How to Repair a Printed Circuit Board
Printed circuit boards are present in almost every gadget you can think of. After all, they are considered the ‘soul’ that houses the basic design of internal connections for any device.
That being said, the key to having better control over your electronic devices at home is having an understanding of what a PCB does and learning how to design one. If you’re interested in taking your PCB knowledge to the next level, learning how to use a PCB stencil along with mastering design software will help you create a more professional finish. An inaccurate stencil can impact the joint edge definition and potentially result in too much solder being applied, as well as other aesthetic defects. The good news is that diagnosis and repair can be done at home with some basic know-how:
Diagnosing Potential Problems with Your PCB
Repairing your own PCB can be quite daunting, but in reality, all you have to do is determine the kind of problem your PCB is having. In most cases, PCB issues are either caused by physical damage, component failure, trace damage, poor design or power failure. Physical damage to the device or its internals can be easy to spot. If your PCB bears no physical damage but fails to operate or switch on, most of the time, it’s the components that are faulty. Components can be anything from a diode to the capacitor, and in order to determine whether the problem is with the components, you will need some voltage tools.
If the components are in good shape, the problem may be with the trace circuit, which could deteriorate due to aging, overheating and voltage sags. Trace damage – which you can easily spot by scanning pathways – can also be caused by lightning strikes, severe power surges or shorts, or even metallic dust contamination. If after multiple repairs, your PCB keeps on failing, then the problem probably lies with poor design. Power failure is quite similar to component failure but harder to repair and diagnose because it requires a power/voltage meter to identify electrical issues.
How to Repair Your PCB
PCB problems caused by extreme physical damage, power failure and poor design will be hard to repair on your own. It would be best to have a trained and experienced professional do the repair as these kinds of problems usually call for the remodeling of the board, resoldering of the components, reballing of conductive traces and the use of specific tools.
On the other hand, repairing minor component failures is something you can do on your own with the help of some tools such as a hot air gun, soldering iron and tweezers. To replace a faulty component, attach the board to a flat surface then hold a hot air gun six inches above the component you have to replace. Pull the component out with tweezers. Turn the soldering iron on and set it to 450 degrees. Put the copper braid on the pads where the component has been taken out and heat it with the soldering iron. Finally, align the leads of the new component with the pads on the board and make sure that the orientation is correct.
If the trace damage is not incredibly thin and hard to see, then you can easily repair it by simply resoldering or reballing the board with the necessary materials. By doing this, it will reconnect the broken circuit and allow the electricity to flow again.