Data Acquisition

3 Reasons to Use PCB Panel Routing Techniques

05 October 2017

Most PCBs are individually routed — meaning they’re not panelized. That doesn't mean that, sometimes, sending them to a PCB assembler in a panel isn't a good idea or even required. Generally, assemblers don't require panels — sometimes called a pallet — but there are some cases when they do.

PCB board showing copper pour with a hatch fill (Romanski)PCB board showing copper pour with a hatch fill (Romanski)

If the individual PC board, destined for Full Proto service, is smaller than 0.75" x 0.75", it needs to be panelized. If a PC board needing Short-Run production service is less than 16 square inches, it needs to be in a panel of at least 16 square inches to qualify for Short Run.

Why else might you want to penalize PC boards?

  1. Protection — If you've got a lot of small boards, it's easier to handle and protect them when they're in a panel. A few panels can be more safely packed coming and going from your company to an assembler.
  2. Safety — You may be able to get the boards through a factory faster. If you have a really large number and need them super fast, panelizing them may enable that fast turn. With a lot of boards, sometimes it simply isn't physically possible to put them all on the machine, run them and take them off, in a short turn time. Panelize them and the machine will be running longer for each board change, which reduces the total run time.
  3. Cost — It may also cost you less. If you use leadless parts like BGAs, QFNs or LGAs, you can usually reduce your cost a bit by panelizing the boards. Leadless parts cost a little extra because of the X-Ray test needed, but the extra handling is mostly per board, rather than per part. One panel of 10 boards with 10 BGA, in total, will cost a little less than 10 individual boards with one BGA each.

Duane Benson is the Chief Technology Champion at Screaming Circuits, a prototype PCB assembly electronic manufacturing company in Canby, Oregon.

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Discussion – 1 comment

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Re: 3 Reasons to Use PCB Panel Routing Techniques
2017-Oct-06 11:06 AM

Caviiat emptor! Agreed there are mechanical and financial benefits to panelization, but beware the depanelization process. Most board houses will offer panelization "design" as a courtesy, however one must study the proposed configuration very carefully. Things that the board house may not or cannot see are component edge overhang which can interfere with adjacent board components and make utilization of a "pizza cutter" depanelization tool (very fast) impossible. Mouse-bites can create other problems such as delamination (IPC-A-610 allows for .09" max with .005" space to an internal plane). Sometimes this is mechanically impossible breaking by hand (flexing, also adding undue stress to nearby components) and difficult using "nibbler" type equipment or hand tools. Thick boards can be especially challenging!

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