off pressure is applied. This prevents cracks or tears deviating into the board.

Clean board edges after separation along V-scoring

Without v-scoring, attempting to snap off boards could result in irregular cracks or delamination. The edges would be ragged and possibly damaged.

Improved Panel Yield

Since V-scoring allows clean separation without board damage, more boards can pass final electrical testing and quality inspection.

Routing or sawing puts mechanical stress on the boards during depaneling which can result in latent damage. V-scored boards avoid this damage allowing higher panel yield.

Quick, Simple Depaneling

V-scoring enables fast, mechanical separation by hand or with a simple fixture. Operators can quickly snap individual boards out of a production panel.

This is much faster than routing, sawing or laser cutting which requires specialized depaneling equipment and careful fixturing to avoid board damage. The speed provided by v-scoring improves manufacturing throughput.

Flexible Panelization

Because V-scoring permits later separation without equipment, it is possible to leave boards in the panelized format through assembly processes when desired.

Panelization often improves assembly efficiency. V-scoring allows retaining this advantage through populated board assembly then separating at the end rather than before assembly.

This facilitates assembly options like:

  • Panelized SMT assembly
  • Panelized manual loading
  • Panelized wave soldering
  • Panelized conformal coating
  • Panelized testing

Once assembly is complete, the boards can be easily de-paneled along the scored lines manually.

The V-Scoring Process

V-scoring is performed by the PCB manufacturer as one of the final fabrication steps before testing the panelized boards prior to shipment.

Here is an overview of the typical V-scoring process flow:

1. Inspector Defines V-Score Lines

First, an inspector examines the panel and determines the required scoring lines based on the PCB separation requirements.

If the customer submitted panelization documentation, this defines the locations for V-scoring. Else, the inspector will determine the best scoring lines.

Factors considered when defining V-score lines:

  • Individual PCB sizes and positions on the panel
  • Allowance for tool clearance between boards
  • Alignment to any exposed copper edges

2. V-Cutting Tool Scores Lines

A v-shaped cutting tool is used to create the V-shaped grooves along the defined scoring lines on the panel.

This is usually done with an automated V-cut machine. It may also be done manually with a hand-held cutting tool.

V-shaped blade used for creating v-score grooves

The operator sets proper depth, typically 30% to 50% of board thickness. The top width is usually between 0.1 to 0.2 mm.

For thicker boards, multiple passes may be used to gradually cut the V shape to the desired depth.

3. Scoring Inspected on Both Sides

After initial cutting on one side, the panel is flipped and inspected to ensure complete scoring through the thickness of the board.

Any areas with incomplete scoring are re-cut to achieve full depth v-shape groove on both sides.

4. Panel Proceeds to Final Testing

Once V-scoring is complete and verified, the panel proceeds to final electrical testing, quality inspection and any other end steps before shipping.

Now the customer can easily snap individual boards out of the panel when needed with minimal risk of damage.

V-Scoring Tools

There are two main options for creating the V-shaped grooves for scoring PCB panels:

V-Cut Machines

Automated V-cut machines use precision cutting blades to create consistent and repeatable V-scores.

Automated V-cut machine

Benefits include:

  • Consistent depth and width of cuts
  • Automated operation for efficiency
  • Programmable for different panel sizes
  • Clean, burr-free edges
  • High throughput for production

These automated systems provide the best option for high volume PCB fabs. The programmable blades allow optimizing the cut dimensions for the panel thickness and materials.

Handheld V-Scoring Tools

For lower volume or manual work, handheld V-scoring tools may be used.

Manual V-scoring hand tool

Hand tools have removable V-shaped blade cartridges. An adjustable guide sets the desired cut depth.

Benefits of manual V-scoring tools:

  • Lower cost option for basic V-scoring
  • Useful for prototyping or short runs
  • Portable flexibility
  • Capable of scoring partial panels

The drawbacks are less consistent cuts versus automated machines and slower process time. But hand tools provide a simple and inexpensive V-scoring method.

V-Scoring Design Considerations

To enable efficient V-scoring, there are some best design practices and guidelines to consider when designing and panelizing PCBs:

Leave Sufficient Borders

A perimeter border around the boards should be included to allow space for the V-scoring grooves.

As a guideline, a border of at least 2 mm is recommended. This ensures the blade can cut a clean v-shape without interfering with components or traces.

Follow Panel Guidelines

Consult your PCB manufacturer’s recommendations for panel sizes, border spacing, and scoring gaps when creating the panel layout.

Following their guidelines will ensure the manufactured panel is compatible with their V-scoring equipment and process limitations.

Align to Copper Edges

When possible, align the V-score lines to exposed copper edges instead of going through laminate. This provides a cleaner edge after separation.

Example board panel with V-score lines aligned to exposed copper edges

Check Minimum Spacing

Review the minimum clearance required between adjacent score lines and between scoring and components per your manufacturer’s capabilities.

Insufficient space can result in residual webbing or damage after separation if too close.

Mark Score Lines

Clearly indicate the intended V-scoring lines on the fabrication drawings using an easily identifiable symbol or notation.

This avoids ambiguity to the PCB vendor on where separation is required.

Effects of V-Scoring on PCB Fabrication

Incorporating V-scoring into the PCB fabrication process has a few considerations:

Facilitates Panelization

V-scoring enables panelizing PCB designs without concern for later separation issues. Panels can be optimized for efficient manufacturing.

Adds Additional Processing Step

Adding V-scoring adds another fabrication step. This impacts cycle time and cost. However, the benefits often outweigh the small additional time and expense.

Requires Panelization Guidelines

To enable V-scoring the panel must be designed with suitable borders and scoring gaps. Constraints depend on V-scoring equipment limitations.

Potential for Chamfered Corners

The v-cutting may produce slightly chamfered board corners along the score lines depending on the V-blade width. This should be minimized by using thin cut widths but some effect may occur.

Allows Depaneling After Assembly

One of the main benefits is V-scoring enables keeping boards in panels through assembly then separating later. This provides flexibility in the assembly process flow.

With some planning, V-scoring can be incorporated into most PCB designs to enable simpler, faster and more reliable depanelization. Discuss options with your PCB manufacturer early in the design flow to ensure optimized integration into the fabrication and assembly process.

Example V-Scoring Applications

V-scoring has become a widely used technique for various PCB production scenarios:

High Density Interconnect (HDI) Boards

HDI boards with high component density and very dense interconnects benefit greatly from v-scoring. Separating these boards without damage is challenging without the predetermined fracturing points.

Multi-Up Panels

Maximizing board quantity per panel is driven by v-scoring capability. Closer spacing between boards is enabled when separation along score lines is reliable.

RF/Microwave PCBs

High frequency boards require very consistent substrate materials and construction. V-scoring avoids separation damage which could alter performance.

PCBs with Flex Areas

Separating rigid-flex boards risks damaging the flexible material regions. V-scoring properly applied allows cleaving along the rigid board sections while leaving the flex areas intact.

Double-Sided SMT Assembly

For boards with components on both sides, v-scoring facilitates keeping boards in panels through double-sided assembly then separating afterwards as a final step.

Automotive Applications

Auto boards demand high reliability and often have strict quality requirements. V-scoring prevents defects from depaneling.

The list continues growing as V-scoring gets adopted across more PCB production scenarios where reliability and quality are priorities.


V-scoring or V-grooving provides an effective solution for cleanly and precisely separating individual PCBs from panelized manufacturing formats.

Key points:

  • V-shaped grooves act as predetermined fracture points for clean board edges.
  • Improves yield by eliminating board damage compared to alternative techniques.
  • Allows quick, low-cost mechanical separation without routers or lasers.
  • Scoring done with automated V-cut equipment or manual tools.
  • Enables flexible assembly options like panelized SMT, wave soldering, etc.

With attention to panelization guidelines, V-scoring can boost quality, throughput and flexibility for high volume PCB production environments.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the typical V-scoring depth?

The depth is usually between 30% and 50% of the board thickness. For a standard 1.6 mm PCB, V-scoring depth would commonly be 0.5 mm to 0.8 mm.

Does V-scoring increase the risk of board warping?

No, V-scoring does not increase warping risk since the grooves penetrate less than half the board thickness. Proper lamination and baking prevents warpage.

Can components be placed near V-score lines?

It’s recommended to keep at least 2 mm clearance from components to V-scoring. Insufficient clearance risks damaging components during separation.

Can V-scoring be done on flex PCBs?

Yes, flex PCBs can be V-scored. The key is to only score along the rigid portions, leaving at least 2 mm gap between scoring and any flexible areas.

Is it possible to do partial V-scoring on a panel?

Partial V-scoring is possible for boards where only a portion of the edges require separation. This is common on test/fixture panels where individual boards are not all fully separated.