What is surface-mount in PCB?

What is a Surface-Mount PCB?

A surface-mount PCB is a printed circuit board designed to accommodate surface-mount devices (SMDs). These components are mounted directly onto the surface of the board, unlike through-hole components that require holes to be drilled in the PCB for mounting. SMDs are significantly smaller than their through-hole counterparts, allowing for higher component density and more compact PCB designs.

Advantages of Surface-Mount PCBs

  1. Smaller size: SMDs are much smaller than through-hole components, enabling the creation of more compact and lightweight PCBs.
  2. Increased functionality: Higher component density allows for more features and functions to be incorporated into a single PCB.
  3. Improved performance: Shorter lead lengths and reduced parasitic capacitance and inductance lead to better high-frequency performance.
  4. Cost-effective: Automated assembly processes and reduced material usage make surface-mount PCBs more cost-effective to manufacture.
  5. Reliability: SMDs have a lower profile and are more securely attached to the PCB, resulting in increased reliability and resistance to vibration and mechanical stress.

Surface-Mount Components

Surface-mount components come in various packages, each with its own characteristics and advantages. Some of the most common SMD packages include:

Resistors and Capacitors

  • 0201: 0.6 mm x 0.3 mm
  • 0402: 1.0 mm x 0.5 mm
  • 0603: 1.6 mm x 0.8 mm
  • 0805: 2.0 mm x 1.25 mm
  • 1206: 3.2 mm x 1.6 mm

Integrated Circuits (ICs)

  • Small Outline Package (SOP): A rectangular package with leads extending from two sides.
  • Quad Flat Package (QFP): A square or rectangular package with leads extending from all four sides.
  • Ball Grid Array (BGA): A package with a grid of solder balls on the bottom for connection to the PCB.
  • Chip Scale Package (CSP): A package with dimensions close to those of the die itself.

Other SMDs

  • Light-Emitting Diodes (LEDs)
  • Transistors
  • Inductors
  • Crystals and oscillators

Surface-Mount PCB Manufacturing Process

The manufacturing process for surface-mount PCBs involves several steps, each requiring precision and adherence to industry standards.

PCB Design and Layout

The first step in creating a surface-mount PCB is designing the circuit and laying out the components on the board. This process is typically done using electronic design automation (EDA) software, which allows engineers to create schematic diagrams, select components, and generate PCB layouts.

Solder Paste Printing

Once the PCB layout is finalized, a stencil is created to apply solder paste to the pads where the SMDs will be placed. Solder paste is a mixture of tiny solder balls and flux, which helps the solder adhere to the pads and components during the reflow process. The stencil is aligned with the PCB, and solder paste is applied using a squeegee or automated paste printer.

Component Placement

After the solder paste is applied, the SMDs are placed onto the PCB using a pick-and-place machine. These machines use computer-controlled nozzles to pick up components from reels or trays and place them accurately on the solder paste-covered pads. Modern pick-and-place machines can place thousands of components per hour with incredible precision.

Reflow Soldering

Once all the components are placed, the PCB undergoes reflow soldering. The board is passed through a reflow oven, which heats the solder paste to its melting point, allowing it to form a strong electrical and mechanical connection between the components and the PCB pads. The reflow process typically follows a carefully controlled temperature profile to ensure proper solder joint formation and to prevent damage to the components.

Inspection and Testing

After the reflow process, the PCB is inspected for any defects or misaligned components. Automated optical inspection (AOI) systems are often used to quickly identify any issues, such as missing components, incorrect polarity, or solder bridges. If necessary, manual inspection and rework may be performed to correct any problems.

Finally, the PCB undergoes functional testing to ensure that it performs as intended. This may include in-circuit testing, boundary scan testing, or functional testing using specialized equipment.

Designing for Surface-Mount PCBs

When designing a surface-mount PCB, there are several factors to consider to ensure optimal performance and manufacturability.

Component Selection

Choose components that are compatible with the surface-mount process and available in SMD packages. Consider the size, pitch, and thermal requirements of the components when selecting them for your design.

Pad Design

Ensure that the pads for SMDs are appropriately sized and spaced to allow for proper solder joint formation. The pad size should be based on the component’s dimensions and the desired amount of solder coverage. Include solder mask openings to prevent solder bridging between adjacent pads.

Thermal Considerations

Consider the thermal requirements of your components and design the PCB to provide adequate heat dissipation. This may involve the use of thermal vias, heat sinks, or other heat management techniques.

Placement and Routing

Place components in a logical and efficient manner, taking into account signal integrity, power distribution, and mechanical constraints. Route the traces between components to minimize signal interference and ensure proper impedance matching.

Manufacturing Considerations

Design your PCB with the manufacturing process in mind. Ensure that the components are spaced sufficiently apart to allow for efficient solder paste application and accurate component placement. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for minimum trace widths, spacing, and drill sizes to ensure compatibility with their processes.

Future Trends in Surface-Mount Technology

As electronic devices continue to become smaller, more powerful, and more integrated, surface-mount technology will continue to evolve to meet these demands.

Advanced Packaging Technologies

New packaging technologies, such as package-on-package (PoP) and system-in-package (SiP), are being developed to further increase component density and functionality. These technologies involve stacking multiple components or even entire systems within a single package, enabling the creation of highly integrated and compact devices.

Increased Adoption of Flexible and Stretchable PCBs

Flexible and stretchable PCBs are gaining popularity in applications such as wearable electronics, medical devices, and automotive electronics. These PCBs can conform to complex shapes and withstand repeated bending and stretching, opening up new possibilities for product design and functionality.

Advancements in Materials and Processes

Researchers are continually developing new materials and processes to improve the performance and reliability of surface-mount PCBs. These advancements include the use of high-temperature and low-loss materials, as well as the development of new solder alloys and surface finishes that provide better electrical and mechanical properties.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

  1. What is the difference between surface-mount and through-hole technology?
    Surface-mount components are mounted directly onto the surface of the PCB, while through-hole components require holes to be drilled in the board for their leads to pass through. Surface-mount technology allows for smaller, more compact PCBs with higher component density.

  2. Can surface-mount and through-hole components be used on the same PCB?
    Yes, it is possible to use both surface-mount and through-hole components on the same PCB. This is known as a mixed-technology or hybrid PCB. However, it is essential to consider the manufacturing processes and ensure compatibility between the two technologies.

  3. What are the challenges associated with surface-mount PCB assembly?
    Some of the challenges include the need for precise solder paste application, accurate component placement, and careful control of the reflow soldering process. Additionally, the small size of SMDs can make manual assembly and rework more difficult compared to through-hole components.

  4. How can I ensure the reliability of my surface-mount PCB?
    To ensure reliability, follow best practices for PCB design, such as proper pad sizing, thermal management, and component placement. Use high-quality components and adhere to the manufacturer’s guidelines for the assembly process. Conduct thorough inspections and testing to identify and correct any issues.

  5. What should I consider when choosing a manufacturer for my surface-mount PCB?
    When selecting a manufacturer, consider their experience with surface-mount technology, their manufacturing capabilities (e.g., minimum feature sizes, available processes), and their quality control measures. Additionally, consider their lead times, pricing, and customer support to ensure they meet your project’s requirements.


Surface-mount technology has transformed the electronics industry, enabling the production of smaller, more powerful, and more efficient PCBs. By understanding the components, manufacturing processes, and design considerations involved in surface-mount PCBs, engineers and designers can create innovative and reliable electronic devices that meet the ever-increasing demands of today’s market.

As technology continues to advance, surface-mount PCBs will play an increasingly crucial role in shaping the future of electronics. By staying up-to-date with the latest trends and best practices in SMT, professionals in the field can remain at the forefront of this exciting and rapidly evolving industry.