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PCB Component Packaging, Mounting Methods, and Other Considerations

One of the main considerations for modern PCB fabrication has to do with whether you use a traditional through-hole solution or opt for surface mounted technology. When you choose between the two types of component assembly technologies, it can affect how much you spend on PCBs, as well as the capabilities of the PCB.

PCB Semiconductor Component Packaging

Semiconductor or integrated circuit packaging refers to all materials that keep PCB components in place and safe from damage. Many types of semiconductor packaging exist, but many of them have to do specifically with the component mounting method in use for the PCBA.

As packaging technology evolved over time, so too did the methods for mounting components. Often, the mounting methods even dictated the changes to the packaging methods. When you decide on the type of component mounting you want, you’ll likely see the technology expressed as a particular type of packaging.

You may know what kind of performance you want out of your PCBs, but you can choose between several paths towards achieving those performance parameters. The packaging is one way to decide how to go forward with a PCB design. And packaging considerations typically start with a specific PCB component mounting method.

PCB Component Mounting Methods

Two major component-mounting methods exist:

  • Through-hole mounting (THM)
  • Surface mounting technology (SMT)

Various other mounting techniques stem from these two main mounting types.

Through-Hole Mounting

THM is an older, traditional form of component mounting. Just as the name implies, a THM PCB will have holes drilled into it. The leads of the electronic components will go through the holes to contact and connect with other layers.

That physical connection through layers creates a more solid connection than many other forms of mounting. THM boards can take more punishment and stress, which makes them ideal for projects and applications that require more durability from their PCBs.

A drawback of THM PCB fabrication is the actual drilling. The drilling process can become time-consuming and costly. That isn’t always the case, but the cost will depend on the drill pattern and number of holes required for a PCB layer. The more holes required the more resources the fabrication will require as well.

Another thing to consider is the number of components you need on the PCB. THM components tend to take up more space than components of other types of mounting technologies.

Surface Mounting Technology

SMT is a relatively more recent type of component mounting. SMT has quickly become the norm rather than the exception when it comes to the mounting process. With SMT, electronic components sit directly on the surface of the PCB. Most modern electronics utilize SMT to some degree or another.

With SMT, you can use both sides of PCB. In addition, SMT components have a smaller size. You can pack in components and increase the overall efficiency of a PCB, as well as cut fabrication time.

SMT components can have far smaller leads than THM counterparts can. In some cases, the SMT component may not require a lead at all. SMT can help make your tech smaller and more complex, which is why it’s the go-to mounting method for many modern devices.

PCB Component Mounting Considerations

There are several considerations to make before you decide that SMT is the way to go. For example, not all electronic components have an SMT variant. Your board may need a mix of SMT and THM to accommodate the unavailable components.

You may want a board that mixes the mounting technologies for reasons that have to do with your own PCB design plans. For these and several other reasons, SMT component packaging actually comes in different types of assemblies:

  • Only contains SMT components for one or two sides.
  • Uses both SMT and THM components on one side and only SMT components on the other side, if applicable.
  • Only contains simple SMT components on the bottom side.

For larger, bulkier applications, THM is still one of the best choices. A device subjected to constant stresses or very high voltages can benefit most from a THM PCB build. Even when you choose SMT, you may want your most sensitive components to have a reliable THM connection.

Don’t assume any type of packaging is the best for your needs without first consulting with a professional PCB engineering and manufacturing service. To figure out the right balance for mounting components on a PCB, you need expert design and rigorous testing done by experts.

If you start with prototyping, that process can help you if you’re still trying to figure out your PCB design. If you already have a design you want refined, then start testing different mounting configurations with a professional PCB fabricator. The service should help you find added efficiencies and potentially lower manufacturing costs.

Streamline Circuits has the tools, engineers, and facilities necessary to help you create or refine your PCB. Whether you need a THM, SMT, or an entirely different packaging solution, contact us to learn how we can help you make it happen.