A Day in the Life of a PCB Manufacturing Process

Before undertaking a design for manufacturing process, it is important to understand the underlying process behind producing a physical PCB. Regardless of the various technologies present in each facility, a large majority of industry-leading manufacturers follow a specific set of steps to turn your design from digital bits to physical boards. The steps in this process are outlined in Figure 1 and include:

Standard PCB Manufacturing Process

Step 1
  • Data Transfer from Customer
  • Data Prep
  • Cores/Laminate
Step 2
  • Dry Film Resist Coating
Step 3
  • Place Artwork
  • Expose Panels to Ultraviolet Light
  • Develop Panels (resist removal)
Step 4
  • Etch
Step 5
  • Strip Resist
Step 6
  • Oxide Coating
Step 7
  • Multilayer Lamination
  • Primary Drillingn
Step 8
  • Deburr and Clean
  • Desmear
  • Copper Deposition
Step 9
  • Dry Film Photoresist Coat
Step 10
  • Expose and Develop
Step 11
  • Copper Pattern Plate (electroplating)
Step 12
  • Strip Resist
Step 13
  • Etch
Step 14
  • Solder Mask and Cure
Step 15
  • Hot Air Solder Leveling (most common PCB surface finish)
  • Surface Finishes
Step 16
  • Legend and Cure
Step 17
  • Fabrication and Routing
Step 18
  • Electrical Test/Final inspection
Figure 1: Figure 1 - A Typical PCB Manufacturing Process.


With the final curing of your board complete, a manufacturer will then begin the electrical test process with the provided test points you established on your board layout. All boards that pass this verification process are considered complete and then make their way through shipping and transport.


Typical Cost Drivers in the PCB Manufacturing Process

The cost to have your board manufactured is largely determined by the specific materials and parts that you specify during your design phase.

Making Manufacturing-Conscious Design Decisions

By understanding this knowledge about the typical PCB manufacturing process, you will be well on your way towards making more informed choices at design time for materials and part selections. Now, let’s jump into a practical design for manufacturing process, starting with material selection.