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How Copper Planes and Fills Affect PCB Fabrication and PCB Assembly

Proper grounding is one of the most critical considerations in any PCB design. As such, experienced designers are intimately familiar with the importance and implementation of ground planes and copper fills, but many are unfamiliar with the effect of these features on the PCB Assembly Process. This article is intended to provide clients of Bittele Electronics with some insight into our methods and considerations when it comes to planes and fills. We hope that this can help you to make an informed decision during your next design, resulting in more efficient PCB Fabrication and PCB Assembly.

It should be noted first of all that the presence of ground planes or copper fills in a PCB design does not factor into the overall price or lead time that indicated on our official quotations. That being said, a familiarity with our procedure can help to minimize the chances of potential delays, and simplify your communications with our production team. After we receive an order, the first step in Bittele’s production process is the DFM Check, where our highly trained Quality Assurance engineers review your PCB Design Files for any potential errors. If a client has made a mistake in the grounding of their PCB, it will be much easier for our DFM check to catch if the PCB incorporates a ground plane, since paths to ground will be short and simple.

The actual PCB Fabrication process is also simplified by the presence of a ground plane, or a copper fill, since the conductive traces on your PCB are etched from fully copper clad PCB Laminate Materials. This means that ground planes require practically zero attention during the etching phase since they remain mostly copper-coated. Signal layers with copper fills are less efficient, but still significantly faster to etch than signal layers with a lot of negative space. Essentially, this means that the process of PCB Fabrication through Sequential Lamination can move more quickly and efficiently when the boards specify more copper, rather than less.

During PCB Assembly, ground planes and copper fills can have an opposite effect, since the overall heat profile of your board will be affected by the amount of copper that is present. We have received questions from our clients about this phenomenon in the past, including concerns that too much heat might be absorbed during the Reflow Soldering process. Fortunately, our years of experience in the industry has allowed us to tailor our reflow procedure to your specific design, so there is no need to worry about a negative impact at this point in production.

All in all, ground planes and copper fills are generally advantageous, from the perspective of our Complete PCB Assembly processes. PCB Designers are probably glad to hear this, since these tools are invaluable in the design of a PCB with proper grounding, and can be of immense help in troubleshooting a board with grounding issues.

For more information about copper planes and fills, or to get started on your own project today, please feel free to Contact Us any time. We can be reached via email at sales@7pcb.com, or toll-free at 1-888-812-1949.

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