Solder mask or solder stop mask or solder resist is a thin lacquer-like layer of polymer that is usually applied to the copper traces of a printed circuit board (PCB) for protection against oxidation and to prevent solder bridges from forming between closely spaced solder pads. A solder bridge is an unintended electrical connection between two conductors by means of a small blob of solder. PCBs use solder masks to prevent this from happening. Solder mask is not always used for hand soldered assemblies, but is essential for mass-produced boards that are soldered automatically using reflow or solder bath techniques. Once applied, openings must be made in the solder mask wherever components are soldered, which is accomplished using photolithography.Solder mask is traditionally green but is now available in many colors.
The term lacquer is used for a number of hard and potentially shiny finishes applied to materials such as wood. These fall into a number of very different groups.
Copper is a chemical element with symbol Cu and atomic number 29. It is a soft, malleable, and ductile metal with very high thermal and electrical conductivity. A freshly exposed surface of pure copper has a pinkish-orange color. Copper is used as a conductor of heat and electricity, as a building material, and as a constituent of various metal alloys, such as sterling silver used in jewelry, cupronickel used to make marine hardware and coins, and constantan used in strain gauges and thermocouples for temperature measurement.
A printed circuit board (PCB) mechanically supports and electrically connects electronic components or electrical components using conductive tracks, pads and other features etched from one or more sheet layers of copper laminated onto and/or between sheet layers of a non-conductive substrate. Components are generally soldered onto the PCB to both electrically connect and mechanically fasten them to it.
Solder mask comes in different media depending upon the demands of the application. The lowest-cost solder mask is epoxy liquid that is silkscreened through the pattern onto the PCB. Other types are the liquid photoimageable solder mask (LPSM or LPI) inks and dry-film photoimageable solder mask (DFSM). LPSM can be silkscreened or sprayed on the PCB, exposed to the pattern and developed to provide openings in the pattern for parts to be soldered to the copper pads. DFSM is vacuum-laminated on the PCB then exposed and developed. All three processes typically go through a thermal cure of some type after the pattern is defined although LPI solder masks are also available in ultra violet (UV) cure.
Epoxy is either any of the basic components or the cured end products of epoxy resins, as well as a colloquial name for the epoxide functional group. Epoxy resins, also known as polyepoxides, are a class of reactive prepolymers and polymers which contain epoxide groups. Epoxy resins may be reacted (cross-linked) either with themselves through catalytic homopolymerisation, or with a wide range of co-reactants including polyfunctional amines, acids, phenols, alcohols and thiols. These co-reactants are often referred to as hardeners or curatives, and the cross-linking reaction is commonly referred to as curing. Reaction of polyepoxides with themselves or with polyfunctional hardeners forms a thermosetting polymer, often with favorable mechanical properties and high thermal and chemical resistance. Epoxy has a wide range of applications, including metal coatings, use in electronics/electrical components/LEDs, high tension electrical insulators, paint brush manufacturing, fiber-reinforced plastic materials and structural adhesives. Epoxy is sometimes used as a glue.
Curing is a chemical process employed in polymer chemistry and process engineering that produces the toughening or hardening of a polymer material by cross-linking of polymer chains. It is strongly associated with the production of thermosetting polymers. Curing can be effected by heat, radiation, electron beams, or chemical additives. Characteristically curing entails an increase in viscosity or hardness.
In electronic design automation, the solder mask is treated as a layer of the printed circuit board, and is described as a Gerber file like any other layer, such as the copper and silkscreen layers.Typical names for these layers include tStop/bStop (EAGLE), LSMVS/LSMRS (WEdirekt) or GTS/GBS (Gerber and many others).
Electronic design automation (EDA), also referred to as electronic computer-aided design (ECAD), is a category of software tools for designing electronic systems such as integrated circuits and printed circuit boards. The tools work together in a design flow that chip designers use to design and analyze entire semiconductor chips. Since a modern semiconductor chip can have billions of components, EDA tools are essential for their design.
The Gerber format is an open ASCII vector format for 2D binary images. It is the de facto standard used by printed circuit board (PCB) industry software to describe the printed circuit board images: copper layers, solder mask, legend, drill data, etc.
EAGLE is a scriptable electronic design automation (EDA) application with schematic capture, printed circuit board (PCB) layout, auto-router and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) features. EAGLE stands for Easily Applicable Graphical Layout Editor and is developed by CadSoft Computer GmbH. The company was acquired by Autodesk Inc. in 2016.
A photoplotter is a specialized electro-opto-mechanical machine that exposes a latent image on a medium, usually high-contrast monochromatic (black-and-white) photographic film, using a light source under computer control. Once the film has been exposed, it must be processed before it is ready for use.
Surface-mount technology (SMT) is a method for producing electronic circuits in which the components are mounted or placed directly onto the surface of printed circuit boards (PCBs). An electronic device so made is called a surface-mount device (SMD). In industry, it has largely replaced the through-hole technology construction method of fitting components with wire leads into holes in the circuit board. Both technologies can be used on the same board, with the through-hole technology used for components not suitable for surface mounting such as large transformers and heat-sinked power semiconductors.
A QFP or Quad Flat Package is a surface-mounted integrated circuit package with "gull wing" leads extending from each of the four sides. Socketing such packages is rare and through-hole mounting is not possible. Versions ranging from 32 to 304 pins with a pitch ranging from 0.4 to 1.0 mm are common. Other special variants include low-profile QFP (LQFP) and thin QFP (TQFP).
In electronics, desoldering is the removal of solder and components from a circuit board for troubleshooting, repair, replacement, and salvage.
Wave soldering is a bulk soldering process used in the manufacture of printed circuit boards. The circuit board is passed over a pan of molten solder in which a pump produces an upwelling of solder that looks like a standing wave. As the circuit board makes contact with this wave, the components become soldered to the board. Wave soldering is used for both through-hole printed circuit assemblies, and surface mount. In the latter case, the components are glued onto the surface of a printed circuit board (PCB) by placement equipment, before being run through the molten solder wave. Wave soldering is mainly used in soldering of through hole components.
Gold plating is a method of depositing a thin layer of gold onto the surface of another metal, most often copper or silver, by chemical or electrochemical plating. This article covers plating methods used in the modern electronics industry; for more traditional methods, often used for much larger objects, see gilding.
A via or VIA is an electrical connection between layers in a physical electronic circuit that goes through the plane of one or more adjacent layers. To ensure via robustness, IPC sponsored a round-robin exercise that developed a time to failure calculator.
Flat no-leads packages such as quad-flat no-leads (QFN) and dual-flat no-leads (DFN) physically and electrically connect integrated circuits to printed circuit boards. Flat no-leads, also known as micro leadframe (MLF) and SON, is a surface-mount technology, one of several package technologies that connect ICs to the surfaces of PCBs without through-holes. Flat no-lead is a near chip scale plastic encapsulated package made with a planar copper lead frame substrate. Perimeter lands on the package bottom provide electrical connections to the PCB. Flat no-lead packages include an exposed thermal pad to improve heat transfer out of the IC. Heat transfer can be further facilitated by metal vias in the thermal pad. The QFN package is similar to the quad-flat package (QFP), and a ball grid array (BGA).
Perfboard is a material for prototyping electronic circuits. It is a thin, rigid sheet with holes pre-drilled at standard intervals across a grid, usually a square grid of 0.1 inches (2.54 mm) spacing. These holes are ringed by round or square copper pads, though bare boards are also available. Inexpensive perfboard may have pads on only one side of the board, while better quality perfboard can have pads on both sides. Since each pad is electrically isolated, the builder makes all connections with either wire wrap or miniature point to point wiring techniques. Discrete components are soldered to the prototype board such as resistors, capacitors, and integrated circuits. The substrate is typically made of paper laminated with phenolic resin or a fiberglass-reinforced epoxy laminate (FR-4).
A thermal relief pad, thermal pad or simply thermal, is a printed circuit board (PCB) pad connected to a copper pour using a thermal connection. It looks like a normal pad with copper "spokes" connecting it to the surrounding copper.
Bead probe technology (BPT) is technique used to provide electrical access to printed circuit board (PCB) circuitry for performing in-circuit testing (ICT). It makes use of small beads of solder placed onto the board's traces to allow measuring and controlling of the signals using a test probe. This permits test access to boards on which standard ICT test pads are not feasible due to space constraints.
Electroless nickel immersion gold (ENIG) is a type of surface plating used for printed circuit boards. It consists of an electroless nickel plating covered with a thin layer of immersion gold, which protects the nickel from oxidation.
PCB is a free and open-source software suite for electronic design automation (EDA) - for printed circuit boards (PCB) layout. It uses GTK+ for its GUI widgets.
Pad cratering is a mechanically induced fracture in the resin between copper foil and outermost layer of fiberglass of a printed circuit board (PCB). It may be within the resin or at the resin to fiberglass interface.
DipTrace is an EDA/CAD software for creating schematic diagrams and printed circuit boards. The developers provide a multi-lingual interface and tutorials. DipTrace has 4 modules: schematic capture editor, PCB layout editor with built-in shape-based autorouter and 3D-preview & export, component editor, and pattern editor.
ODB++ is a proprietary CAD-to-CAM data exchange format used in the design and manufacture of electronic devices. Its purpose is to exchange printed circuit board design information between design and manufacturing and between design tools from different EDA/ECAD vendors. It was originally developed by Valor Computerized Systems, Ltd. as the job description format for their CAM system.
Stencil printing is the process of depositing solder paste on the printed wiring boards (PWBs) to establish electrical connections. It is immediately followed by the component placement stage. The equipment and materials used in this stage are a stencil, solder paste, and a printer.
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