What Is PCBA? Meaning, Application and Difference with PCB

What does PCBA stand for and how is PCBAs manufactured? If you’re here, it means you’re interested in learning more about the printed circuit board assembly and its applications.

This guide will teach you everything from the basics of what a PCBA is to the different types of PCBAs that can be manufactured and their use in electrical devices.

What is a PCBA?

PCBA stands for Printed Circuit Board Assembly. A PCBA is a printed circuit board that has been populated with electronic components. The process of populating a PCB with components is known as PCB assembly.

In the world of electrical and electronic devices, two types of PCB assembly (PCBAs) are commonly used: surface-mount technology (SMT) and through-hole technology (THT).

Types of PCB Assembly

There are typically 2 main types of PCB assembly technologies: through-hole and surface-mount. A PCB assembly may also be a mixed type, assembled using both technologies. Let’s see what these PCB assembly techniques mean, their unique process, and the pros and cons of each type.

Through Hole PCB Assembly

Through-hole PCB assembly technique, also abbreviated THT, was the original method. It’s still widely used today. In this process, the components are placed through holes in the PCB and then soldered in place on the other side.

This type of PCB assembly method is typically used for larger components or those that come with wires and leads. Examples include capacitors, resistors, and inductors.

THT PCB Assembly Process

The through-hole method PCB assembly method follows these steps, from the time the PCB is prepped for component insertion to when it goes through final testing, cleaning, and packaging.

  • The component leads are inserted through the PCB holes, often manually on a PCB assembly jig.
  • The PCB passes through a wave soldering machine, where the leads are soldered in place.
  • The components may also be manually soldered.
  • Once the soldering is complete, the PCBA is inspected for any defects, and then it undergoes final testing.
  • The assembled PCBA passes through a cleaning
  • Finished PCB assemblies are packaged before being shipped out.

THT Advantages and Disadvantages

The main advantage of through-hole PCB assembly is that it results in securely held components, making it ideal for products that will be subject to vibration or other forces such as automotive and military devices.

Additionally, because the leads are inserted through the holes and then soldered in place, there is less chance of damage to the components during assembly.

The through-hole PCB assembly is a relatively slow process, though, when compared to surface-mount assembly. It also requires holes to be drilled in the PCB, which adds to the cost of manufacturing.

Surface Mount PCB Assembly

Surface-mount PCB assembly technology (SMT), is the more modern method and is used for smaller components. In this process, the components are placed on the surface of the PCB and then soldered in place.

SMT PCB assembly is faster and more efficient than through-hole, and it also allows for smaller and more compact designs.

SMT PCB Assembly Process

The surface-mount method uses a slightly different process from the thru-hole method, as the components are placed on the PCB surface before soldering. Here is how to assemble a PCB board when using the SMT method:

  • The PCB tracks are covered, using a stencil, with a solder paste, which is a mixture of solder and flux.
  • The components are placed on the PCB and held in place by the soldering paste.
  • The PCB passes through a reflow oven, where the solder paste melts and flows around the component leads, soldering them in place.
  • The boards are cooled to ensure the solder paste solidifies correctly.
  • The boards are then inspected for any defects.
  • The PCB assembly is tested to ensure it’s working correctly.
  • Finally, the PCB assemblies are cleaned to remove any excess solder paste or flux and contaminants and handling residuals such as fingerprints, dried, and packaged.

SMT Advantages and Disadvantages

The main advantages of SMT PCB technology are that it is faster and more cost-effective than through-hole, and it allows for smaller and more compact designs.

But an SMT PCBA assembly also has some disadvantages: It requires specialized and expensive equipment. In addition, the process is more complex and there is a higher risk of defects.

Mixed PCB Assembly

The mixed PCB assembly method means using both SMT and THT techniques on the same circuit board. This is a common type of PCB assembly, as it optimizes board space and offers the best of both technologies.

The mixed approach gives you more design flexibility and can improve performance. However, it has its challenges: The biggest challenge is ensuring that the different technologies are compatible with each other. It also usually means having two separate PCB assembly lines, which can be costly.

PCBA manufacturing, inside a PCB assembly factory
PCBA manufacturing, inside a PCB assembly factory
Resource: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VIrNjpmRu20

PCBA Manufacturing

How is a PCBA circuit board manufactured? The process of manufacturing PCBAs can be broken down into three main steps

  • Creating the PCB layout/PCB design
  • Fabricating the PCB
  • Assembling the PCB

PCB Design

The first step in PCBA manufacturing is to create the PCB layout. This step involves creating a design for the PCB that includes the placement of all the electronic components that will be populated on the board. Once the layout is complete, it is sent to a PCB manufacturer for fabrication.

PCB Fabricating

The next step in the PCBA manufacturing process is to fabricate the PCB. The PCB layout from the previous step is used as a guide to create the actual PCB. This step involves etching the desired circuit patterns onto a sheet of copper, which is then laminated onto a substrate material.

PCB Assembly

The last step is to assemble the PCB or actual manufacture of the PCB assembly. This step involves populating the PCB with all of the electronic components that are required for the circuit.

The components are placed on the PCB using either SMT or THT PCBA methods. Once all of the components are in place, the PCB is sent for testing to ensure that it is functioning correctly.

  • PCBA manufacturing may also be done manually or using an automated process. The decision of which method to use depends on the complexity of the PCB being manufactured and the quantity of PCBAs that is required.
  • For example, if a PCB is very complex or if a large number of PCBAs are needed, it may be more efficient to assemble it manually, so a PCBA assembly machine is used.
PCB applications in consumer electronics
PCB applications in consumer electronics
Resource: http://www.korgforums.com

PCBA Applications

A PCBA, Printed Circuit Board, is used in just about every electronic device imaginable. They are the backbone of nearly all electronic circuits, providing both a support structure and electrical connectivity for the electronic components that make up the circuit. Below is a list of just a few examples of PCBA applications:

PCBA Applications in Consumer Electronics

PCBAs can be found in many different types of consumer electronics. In these gadgets, the PCBA assembly is often the main control board. Some examples of consumer electronics that use PCBAs are:

  • Smartphones
  • Tablets
  • Laptops
  • Desktop computers
  • Televisions
  • Digital cameras
  • Video game consoles

PCBA Applications in Industrial Equipment

PCBAs are also used in a variety of industrial electronic devices. They are often used to control motors, pumps, and other types of machinery. Industrial electronics that use PCBAs include the following:

PCBA Applications in Automotive Systems

Among the many electronic systems in a car, the PCBA is often used as the main control board. Automotive PCBA applications are mentioned below:

  • Engine control units
  • Brake system controllers
  • Suspension system controllers
  • Transmission controllers
  • Infotainment systems

PCBA Applications in Military and Aerospace

Military or defense and aerospace electronic systems widely rely on the PCB circuit board to work. They are often used in mission-critical applications where reliability is paramount. Examples of military and aerospace PCBA applications are listed below:

  • Radar systems
  • Satellite communications systems
  • Air traffic control systems
  • Weapon systems

PCBA Applications in Renewable Energy

The PCBA control board is also a useful part of renewable energy electronic devices. They are often used in solar panels, wind turbines, and other types of renewable energy equipment. Some of the renewable energy electronics that contain PCBAs are:

  • Solar inverters
  • Wind turbine controllers
  • Battery management systems

PCBA Applications in Communication Devices

Communication devices, such as those found in radio and cell phone systems, often use different types of PCBA assembly in their control circuits. These devices rely on the PCBA to manage various types of electronic components, including the following:

PCBA assembly
PCBA assembly
Resource: https://forums.serverbuilds.net


So far, we’ve only looked at what PCBA stands for. But the acronym can be a little confusing because it includes the word “board,” which is also used in the acronym PCB. So what is the difference between PCB and PCBA? Here is what you need to know:

  • PCB refers to a printed circuit board. This is the bare board that includes the desired circuit patterns, but no electronic components.
  • PCBA refers to a printed circuit board assembly. This is the complete assembly that includes both the PCB and all of the electronic components.
  • A PCB cannot function on its own. It must be populated with electronic components in order to create a working circuit. This process is known as PCB assembly.


The PCBA circuit board, or printed circuit board assembly, helps to control and power the electronic devices they are in. They are also used to connect different electronic components together. This allows information to be passed between them so that the device can function properly. We hope this article has helped you to understand the PCBA and its applications.


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