Defective solder joints after PCB assembly

Avoiding the 7 Most Common PCB Assembly Defects

Projects go awry sometimes and fail to meet expectations. When this happens, you’ll want to discover the reason for the failure; this knowledge can offer the key to finding a solution—especially for a technical process like PCB assembly.

Pinpointing a specific reason or root cause for a PCB failure mode can be difficult, though. To minimize the risk of failure, familiarize yourself with these common PCB assembly defects and work collaboratively with your CM to avoid them.

Why Do Circuit Boards Fail PCB Assembly?

For prototyping, low-volume, and high-volume production, PCB assembly is an important stage of manufacturing. It is one of the last times build errors are discoverable before shipment. Therefore, you should work with a CM that optimizes quality during assembly to achieve the highest and most accurate yield rate for your project. To collaborate effectively with your CM, be sure your development team is aware of the most common PCB assembly defects.

Common PCB Assembly Defects 

  • Solder bridges
    Solder bridges result when two solder joints are incorrectly connected. This failure mode causes a short that may cause component or board damage.
  • Tombstoning
    Tombstoning occurs when one side of a component detaches from the board. This introduces an open circuit that can be fixed during rework if discovered.
  • Position shifts
    Another common issue is the shifting of a component such that its pin(s) does not align with footprint pads. This can cause an open circuit and unpredictable operation.
  • Webbing
    Solder mask webbing can prevent shorts or solder bridges between adjacent pins, typically for multi-pin ICs. Solder webbing, on the other hand, is caused by pollutants and can present problems with the solder joint quality.
  • Holes
    These usually show up at via locations and may extend into or through the entire length of the PTH. The cause of these blow or pinholes may be gas attempting to escape due to internal moisture buildup.
  • Non-wetting and De-wetting
    Non-wetting—where part of the pad does not contain solder—can occur if not enough solder remains after liquid solder removal. De-wetting describes the opposite scenario where too much solder remains.
  • Skips
    The automated soldering process can skip an SMD pad and leave it without solder. Because no fixed connection with the component pin and footprint pad exists, operation can be erratic.

The list above is not exhaustive, and other solder joint quality issues can arise during PCB assembly. However, the list above describes defects that may be addressed with good design practices.

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Designing to Avoid Common PCB Assembly Defects

Your team can take design steps to help facilitate an optimal PCB assembly process for your CM. The most important of these are:

Design Guidelines to Avoid Common PCB Assembly Defects
Design Action To Avoid PCB Assembly Defect
Balance component weights across board Solder bridging
Orient like components in the same direction Solder bridging
Leave sufficient gap between pads and solder mask Solder bridging
Use components with similar solder  thermal profiles Tombstoning
Ensure procured components are within their solderable shelf life De-wetting
Use correct lead to hole size ratio Pinholes
Ensure pad sizes are the same for a specific SMD Skips

By employing the design actions above, you can ensure that your design will be well-prepped to facilitate an efficient and high-quality PCB assembly process.

Tempo’s Software-Driven Smart Factory Delivers the Industry’s Leading Custom Turnkey PCBA Manufacturing Services
  • Virtual PCBA Contract manufacturing.
  • Rapid, accurate quotes.
  • DFM support from Day 1 of design.
  • Digital Thread Processing with real-time monitoring.
  • Fastest turnaround times in the industry to maximize ROI.
  • QC certified Agile Manufacturing process to support risk management.
  • Standard and Advanced QC testing.
  • Worry-free supply chain continuity.
  • Specialization in rapid prototyping and low-volume production.
  • PCBA development optimization for complex critical system industries like Aerospace, Medical Devices, Automotive, and Industrial.

At Tempo Automation, the industry leader for fast, high-quality prototyping and on-demand manufacturing, we employ a digital thread process to maximize quality and efficiency. This software-based platform utilizes AI that learns from every build to consistently avoid defects in assembly.

And to help you get started on the best path, we furnish information for your DFM checks and enable you to easily view and download DRC files. If you’re an Altium Designer or Cadence Allegro user, you can simply add these files to your PCB design software. For Mentor Pads or other design packages, we furnish DRC information in other CAD formats and Excel.

If you are ready to have your design manufactured, try our quote tool to upload your CAD and BOM files. If you want more information on avoiding common PCB assembly defects, contact us.

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