Last Updated on October 22, 2023 by Kevin Chen
The working principle of PCBA is based on the flow of electrons. Electric signals move from one component of the module to another. As they do so, they trigger a series of events that execute different tasks in electric devices and circuits.
An interruption to the movement of electric signals will disrupt the normal functioning of the PCBA. There are various causes of PCBA defects. Some of them are due to human error during the manufacturing process while others occur when the PCBA is already in use. For example, connecting PCBA to a higher voltage source than what is recommended will lead power surge and some components will blow up. Component degradation is another major cause of PCBA defects.
Regardless of the cause, most of the time we are always forced to troubleshoot errors in the PCBA. It is through different troubleshooting techniques that you will be able to uncover the causes of the defects and bring back your PCBA to normalcy. In this article, we are going to discuss various ways of troubleshooting common PCBA problems.
Common troubleshooting methods
Here are some of the methods that you can use to troubleshoot PCBA.
Physical and visual inspections
An elaborate troubleshooting process of PCBA should start with conducting physical and visual inspections. Once you gain access to the component, try to identify any type of physical defect on the module. Be keen on issues such as burns, broken joints, cracks, corrosions, defacing, and discolorations. These visual elements will help to unmask underlying problems on the PCBA. You can even enhance the visual inspection by using a magnifier. It will bring all the smallest damages to your full attention.
Physical inspection mainly entails touching and feeling components on the PCBA. You will be able to tell whether they are intact or not. A strange feeling when touching the components may be a sign of a defect that requires your full attention. However, be careful to be sure of the temperature of the component so as to avoid getting burnt or even electric shocks.
There are lots of actions that you can take after visual inspection. You may consider replacing the damaged components or repairing parts of the PCBA.
Complicity testing of the individual components
Using the results of your visual and physical inspections, you can go ahead and test the performance of the individual components. Here, you will need a multimeter to find out the current voltage and resistance of each component.
Connect the probes of the multimeter on the capacitor, resistor, diode, and all other electronic components and record their reading. Compare the results with the ones on the manufacturer’s data sheet. You should consider doing replacements in case there are serious discrepancies between your data and those from the manufacturer.
Check the power supply of the PCBA
One of the key functions of PCBA is to properly manage power in their respective application areas. A problem in power input and output modules could affect the normal functioning and operation of the device. So, you should spend some time to inspect and verify the state of the power supply.
One of the basic steps that you should take is to ensure that all the cables and the wires transmitting the power are in perfect condition. You should also examine the state of all other components that are directly connected to the power supply.
Measuring tools such as multimeters are important in testing the power supply. For example, a 0V reading on the multimeter could be an indication that the power supply unit is not functioning as well as expected. You should also find out the connections between the PCBA and external power modules.
Repair the solder masks
One of the defects that you might have discovered during your inspection process is damaged PCBA solder masks. The main function of these masks is to shield copper connections from external elements such as corrosion. Various factors might have contributed to such levels of damage including corrosion, and exposure to physical forces.
To troubleshoot the damaged solder mask, you should start by removing the old solder mask and then thoroughly cleaning the affected spot of the PCBA. Chances are the conductor on the damaged mask might be damaged, so you will also have to replace it with a new one. After that, you will solder the new pad to replace the one you removed. You should also check signs of incomplete solder between the pads and consider replacing them with the perfect ones.
Cover the exposed copper edges
Exposed copper edges are another common problem that affects PCBA. His kind of exposure is likely to interfere with the normal flow of the electric signals. It can also increase resistance to the flow of electrons. You should troubleshoot this problem by applying a new protective coating on the PCBA copper conductor.
Improve thermal features
Thermal elements on PCBA are used to prevent incidences of overheating on the PCBA. They are also likely to corrode or be exposed to other forms of damage. You should consider replacing damaged heating elements with new ones.
Factors that determine troubleshooting techniques to use
We have just looked at various PCBA troubleshooting methods and techniques. Which methods should I use and when should I use them? These are just some of the questions that you may ask yourself.
There are numerous factors that determine the technique that you should use. They include the complexity of the problem, the number of layers that make up the PCBA, the size of the PCBA, the number of components on the PCBA, and the complexity of the printed circuit board assembly, among others.
You will need specialized tools and even extra skills to troubleshoot a highly complex PCBA. The good news is most PCBA is straightforward. This implies that you can directly access all electronic components on the PCBA hence you will not encounter any serious challenges when it comes to troubleshooting them.
Armed with basic electronic tools such as a multimeter, you will be in a perfect position to collect valuable data that will play vital roles in determining the next direction of your troubleshooting process. As long as you have adequate knowledge and experience in matters of electricity, you should not have any troubles in troubleshooting the PCBA. Also, remember to follow all the safety procedures when handling electronic appliances.
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