What Are Advantages of Surface Mount Technology(SMT)?

A surface-mount technology PCB assembly
A surface-mount technology PCB assembly
Resource: https://forums.serverbuilds.net

The many advantages of surface-mount technology make it the preferred choice for most electrical and electronic devices and components today. But what are these benefits and what do they mean for your business or PCBA project? Let’s take a closer look.

Surface Mount Technology Definition

Before delving into the advantages of surface mount technology, it’s important to first understand what it is. Surface-mount technology (SMT) is a process for mounting electronic components or devices onto the surface of a printed circuit board (PCB).

This is in contrast to the traditional through-hole mounting method, which involves inserting component leads through holes in the PCB and then soldering them in place on the other side.

Surface mount PCB assembly comes with many benefits, but also a few challenges. So, below, we take a look at some of the most notable surface mount technology advantages and disadvantages, starting with the pros.

Surface mount technology pick-and-place machine
Surface mount technology pick-and-place machine
Resource: https://www.researchgate.net

Advantages of Surface Mount Technology

The global market for SMT PCBA is expected to grow at an 8% CAGR between now and 2032. That’s according to a research by Future Market Insights. There are many advantages of surface mount technology that have made it the go-to choice for PCBA manufacturing. Let’s explore the main ones in more detail.

1. Faster Assembly Time

One of the biggest advantages of surface mount technology is that it enables a much faster assembly time than through-hole mounting. That’s because there are no leads to insert through holes and then solder in place. Instead, all the components are placed on the surface of the PCB and soldered at once.

This not only saves time but also reduces the potential for human error. What’s more, it allows for automation, further speeding up the process. In fact, automated SMT machines can place as many as 30,000 components per hour!

2. Smaller Component Sizes

Another significant benefit of surface mount technology is that it opens the door to smaller component sizes. When compared THT technology, this can be up to 4 times less – a significant reduction given the current trend of product miniaturization.

In most applications, smaller PCBA components are preferable as they take up less space and are less likely to be damaged. This is especially true for handheld devices, where space is usually at a premium.

3. Greater Density

The reduced size of surface-mount components also enables greater density on the PCB. That’s because more components can be placed closer together. This is a big advantage as it allows for more functionality to be packed into smaller devices.

Because surface mount devices are placed directly on the PCB surface, there is also no need for through-holes. This further increases the available space on the board, allowing for an even greater density of components. It also reduces the PCBA weight – by up to 10% in most cases.

4. Greater Accuracy

Another of the advantages of surface mount technology is that it allows for greater accuracy in component placement: the components are placed on the PCB using automated machines. That means there is less scope for human error, which can lead to misplaced or misaligned components.

What’s more, most SMT assembly line equipment uses vision systems to inspect the placement of each component. This double-check further reduces the chances of errors and ensures that every board meets the required specifications.

5. Improved Performance

Surface mount technology also has the potential to improve the performance of your PCB. Reason? With SMT, there are shorter lead lengths between components. This reduced lead length results in a lower inductance, which can improve high-frequency performance.

In addition, the fact that there are no through-holes means that the PCB trace can be routed more directly between components. This also reduces inductance or RF interference and, as a result, improves performance.

6. Greater Flexibility

Another big advantage of surface mount technology is that it offers greater flexibility when it comes to design. That’s because there are no leads to mind and no need to drill through-holes. This gives you more freedom to experiment with the layout of your PCB.

Also, SMT components can be placed on both sides of the board. This further increases the flexibility of the design and allows for greater density, besides opening up new possibilities for routing traces.

7. Cost-Effectiveness

It’s also worth mentioning that surface mount technology is generally more cost-effective than through-hole mounting. The surface mount technology process it’s faster and easier to assemble when using automated equipment, which reduces labor costs.

The smaller sizes of SMT components also make them less expensive to produce. Because you can use both sides of the PCB, you may also be able to reduce the overall size of the board, saving on material costs. Overall, the cost reduction when using SMT technology can be up to 30%.

Small scale PCB SMT machine
Small scale PCB SMT machine
Resource: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CRSLbo_8nTQ

Disadvantages of Surface Mount Technology

Surface mount PCB assembly, despite its many benefits and advantages over other assembly methods, does have some disadvantages that may make it unsuitable for specified applications. The disadvantages of surface mount technology are:

1. Prone to Damage

One of the major disadvantages of surface mount technology is that the components are much more likely to be affected by shock and vibration. Unlike through-hole components, which are held in place by their leads, SMT parts are virtually attached to the PCB by solder joints.

This makes them less secure and more likely to come loose if the board is subject to too much vibration or shock. In some cases, such as automotive applications, this can even lead to component failure.

2. Difficult Repair

Another downside of surface mount technology is that it can be difficult to repair a PCB that has been assembled using SMT components. The solder joints are much smaller and more delicate than through-hole solder joints.

As a result, it can be difficult to remove and replace surface mount components without damaging the PCB. This can be a problem if a component needs to be replaced or upgraded after the board has been assembled.

3. Requires Specialized Equipment

Surface mount technology is that it requires specialized equipment for assembly. This can be a big investment for small businesses or hobbyists who are just getting started with PCBA assembly.

What’s more, the assembly process itself can be quite complex and may require the use of multiple machines or specially trained workers. Having to undertake surface mount technology training would increase the cost of assembly and can make it more difficult to get started.

4. Not Suitable for All Components

Surface mount PCB technology is not suitable for all types of components, especially when the devices are. As a result, surface mount technology is generally best suited for smaller components. If you’re using larger components, through-hole mounting may be a better option.

Conclusions

The advantages of surface mount technology make it the preferred method for PCB assembly in many applications. These include higher assembly speeds, improved performance, greater flexibility, and cost-effectiveness. It also has some disadvantages. Engineers and businesses must, therefore, weigh these pros and cons when deciding whether or not to use surface SMT PCBAs so they can choose the best option for their needs.

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