Printed Circuit Boards are crucial components in this technological era. Since their invention, technicians have been utilizing them in pretty much every electronic gadget you will come across in the 21st century, from phones to wearable gadgets. However, to ensure that these components are of high quality and performance, manufacturers must follow some standards in the PCB manufacturing process. Hence came in the IPC standards. These standards efficiently govern every phase of the PCB manufacturing process, from the designing phase to the documentation phase. But what exactly do the IPC standards entail? And why are they crucial to the PCB manufacturing process?
IPC Standards in a Nutshell
IPC is the name that technicians call the Association tasked with producing Printed Circuit Board related standards for manufacturers worldwide. The IPC association formerly went by the name Institute for Printed Circuits. However, this Association is known as the Association Connecting Electronic Industries. But, even though the Association’s name has been altered, they still retain their IPC moniker.
The IPC association is an international association that consists of over four thousand member organizations that develop, utilize, design, and specify assemblies and printed circuit boards, including:
- Telecommunication industry
- Medical devices and equipment
- Industry equipment
- Military and aerospace
- Advanced microelectronics
IPC standards are crucial in the Printed Circuit Board manufacturing industry since they ensure quality circuit board designing and manufacturing. Moreover, they also ensure proper electronics assembly, ensuring the end product is of high quality.
IPC Terms and their Definition
“Should” and “shall” does it really matter which of the two words you choose to use in a sentence? Well, when it comes to IPC, it does!
In the IPC terms and their definitions section, IPC bears the following definitions:
Must or shall
Must or shall under IPC means that each attribute or requirement discussed using this term is crucial and mandatory for every product class.
Should, on the other hand, reflects recommendations. Technicians hence utilize it to reflect the general industry procedures and practices but for guidance alone.
IPC, in general, has three main classes which are:
Class 1: General Electronics Products
The general electronics products class is pretty broad, and technicians utilize it to define most consumer products you will find in the market today. The types of printed circuit boards that fall under this IPC class are utilized in gadgets that do not have to last long and aren’t part of any crucial system. Moreover, these printed circuit boards also permit various cosmetic defects, but the end products must be functional.
Class 2: Dedicated Service Electronic Products
The dedicated service electronics products class tends to be more strict than the previous class (class 1). However, it still permits a few defects but fewer than the ones in class 1.
The types of printed circuit boards that fall under this category are primarily utilized in gadgets such as:
- Robust computers
- Communication equipment
Since these Printed Circuit Boards have to be functional for a long time, technicians must ensure optimal performance. However, you should note that continuous operation tends to be crucial for the boards in this class but not critical.
Class 3: High-Reliability Electronics Products
The class 3 level caters to the most crucial printed circuit boards in the market today. Circuit boards in this class require uninterrupted service. Moreover, these PCBs must have on-demand operation to fit into this class.
Regarding PCBs in this class, reliability isn’t up for debate, as it is a crucial element to consider. That is because these circuit boards are utilized in some critical applications such as:
- Application in life support machines
- Application in flight control machines
Therefore, a slight glitch in this system could cause catastrophic outcomes.
Benefits of IPC
Using IPC standards breeds some important benefits to the PCB and electronics industry. These benefits include:
Better Product Consistency and Value
By following these standards strictly during the PCB production process, manufacturers can develop high-quality gadgets throughout hence improving:
- Product reliability
- Customer satisfaction
Moreover, since manufacturers utilize this standard thought out their manufacturing process, they can maintain consistency in product processing. Therefore each product they produce is of high value and performance.
Improved Contributor Communication
When multiple organizations follow the same production standards, communication between them becomes more straightforward. That is because the standards guide the organizations in the same direction using the same terms and steps. Therefore these organizations do not have significant issues concerning ambiguity during their communication.
Better Brand Identity
Strictly following the set IPC standards helps to build your company brand. Moreover, it gives your company an impeccable reputation making it more trustworthy in the market. Additionally, following these standards dictates that you are committed to producing quality products; hence, you attract more clients, which can help you expand your organization further.
When you follow the set IPC standards to produce your PCBs, you can quickly improve the efficiency of your company’s supply chain. Doing so can help you reduce resource requirements hence helping you lower the cost of production. You can then sell your Printed Circuit Boards at lower prices but still gain significant profits.
When every team member strictly follows the set IPC standards, the chance of delay and faults during the production process goes down immensely. Therefore, these standards help streamline assembly lines, development, and production of a printed circuit board product.
The advantages above justify how crucial IPC standards are to the Printed Circuit Boards industry. Moreover, they show that these standards are critical to any printed circuit board manufacture or contract PCB manufacturer.
Examples of IPC Standards
Some IPC standards that you will find operational in the market today include:
- IPC-A-610 – They define the acceptability of various electronic components
- IPC-A-600 – They define the acceptability of various printed boards in the market
- J-STD-001 – Define requirements for efficient soldering of electronic and electrical components
- IPC-7721/IPC-7711 – Define reworking of Printed Circuit Boards/electrical components. They also define the repairing and modification of electronic components.
IPC standards are undoubtedly crucial, and their utilization has many advantages. Therefore a PCB manufacturer looking to optimize and lower the cost of PCB production won’t just focus on some assembly details. Instead, they should apply IPC standards to the entire PCB production process to generate a strong manufacturing foundation. In return, the manufacturer can identify even the most minor printed circuit board manufacturing defects pretty early in the PCB assembly line. Moreover, they will also be able to improve productivity, ultimately boosting profits automatically.