Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs) were designed manually by both hobbyists and electronics assembly professionals in the pre-computer CAD era. Hours were spent using adhesive tapes, fluorescent lightboxes, scissors, and other manual tools. Professionals had the room to make mistakes and experiment. However, the era of brands like Bishop Graphics or Letraset is well and truly gone. Now, there are strict industry standards for possibly every aspect of PCB design.
These standards are created, controlled, and published by the IPC (Association Connecting Electronics Industries). The member-driven organization has created standards for each aspect of PCB manufacture, testing, and design. These standards are revised every two years, so everyone in the electronics industry (at least the reputable firms) has to subscribe to the latest IPC standards constantly. In short, these standards are designed to –
- Set clear standards on products/components and facilitate harmonization across all electronic components that are manufactured globally.
- Ensure there are clear standards of workmanship in the electronics industry, and every professional, from soldering experts to assembly line managers, understands the level of quality they need to maintain.
What is IPC, and What are IPC Standards?
IPC is a 5,800-member trade association in the electronics interconnection industry. From conducting market research to public policy advocacy, giving training to amateur professionals, to set standards for the assembly of electronic equipment – this member-driven organization oversees all aspects of the international electronics industry. All the world’s leading board manufacturers, PCB assembly companies, OEMs (original equipment manufacturers), etc., are part of this organization. The sixty-year-old organization is perhaps most famous for being a standard-developing agency.
IPC standards are internationally recognized acceptability codes that everyone in the electronics industry ardently follows. Currently, IPC has over 300 active industry standards and guidelines. The organization is constantly publishing revised standards covering every phase of the electronic product and component development cycles. From Brussels, Belgium to Suzhou, China – IPC is headquartered all across the globe as it launches programs that support the $2 trillion global electronics industry.
What are the Most Important IPC Standards?
Soldering professionals can’t expect to master 300 standards over the course of their careers. So, here are some vital IPC standards that everyone involved in the PCB production process should know –
Commonly known as the “J Standard,” IPC J-STD-001 describes the types of materials soldering professionals can use while creating soldered interconnections. Appropriate soldering methods and other criteria for producing high-quality electronic product types are also presented in this standard. Mastering this standard will help new soldering professionals understand the concept of process control in manufacturing sites.
Another widely used IPC standard is the IPC-A-610. The title of this standard, “Acceptability of Electronic Assemblies” is quite self-explanatory. Soldering professionals can learn how to accept/reject end products and components after manufacturing processes are complete. This standard is used in pretty much every electronics manufacturing plant in the world. The details mentioned in this IPC standard are used by electronic manufacturing companies across the globe to determine whether their electronic assemblies have acceptable standards of quality.
IPC-A-620 (also known as the IPC/WHMA-A-620 standard) is a standard developed by the IPC and the Wiring Harness Manufacturer’s Association (WHMA) in 2002. It’s the holy grail for anyone involved in the manufacture of cable, wire, and harness assemblies. It’s also the best stand-alone document for companies that purchase these products. They can verify whether their cable, wire, and harness assemblies are of acceptable quality by checking the criteria mentioned in the standard.
IPC-2581 is a commonly used standard. It guides professionals on how to send data to PCB designers, manufacturers, or electronics assembly companies. By following the standardized data exchange format mentioned in this standard, soldering, and electronics assembly professionals can ensure that their design data is consistent. The production results of the soldering and electronics assembly professionals who follow this standard are also consistent.
This standard sets clear acceptance criteria for all types of PCBs. From the copper plating on the boards to board density – all parts of PCBs are discussed in this standard. Soldering professionals can learn how to visually assess whether their PCBs meet strict specifications by mastering this standard.
Why are IPC Standards Important?
Adhering to the globally recognized IPC standards gives any company or professional instant credibility. When employees see that their soldering and electronics assembly professionals know and follow IPC standards, they’re assured of the fact that these professionals will enhance the overall quality of their components and products.
Similarly, companies that employ IPC-certified professionals also get to improve their market reputations. There are various IPC-certified training centers across the country where students can learn how to produce safe, high-performing, and consistent PCBs and soldering interconnections. All aspiring soldering professionals must learn their PCB IPC standards and apply for official certifications at one of these IPC-certified centers.