52 PCB Abbreviations and Acronyms You Should Learn

pcb abbreviation

Whether we’re talking about domestic use or electronic gadgets made for industrial purposes, the Printed Circuit Board is a crucial piece of technology that serves as an anchor for various electronics we deem must-haves these days.

To understand the PCB world properly, though, it’s vital to learn to decipher all the various PCB abbreviations and acronyms we may come across in documents and daily business — and that’s precisely what we’ll be talking about today.

52 PCB Abbreviations to Learn by Heart

1. AC – Alternating Current

In comparison to direct current (DC), AC is a type of electric current that, instead of flowing in just one direction, changes its direction periodically. Because of these changes, the voltage level also reverses. In a nutshell, both the voltage and the current are alternating with time. AC also takes various waveforms, most commonly sine, triangular, and square waves.

In terms of application, it’s good to know that home and office outlets are usually AC since the generation, not to mention the transport of this type of current, is relatively easy and suitable for long distances. Other than that, AC can also power electric motors.

2. AOI – Automated Optical Inspection

The AOI is a type of automated visual inspection whose main job is to scan a PCB and check for both quality defects and catastrophic failures. This inspection can be applied to both bare PCBs and those with already mounted components.

During the inspection, we may detect the presence or absence of various elements, damage, area and volume defects, short circuits, missing pads, etc. This is done by capturing images of the PCB layers and inner surfaces.

3. ATE – Automatic Test Equipment

One of the most common PCB abbreviations we may come across in the PCB world is ATE. Since it stands for Automatic Test Equipment, it signifies a type of apparatus used to test produced items or devices.

In general, this refers to testing PCBs and integrated circuits (ICs). The equipment offers an automatic (and thus faster) analysis of static or functional parameters. As such, it provides insight into performance degradation. If the design allows for it, it may also perform fault isolation.

4. AQL – Accepted Quality Limit

When it comes to monitoring quality practices during production, the AQL is one of the most critical parameters. Simply put, it signifies the accepted amount of defective boards in a single production run. We have to identify these boards during production and ensure their number isn’t above the prescribed limit. Once identified and counted, we can discard the boards.

5. BGA – Ball Grid Array

BGA is a component packaging technology for ICs that’s based on surface mounting. It was mainly developed to overcome certain problems associated with other technologies, such as QFPs (quad flat package), including damage, pin density and spacing, and excruciatingly careful soldering.

Thus, some of the benefits of BGA boil down to better solderability, increased spacing between connections, and thinner package. On top of that, BGA allows for efficient use of the PCB space and better electrical and thermal performance.

6. BOM – Bill of Materials

The Bill of Materials entails a list of all the raw materials, components, and subassemblies required for the manufacturing process. Simply put, it is a list of parts necessary for building a specific PCB.

7. BTO – Build-To-Order Systems Assembly

One of the most well-known PCB abbreviations is BTO, which describes the building and testing of a product for a client. This sort of assembly includes not only the software and peripherals but essential documentation as well. BTOs aren’t, however, produced until the manufacturer gets an order confirmation, specifying precisely the number of products necessary, the level of customization that’s required, etc.

8. CAD – Computer-Aided Design

As the term states, CAD entails using computers to help with the design and engineering of various projects. The technology has a role in various industries, including the manufacturing of PCBs. It lets someone draw, design, and develop a particular concept or product. To that end, when using this system for electronics production, the computer-aided design aspect of it allows for a precise printed circuit layout.

9. CAE – Computer-Aided Engineering

During the engineering process, it’s common to use software, programs, and computers, in general, to not only improve product designs but to resolve issues. Thus, computer-aided engineering is, just like CAD, used across various industries. In layman’s terms, it allows the engineer to perform tests and simulations to analyze, validate, and optimize their projects (products).

10. CAM – Computer-Aided Manufacturing

Like CAE, CAM entails the use of computers, various programs, and software, but this time, during the manufacturing process. It allows for the utilization of software and computer-operated machine tools to automate production. In simple terms, CAM means we’re using software to translate data and drawings into comprehensive instructions. These instructions are then used by the machines to turn raw material into finished products.

11. CFT – Customer Focus Team

Every customer wants to feel special, but even more importantly, they want an incredible shopping experience. To that end, companies can create Customer Focus Teams whose main job is to deal with each client individually and cover each service function, from design and manufacturing right up to quality assurance and finance. These teams are thus cross-functional and made up of experts from every functional area of the company. They work together as a single team structure to manage a project and ensure the utmost satisfaction.

12. CTO – Configure-to-Order Systems Assembly

Unlike BTO, CTO means that the client wants to configure an already built or partially produced product to their specific requirements (by adding software and peripherals, for instance). The main difference is that the design selection and configuration request are made after the order has already been received.

13. DC – Direct Current

Unlike AC, which will change the direction, DC is the type of current that doesn’t oscillate back and forth and can provide constant voltage (until there’s no more charge, of course). It only flows in one direction (it’s unidirectional) and cannot change sporadically.

There are a couple of ways we may generate DC. For one, it’s possible to use a rectifier to convert AC to DC. Other than that, we can use batteries that provide DC or an AC generator that has a commutator.

DC is widely used in devices that require batteries, such as cell phones and flashlights. Flat-screen TVs also use DC, though they first receive AC, which is then inherently converted inside the system.

14. DIM – Data Information Module

As some of you may guess from the term itself, DIM stands for a group of records, or rather, a specific amount of data. This information relates to a particular task or function and offers its description.

15. DIP – Dual In-Line Package

DIP is an electronic component package (a type of housing, if you will) for integrated circuits. The package consists of a rectangular housing (usually a molded plastic container) and two rows of electrical connecting (attachment) pins.

16. DNC – Distributed Numerical Control

DNC is a type of technology (some would say a network even) that enables us to connect a single remote computer with one or multiple CNC machines (machinery that uses computer numerical control). With DNC, we can load CNC programs into machines, update and modify them, and remove and replace them with others.

17. DRC – Design Rule Check

Various lists of PCB abbreviations often mention DRC, which is a software verification process whose mission is to determine whether there are any issues with the PCB layout. Before going into production, it’s necessary to check PCB designs and make sure there are no potential errors, such as small drill holes. In essence, this verifies if the design meets the manufacturing requirements.

18. DUT – Device Under Test

Simply put, a device under test signifies a product (PCB, component, or an assembly) that is currently undergoing some form of testing. Usually, this happens just before the product goes on sale or after it has been repaired. On the other hand, it can also be a prototype that’s currently being tested until it either fails or breaks.

19. EOL – End Of Life

As one of the most common PCB abbreviations, EOL is something most of us will hear of at least once in our lifetime. And the term is pretty self-explanatory; we apply it to components or products that won’t be in use anymore, either because the technology is now obsolete or because there is hardly any demand. At that point, the vendor stops maintaining, supporting, marketing, and selling the product (hardware or software).

In terms of hardware products, the company behind them will stop offering its official support, repairs, and technical help after a certain number of years (usually five or ten after production).

That doesn’t mean the product no longer works — it can still be repaired by third-party services. However, in terms of proper support, it’s at a disadvantage.

The same goes for software products, which can stop receiving updates, upgrades, and tech support after a few years.

20. ESS – Environmental Stress Screening

As another important part of determining quality, ESS entails putting finished products to stress-testing. It’s a series of tests that aim to expose defects and weaknesses that would lead to catastrophic failure in the case of real environmental stimuli. To ensure there aren’t any flaws or defects, manufacturers usually perform temperature variation, pressure, vibration, and flexibility tests.

21. FA & T – Final Assembly and Test

A list of crucial PCB abbreviations must include FA & T as well, which consists of manufacturing steps that entail integrating assemblies and subassemblies into the final product. Once that’s done, the product has to undergo testing before being shipped to its final destination.

22. FEA – Finite-Element Analysis

Finite-element analysis is a crucial part of mechanical engineering that uses the FEM (Finite Element Method) to simulate a physical phenomenon and analyze each element through a series of equations. In essence, this sort of analysis entails the subdivision of geometric entities into tinier, simpler elements that can be analyzed simultaneously.

The point of the analysis is to optimize the components by doing virtual experiments while still in the design phase. Thus, we can ensure better products without building a great number of physical prototypes.

23. FQC – Final Quality Control

FQC is the last process flow before the product gets shipped. In simple terms, it is an audit of the product that entails a manual visual inspection and a performance test.

When it comes to PCBs, this includes checking the appearance of the board for scratches, roughness, etc. As for the performance, we can use a flying probe test (FICT – fixtureless in-circuit test) or a bed-of-nails test.

24. HDI – High-Density Interconnect

HDI can stand for a variety of phrases, but in the case of PCBs, we’re talking about High-Density Interconnect, which many say is the fastest growing technology in the PCB world.

In simple terms, HDIs are PCBs that have a higher wired density per unit area, i.e., they have a more concentrated component arrangement. We can also use buried or blind vias to optimize space further. Right now, microvias with a .006 diameter (or smaller) are also in use.

Since HDIs are rather lightweight, they’ve become a popular choice for aerospace applications and are also used in thinner laptops and smartphones. In fact, when it comes to electronics, computers, and consumer products in general, HDIs are a preferred choice due to their reliability (all thanks to the interconnection of the stacked vias).

25. IC – Integrated Circuit

Most of us are already familiar with ICs but know them by their other name — microchips. In essence, an IC is a small complete set of electronic circuits on a piece of semiconductor material (usually silicon). A single unit consists of miniaturized active and passive devices and their interconnections.

26. ICT – In-Circuit Test

Among the many PCB abbreviations known to us, ICT is a fairly familiar one. In-Circuit Test is actually a combination of software and hardware we can use to check if the assembly is a success and whether there are any faults. Some of these include wrong or missing components, shorts, and opens, capacitance, resistance, etc.

27. IPC – The Institute for Interconnecting and Packaging Electronic Circuits

The IPC is a global trade association in the PCB world founded way back in 1957. Its main goal is to standardize the production requirements and assembly of electronics and assemblies, thus helping businesses meet manufacturing standards and improve quality. It is a standards-developing organization accredited by ANSI (American National Standards Institute) with headquarters in Illinois, USA.

28. JEDEC – Joint Electronic Device Engineering Council

JEDEC is a non-profit independent trade association that represents the microelectronics industry and serves both as a regulatory body and a communications network. Over the years, it has amassed a great number of members, some of which are the largest computer companies in the world.

29. JIT – Just-In-Time

JIT is another one of the PCB abbreviations that are closely related to the manufacturing process. However, it doesn’t relate to how fast the whole process is, but rather to the cost-effectiveness of it.

A just-in-time system aims to prevent waste and minimize inventory by getting parts and material delivered just before they are needed. It is a manufacturer’s management strategy that wants to match raw material orders with a specific production schedule. As a result, it’s possible to increase efficiency and reduce inventory costs.

30. KGA – Known Good Assembly

KGA is a printed board assembly that’s able to operate properly and may serve as a standard model for other assemblies.

31. KGB – Known Good Board

KGB is a functioning printed circuit board we can use while developing a test program to learn and debug. Additionally, it can be utilized for comparison testing. In that case, its job is to serve as a standard model for other PCBs.

32. LDI – Laser Direct Imaging

Since PCB manufacturing is constantly evolving, previously tried-and-tested imaging processes are no longer serving their purpose. Because of that, laser direct imaging has become a new standard and is used to define the circuit traces.

However, unlike some other imaging processes, this one doesn’t require a UV light or a photo-tool to transfer images. Instead, LDI uses a computer-controlled laser beam to define the pattern onto the board directly.

The process is fairly simple to understand. First, we coat the panel with photoresist and preload the CAM files into the laster. Then, the laser beam digitally creates the pattern on the board. The final step is to use acid to etch the areas that haven’t been exposed to the beam.

33. MES – Manufacturing Execution System

Manufacturing-related PCB abbreviations also include MES, which stands for computerized systems we can use to track and document the manufacturing process in order to effectively execute manufacturing processes. In a sense, this sort of system manages production operations by guiding, triggering, and reporting on activities and events.

34. MTBF – Mean Time Between Failures

MTBF is one of the PCB abbreviations that don’t have much to do with manufacturing but with the pure functioning of a product. It is a maintenance metric that stands for the average time between system breakdowns. Thus, we use it to measure safety, reliability, performance, and equipment design.

To calculate MTBF, all we have to do is check how many hours a system has been operational and divide that by the number of failures that happened in that period.

The metric is usually expressed in hours and applies to repairable systems. For non-repairable ones, we use the MTTF metric (mean time to failure).

35. NC – Numerical Control

Also known as computer numerical control, NC entails the automation of machining tools through the use of a computer. Essentially, when using numerical control, we can avoid manually controlling a machine by providing coded, programmed instructions for the machine to follow. The two basic types of NC include point-to-point and continuous-path.

36. NPI – New Product Introduction

In simple terms, New Product Introduction covers conceptualizing, developing, and launching a product, both tangible and intangible. It is a process that follows a product from its inception right up to its introduction on the market.

NPI generally requires plenty of resources, so it shouldn’t be taken lightly. It is a series of steps that should ensure the quality and marketability of the product. More often than not, these steps boil down to six key phases:

  1. Definition
  2. Feasibility
  3. Development
  4. Validation
  5. Implementation
  6. Evaluation.

37. OEM – Original Equipment Manufacturer

As one of the easiest to recognize PCB abbreviations, OEM is something most of us are already familiar with if we’ve ever heard of Samsung, IBM, Philips, and similar companies. In essence, an original equipment manufacturer is a company that develops components or complete devices other entities can use in their own products or configure to match their needs.

38. OSP – Organic Solder Preservative

While talking about PCB abbreviations, we must mention OSP, the organic coating applied to the PCB, in order to protect the copper tracks. Since the functionality of a PCB largely depends on those same tracks, it’s imperative to protect them until we place the components in it.

Fortunately, the OSP does just that — the preservative (a water-based organic compound) bonds to copper and protects it from oxidation. On top of that, it offers improved solderability during assembly.

39. PCB – Printed Circuit Board

A PCB is a board — electrical circuit —that uses an insulating substrate as the foundation for its conductors and components. In layman’s terms, we could say that a PCB is a board with pads and lines that all connect a range of points together.

It’s good to know that a PCB isn’t just a piece of material that we have traced some lines onto. The board consists of a few layers laminated together with adhesive and heat. Thus, PCBs can be single-, double-, and multi-layer. The most basic composition includes layering a copper coating, solder mask, and silkscreen on top of the foundation.

40. PCBA – Printed Circuit Board Assembly

PCBA describes the process of completing a bare PCB with electrical components. The end result is a printed circuit assembly (PCA). The methods used to populate the board include PTH (Plated-Through Hole) and SMT (Surface-Mounted Technology).

41. PRD – Product Requirements Document

Unsurprisingly, the PRD is a clear definition of the product we are looking to design. The document describes all the requirements that have to be fulfilled in order for the product to be considered complete.

However, it shouldn’t describe how a certain product will do something. That may limit engineers and designers while trying to fulfill the requirements. Instead, it merely explains what it should do by describing its value and purpose.

42. PTH – Plated-Through Hole

One of the most common PCB abbreviations is PTH, as it relates to the manufacturing of the board itself. In essence, PTH entails using pins or leads to insert components through copper-plated holes, thus connecting the layers together. There are also NPTHs, non-plated-through holes, which don’t have plated copper on the hole wall.

43. QFP – Quad Flat Pack

Quad flat pack is an integrated circuit package used for surface mounting that has leads on all four of its sides. Its basic form is rectangular, but some design variations are possible. However, they usually entail changing the number of leads, dimensions, and pitch, as well as materials in case there is a need to improve the thermal characteristics of the package.

Some of the most common variants of QFP include:

  • Bumpered Quad Flat Pack, which has extensions at the corners in order to protect the unit from mechanical damage
  • Ceramic Quad Flat Pack (the manufacturer uses ceramic for the package)
  • Plastic Quad Flat Pack (plastic is used to make the package).

44. RoHS – Restriction of Hazardous Substances

RoHS is Directive 2002/95/EC that limits or restricts the use of hazardous materials, like lead, for example, when producing electrical and electronic products. Other materials banned due to this directive include mercury, polybrominated biphenyls, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, and phthalates DEHP, DBP, BBP, and DIBP.

45. SIP – Single-Inline Package

Various lists of PCB abbreviations found online also include SIP. Unlike DIP, which is more popular, a single-inline package has only one row of connecting pins. The body of the package is usually plastic or ceramic, and the total number of pins ranges from four to 64 (usually 24).

46. SIR – Surface Insulation Resistance

In layman’s terms, SIR explains the resistance of the insulating material between adjacent conductors toward electrochemical events, such as corrosion and electrical leakage. To understand the resistance, it’s necessary to apply specific environmental and electrical conditions to a test board for a designated period of time. SIR is also called Temperature Humidity Bias testing, as it entails testing done under elevated humidity and temperature conditions.

47. SMA – Surface Mount Assembly

As the name says, an SMA is a type of module or assembly that we complete with the use of surface mount technology and components.

48. SMC – Surface Mount Component

Simply put, a surface mount component is one that we can attach to a PCB as it allows for the use of surface mount technology. The components can be either leadless or leaded.

49. SMT – Surface Mount Technology

As one of the most common PCB abbreviations, SMT is one of the first things we learn when delving further into the PCB world. In layman’s terms, this type of technology entails mounting components onto a PCB instead of inserting them through holes.

This is now the somewhat favorite method as well because it increases automation while improving quality and lowering the overall costs. Moreover, with SMT, we can actually fit more components onto an area, thus using the space more efficiently.

50. SPC – Statistical Process Control

SPC is a type of statistical quality control that entails the use of statistical methods and techniques to monitor, control and analyze a certain process. The point of SPC is to determine the efficiency of the process and its operation — whether we should continue it or adjust it. If we discover that the operation is resulting in too much waste and not enough specification-conforming products, SPC helps us identify the problems early and prevent them later on.

51. SQC – Statistical Quality Control

In general, we employ SQC when we want to use statistical techniques to monitor and maintain the quality of our services or products. SPC is a part of Statistical Quality Control, which also entails Acceptance Sampling. In the case of AS, we determine a batch’s quality by selecting a number of samples to test. Those samples determine the level of quality of the entire group.

52. SM – Solder Mask

Also called solder resist, a solder mask is a lacquer-like polymer layer (usually green in color) that’s applied thinly to the copper traces on a PCB. It is a permanent layer that should prevent conductive solder bridging. Simply put, it prevents electrical shorts. At the same time, it protects the copper layer from oxidation.

When constructing PCBs, it’s common to place the solder mask on both the top and the bottom. This adds to the performance and reliability of the board.

Final Thoughts

Of course, this list of PCB abbreviations is by no means exhaustive — we should know, as we’ve been in the business for long enough to realize that we are learning more about PCBs each day. But that essentially gives us an advantage and puts us at the very top as an authoritative resource.

And, as a professional PCB supplier based in China with more than a decade worth of experience, we are always putting our knowledge into good use with each project. If you’re on the lookout for quality PCB manufacturing and a reliable supplier, don’t hesitate to contact us — we’re more than happy to honor your requests and become your lifelong collaborator.

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