Printed Circuit Board Depanelization
Depanelization is simply removing individual PCBs from the array. Six different methods are used to depanel PCB arrays:
Breaking Manually-- Only appropriate for strain-resistant circuits.
Depaneling Router-- Single boards are connected using tabs; the router bit mills out the tabs. Can cut arcs and turn at sharp angles, but capacity is lower.
Laser-- Low mechanical stress and precise tolerances, but has higher initial capital outlay.
Pizza Cutter-- Used on V-grooves. Best for cutting very large panels into smaller ones, this method is inexpensive and low-maintenance.
Punching-- A two-part fixture punches out single PCBs. Higher capacity, but higher maintenance and cost.
Saw-- Can perform at high feed rates, cutting both V-grooved and non-V-grooved PCBs.
Challenges of depanelization:
Using a router could require additional cleaning prior to shipment. This method produces a lot of dust which must be vacuumed out.
Saws can only cut in straight lines, so are appropriate only for certain arrays.
Lasers should be used only with an optimal board thickness of 1 mm or less.
Overhanging parts require pre-routing to avoid interference with depanelization. Components overhanging an edge can fall into adjacent parts; overhanging components can be damaged by a saw blade or router during depaneling.
Incomplete data files provided to the manufacturer can increase costs in several ways:
“Breakaway holes” or “mouse bites” – These tiny holes permit small PCBs to be used in an array. Drilling these holes leaves rough edges. If the mouse bites are not shown in the data file, the unexpected extra work to remove the edges increases labor costs.
Cumulative and registration tolerances – If tight tolerances are not specified in the data file, the cumulative effect of tiny variances could cause failure. With more boards in the array, registration can go off-center.
Difficulty troubleshooting problems – Without complete data, issues such as a short during power ground short testing can be extremely difficult to trace back to their source.
Taking the above methods and challenges into consideration, an experienced PCB manufacturer can avoid problems before they occur. Working with a leading printed circuit board manufacturer like EPCB will ensure your panelized PCB works as expected with best cost and high quality.