A silkscreen layer is often deemed unimportant in the whole PCB assembly process because it has no direct impact on the electrical functionality of a PCB. As a result, little attention is usually given to the silkscreen compared to the great value it brings and the importance it holds.
Silkscreen serves as a means of providing information about a PCB. It is mainly used for PCB identification and labeling, with zero connection to the electrical functionality of the PCB.
The silkscreen simply refers to the printed text on a PCB board containing information regarding the PCB assembly process, especially in the placement of components such as the references, identifiers and also the company logos.
The silkscreen is usually used on the component side to identify different kinds of components, and sometimes used on the solder side.
The information provided by the silkscreen layer is inseparable from the board, as it contains certain symbols, unique identification numbers, certification logos, and manufacturer logos.
The valuable information provided by the silkscreen layer eases the PCB manufacturing process and testing too, as long as it is clearly visible and readable.
It is actually important because an excellently designed silkscreen can impact the overall quality of a PCB. It reduces the possibility of making errors during the PCB assembly process and goes as far as spotting them in the rework phases. There are also the silkscreen markers that give accuracy to the placement process.
Without a silkscreen, a layman will be clueless and find understanding a PCB board daunting than it really is. Whereas a PCB with a silkscreen shows where every connection leads to.
Therefore, here are 7 crucial reasons why you should pay attention to your PCB Silkscreen.
1. Testing and Troubleshooting the Board
The silkscreen layer helps when troubleshooting and testing circuits for the certainty of no burnt part or undesired result.
A silkscreen guides the technician towards the test points or location where measurements should be taken during testing or troubleshooting. They serve as initial indicators of problems with PCB operation.
It also makes recognition of components type, board number, part numbers, and process types like RoHS or SnPb easier during PCB engineering and assembly testing. This can help in the identification of potential failure causes and verification of device performance.
2. For Identification or Recognition
This is the primary and pivotal use of silkscreen layers. IPC made it a requirement for PCB manufacturers to provide both a manufacturer’s mark and an identifier, which will make tracing more effortless in the event of problems or mistakes.
Identification can be circuitry, like testing points, ground point, and component interconnect, or in parts, such as when replacement is required or if there is a need for design evaluation.
Silkscreen help authorities recognize registration numbers, standards, company name, and RoHS compliance.
It also helps maintenance and field installation personnel to recognize key components, board name, revision, part number, hazard marking, like dip switch, voltage, function and waveform.
The location of components, their polarity, and details for their placement and orientation, identifiers, labels and logos for various components on a PCB, are all identified or recognized through silkscreen markings. Also, regardless of how packed the PCB may be, the silkscreen can still easily label the passive components of the PCB.
3. Reduction of Errors
Due to the identification and visibility of the details on a PCB by silkscreen layers, it automatically lessens the likelihood of errors. In addition, it also reduces the time taken to spot the errors of a PCB.
Therefore, a well-designed silkscreen layer will really go a long way to save you time, costs and the chances of a faulty PCB.
4. A Safety Net
Silkscreen layers serve as a safety net with the high level of valuable information it provides, such as the placement of components, location of parts through reference designators, identifiers, and so on.
This information is invaluable when assembling a PCB, as it provides simple visual feedback of deeper problems.
Silkscreen layers can also include warning symbols, which can be taken as signals of bizarre high voltages, grounding or other parameters that should be treated with the utmost care, are all safety precautions for your PCB.
It can also be used to verify device performance or help identify potential failure causes, making it a safety net for your PCB.
5. Save on PCB Manufacturing Costs
When you pay a great amount of attention to understanding silkscreens, it can also go a long way in reducing PCB costs while manufacturing your PCB.
For example, silk-screening on one side only can reduce artwork costs. Also, limiting yourself to standard colors which are black, white and yellow during the silk-screening process can impact the cost of PCB fabrication, without affecting its benefits.
6. Branding and Publicity of the Manufacturer
A Silkscreen layer makes your PCB design unique amongst others, usually through imprinting the mark of the manufacturer through the company’s logo and name on the silkscreen.
This will grant the manufacturer publicity, and most importantly serve as protection against illegal copying of circuit design.
7. Product Evolution Process
With a silkscreen layer, the process of upgrading a PCB or making huge changes such as component replacement testing or rating verifications will be simplified.
This is because the visibility of the PCB details provided by the silkscreen will serve as an excellent guide.
Paying attention to your silkscreen requirements will help you avoid issues on your PCB and also elevate its level of accuracy.
The silkscreen PCB layout accuracy is highly important for several reasons such as for board design, labeling, PCB assembly, and testing.
For the silkscreen to be effective and beneficial, it must have clearly readable text, which means meeting CM’s printing capabilities and font requirements. And also provide sufficient image resolution and be spot on.
The silkscreen undoubtedly provides very important details, and can thus be regarded as highly useful to the functionality of a PCB.