PCB Depaneling of Tab-Routed and V-Scored Circuit Boards
Depaneling Tab-Routed and V-Scored Circuit Boards
PCB Depaneling of Rigid Circuit Boards
Most rigid arrays (PCBA’s or panels) are made from up to 1.5 mm thick FR-4, a fiberglass substrate with other layers thrown in depending upon the nature of the finished PCB product. The substrate is very abrasive and hard to cut and the arrays are multiple-cavity for economy of scale.
Singulation of rigid printed circuit board arrays can be accomplished by various methods:
Hand-breaking – the least desirable
Routing – dirty and slow
Punching – can stress the PCBs, expensive, but very accurate
Circular knives – Pizza type cutters in v-scores – less accuracy – potential damage
Opposed blades – the unique Pioneer-Dietecs Method – very accurate, safe & fast
A typical 8 1⁄2” x 11” array could have 1, 2, or 48 (any multiple) PCB’s on it so they can all be populated and soldered in an automated line. At the back-end, as it’s called, the PCBs must be separated from the panel. Thus, the terms depaneling or singulating (to depanel or make single) all the PCBs from the array.
Two Common Array Types
Tab-Routed Arrays — In tab-routed arrays, the PCB perimeter is routed, but held together by small tabs. Tab routed arrays are sometimes depaneled by re-routing to remove the tabs. As mentioned above routing is dirty and slow. However, the advantage is that no die is required, so it’s ideal for small production or prototyping. Large production may require a router jig and the CNC routers and router tooling can be very costly. Tabs can also be punched with a male/female die or hard tooling (punch & die) which can also be expensive and punching can also impart stress to the board.
V-Scored Panels — V-scored panels have no tabs but are v-scored on both sides, leaving a remaining 1/3 v-score web. V-Scores can be made only in straight lines for square or rectangular arrays. V-scored arrays often use a pizza type cutter to separate the PCBs. This is very popular and relatively inexpensive. If the operator is not careful, however, they may drift off the v-scored line and ruin the components. It can also be stressful to the board. And it’s slow. In most instances, v-scored arrays cannot be punched.
Depaneling of flexible PCB’s can also be accomplished with the Pioneer-Dietecs Process. Flexible PCB’s are also commonly cut with steel rule dies.
Pioneer-Dietecs Stress-Free PCB Depaneling Process
Pioneer-Dietecs offers a different approach. Our Opposed blades method consists of hard steel blades that enter the substrate from both sides simultaneously.
1. Place the printed circuit board panel on tooling locating pins
2. Now the press depanels the array and presents the singulated PCBs to the operator in 5 to 10 seconds with minimum stress, maximum stability, and the accuracy of class A hard tooling.
3. After singulation, open the shuttle table and easily remove the PCB
First, the array is suspended in the die-set between two spring-loaded stripper plates. As the die closes, the array substrate is trapped between the sets of blades, preventing any lateral distortion. This takes care of any stresses.
Next the die gently separates the v-scores or tabs by having the blades act as a wedge. The middle substrate fibers weaken and separate before the blades come together. This means the blades never touch, adding to their long life. Many of our customers have taken strain-gauge analysis on this methodology and report that the process is virtually stress-free. Stress is measured in micro-strains, and Pioneer’s process scores very low and is considered negligible.
When the process is complete, open the shuttle table and remove the singulated PCB.
Benefits of Stress-Free Depaneling
Pioneer-Dietecs tooling is a lot less expensive than hard tooling, but has the same accuracy with the EDM’d die-plates that hold the blades.
The Pioneer-Dietecs stress-free PCB Depaneling process is:
Complete in 4 to 8 seconds
Cleaner and more accurate than routing
As accurate as punching with no stress
More accurate, less stressful and quicker than pizza cutters
The full line of Pioneer-Dietecs press systems is pneumatically-operated. Because there’s no hydraulic oil used, they are clean-room safe. No electricity is required. Use on a bench-top or on a moveable/lockable wheeled stand. Larger systems are built using 80/20 Aluminum and easily integrate into robotic cells or in-line systems.
Typical uses of the Pioneer-Dietecs cutting press systems are:
Depanelizing and Singulation applications for printed circuit boards
Die sampling for laboratory physical testing applications (ASTM Tensile and Tear Testing)
(we also manufacture a full line of EDM close tolerance laboratory testing dies to ASTM, DIN, JIS & ISO standards)
Clean Room use for laboratory applications including bio-tech and medical applications
Robotic Depaneling Cell Options:
The S2000 Platform design lends itself easily to in-line integration. The top of the press can be easily removed to have robotic access to the lower shuttle table for pick & place of arrays and singulated PCB’s. The S2000 press can be seen in the rear of the cell behind the robot in the picture to the left. The lower right picture shows the singulated PCB’s being removed by the robot.
Request a Quote for a Stress-Free, Turnkey Depaneling System
Let Pioneer design a turnkey system for your depaneling process. Send us a CAD file, pdf or sample array and we’ll quote a turnkey system including both dies and presses you need to completely singulate your printed circuit boards. Request Depaneling System Quote