Navigating PCB Tombstone: A Comprehensive Guide and Prevention Strategies


What is PCB Tombstone?

pcb thombstone

In the world of electronic manufacturing, precision is the utmost key to the success of a product. Even the slightest defects can lead to significant consequences. One such phenomenon that often plagues printed circuit boards (PCBs) is the PCB tombstone.

At its core, PCB tombstone is a vexing occurrence that takes place during the reflow soldering process. This process involves attaching surface-mount devices (SMD) to the PCB. This is done by melting solder paste. It forms a secure and reliable connection.

However, in the case of PCB tombstoning, one end of an SMD component lifts off the designated pad during reflow soldering. This leaves the component eerily upright. The resultant appearance resembles a tombstone. This leads to the defect getting such an eerie name.

This phenomenon can have concerning implications for the functionality and reliability of electronic devices. Tombstoning can lead to open circuits. This can compromise the overall integrity of the PCB. It can then potentially render the electronic device non-functional.

To further complicate matters, PCB tombstoning is accompanied by a visual manifestation known as billboarding PCB. This is the peculiar scenario where the affected components stand erect on the PCB.

This very much resembles miniature billboards. Hence the change in name. Picture a list of electric components. Each of them defying standing perpendicular to the surface.

This strange look doesn’t just make it hard for makers to make things look good but also serves as a clear indicator of the underlying tombstoning defect.

The billboarding effect is more than just a strange visual change. It points to the need for thorough inspection and corrective measures during the manufacturing process.

As components transform into these miniature vertical structures, it becomes imperative to address the root causes to ensure the reliability and functionality of the final electronic product.

In the next section, we will explore the factors contributing to tombstoning. Then, we will highlight the strategies to prevent this soldering defect. Significance of conducting regular process audits to maintain high-quality standards in electronics manufacturing will also be discussed.

We believe that understanding and mitigating tombstoning is not only a technical challenge but a crucial aspect of delivering electronic devices that meet the stringent demands of modern technology.

Movements Relating to PCB Tombstone

Movements Relating to PCB Tombstone

We now know what is PCB Tombstone. However, it is not the only formation that can occur when soldering components. Here we take a look at movements by components other than tombstoning.


Rotation involves the twisting or turning of a component around its axis. This movement can occur due to uneven placement force, improper handling during assembly, or thermal stresses. Components that are rotated can result in misalignment, affecting the electrical connections and overall functionality of the device.


Tilt involves the rotation or angular displacement of a component on the PCB. This movement can be caused by uneven placement force, inconsistent solder paste application, or issues during the reflow process.

Tilted components may result in misalignment, affecting the electrical connections and potentially causing short circuits or open circuits.

Package-on-Package (PoP) Nesting

POP nesting happens when one packaged component is stacked on top of another, commonly found in multi-chip modules. During the reflow process, the solder between the two stacked components may reflow, causing them to nest together.

Improper nesting can lead to short circuits or electrical interference between the stacked components, impacting device performance.


Float refers to the vertical movement of a component during the solder reflow process. This movement can occur due to uneven heating or inconsistent solder paste application.

When components float or lift from the PCB surface, it can result in incomplete solder joints. Thus, compromising electrical connections and affecting the overall functionality of the device.

How to Prevent Tombstoning

How to Prevent Tombstoning

Optimize Solder Paste Application

Precise Equipment Investment:

Investing in high-quality solder paste application equipment is a critical step in preventing tombstoning. High-precision stencil printers are equipped with advanced technology. They ensure consistent and accurate deposition of solder paste onto the designated areas of the PCB.

The use of such equipment minimizes variations in paste volume. The distribution is thus more evenly spread. This creates a foundation for robust solder joints and reduces the risk of PCB tombstoning.

Stencil Design Considerations:

Beyond equipment, the stencil design is important in achieving the correct solder paste application. Engineers must accurately design stencils. There are several factors to consider when designing them. Some of these are aperture size, shape, and spacing.

A well-designed stencil ensures that the right amount of solder paste is applied uniformly to each PCB pad. This precision greatly helps in preventing tombstoning. It also contributes to overall solder joint quality and reliability.

Implement Thermal Profiling

Understanding Reflow Oven Parameters:

Thermal profiling is a sophisticated technique. It involves closely monitoring and controlling the temperature during the soldering process. This is mostly done in the reflow oven.

To implement effect thermal profiling, you need to have a deep understanding of the reflow oven. They include features such as temperature zones, conveyor speed, and peak temperatures.

Knowing all this enables you to create thermal profiles that mitigate PCB tombstoning. This is done by ensuring even heating and cooling across the entire PCB.

Real-time Monitoring Systems:

To increase the effectiveness of thermal profiling, you can implement real-time monitoring systems. These systems continuously track the temperature changes during the soldering process. So, this way they can provide instant feedback.

Adjustments can be made on the fly with this information. Thus, further reducing the risk of tombstoning.

Enhance Component Coplanarity

Component Selection Criteria:

You want to achieve a uniform build among components. This requires careful consideration during the component selection process. You should prioritize components with consistent termination heights.

This approach significantly reduces the likelihood of PCB tombstoning. That is due to variations in termination heights contributing to uneven heating. This can then lead to uneven cooling during reflow soldering.

Advanced Placement Techniques:

Advanced placement techniques also play a crucial role in creating a uniform build. Automated pick-and-place machines come with precision control capabilities. These ensure that components are accurately positioned on the PCB.

This precision minimizes variations in the build. Thus, creating a more stable foundation for the soldering process.

Employ Stencil Design Optimization

3. Employ Stencil Design Optimization

Aperture Size and Shape:

You want stencils to be well designed. Well-designed stencils are integral to successful solder paste application. Which we now know goes a long way towards tombstone prevention.

Designers must carefully consider aperture size and shape when designing stencils. The right combination ensures that the correct amount of solder paste is applied on each pad. This promotes a balanced reflow process, which reduces the likelihood of PCB tombstoning.

Orientation Considerations:

Stencil orientation is another critical factor in optimizing solder paste application. Engineers should assess the orientation of the stencil apertures.

This is to ensure they align correctly with the PCB layout. Proper alignment contributes to consistent paste deposition, minimizing the risk of tombstoning defects.

Conduct Regular Process Audits

SMT Defects Charts:

Regular process audits are guided by SMT defects charts. They provide us with a systematic approach to quality control. These charts serve as visual aids for identifying various soldering defects. These can also identify PCB tombstoning.

You can compare actual results against the standards depicted in these charts. This way, you can detect potential issues early in the manufacturing process.

Continuous Improvement Initiatives:

Process audits should be encouraged. They should not be seen as mere inspections but as opportunities for continuous improvement. You should use the insights from audits to refine and optimize your soldering processes.

This approach helps maintain high-quality standards. Constant improvement also means less and less chance for PCB tombstoning.


In PCB manufacturing, tombstoning is a common and potentially disruptive soldering defect. By understanding the causes and implementing effective prevention strategies, you can navigate the challenges PCB tombstone poses.

The preventions we have discussed go from optimizing solder paste application to conducting regular process audits. A comprehensive approach is necessary to ensure the reliability and functionality of electronic devices.

As technology advances, addressing soldering defects like PCB tombstoning becomes increasingly vital for delivering high-quality, reliable electronic products to the market.


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