Say Goodbye to Bow and Twist Issues: Your Complete Guide to High-Quality PCBs

Brief Explanation of PCB Bow and Twist

If you’re familiar with Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs), you might have heard the term “bow and twist.” Simply put, bow and twist refer to deformations or warpages. These can occur in a PCB, and when they do, the PCB becomes bent or curved. The issue can happen during the manufacturing process or while the board is in use. Factors that preclude it are:

  • Differences in the coefficient of thermal expansion
  • Uneven distribution of copper and other materials
  • Inadequate design and layout
  • Incorrect handling and storage

PCB bow and twist are significant issues that can negatively affect the performance and reliability of electronic devices. These deformations can lead to uneven pressure distribution, which can cause cracking, delamination, or even a complete failure of the board.

The extent of the damage caused depends on the severity and duration of the distortion, and it can significantly impact the lifespan and functionality of your device.

minimizing bow and twist issues in circuit boards

Minimize Bow & Twist Issues in PCB

Why is minimizing bow and twist issues in circuit boards important?

You want to ensure your devices are reliable, efficient, and long-lasting. Bow and twist issues can negatively change that, so it’s crucial to minimize or eliminate these issues.

When a PCB undergoes bowing or twisting, it can cause problems such as:

  1. Poor connectivity – the electronic components on the circuit board don’t connect properly, resulting in weak or no signal transmission.
  2. Solder joint cracking – these cracks create weak or no electrical connection at all between components and the PCB.
  3. Broken traces – conductive paths on the circuit board that connect are broken in the circuit, which can lead to failure or malfunction of the electronic device.
  4. General mechanical stress leading to damage of mounted components

All these three can result in electrical performance issues, affecting the functionality of your device. A PCB with bow and twist issues is less reliable and durable.

In the next sections of this blog, we’ll discuss the causes of PCB bow and twist, how to measure and correct them, and some best practices to prevent them from occurring during the manufacturing process.

We’ll also give you tips on choosing a reputable PCB manufacturer who can help you minimize these issues and ensure the highest quality for your device.

Causes of PCB Bow and Twist

Causes of PCB Bow and Twist

A Comprehensive List of Causes of PCB Bow and Twist

Understanding all causes of bow and twist in circuit boards is important. Knowing the root of the problem can help you prevent it from happening and ensure the quality and reliability of your PCB project.

Here’s our list:

CTE variance because of material

Different materials have different thermal expansion coefficients, meaning they expand and contract at different rates when exposed to temperature changes. When the board heats up during operation or cools down during storage, the materials may expand or contract unevenly, causing bow and twist.

Uneven distribution of copper and other materials

If the copper traces and other materials are not evenly distributed across the PCB, it can cause stress and uneven expansion or contraction. This can lead to bow and twist, especially when the board is exposed to temperature changes.

Inadequate design and layout

The design and layout of the PCB can also contribute to bow and twist issues. Poor design choices, such as placing components too close together or using insufficient support structures, can cause stress on the board and lead to bow and twist.

Incorrect handling and storage

Improper material handling and storing of the PCB can also cause bow and twist issues. Rough handling, exposure to extreme temperatures, and storing the board in a twisted or uneven position can all lead to deformation and bowing.

By understanding the common causes, you can stop them in their tracks! Use high-quality materials, follow proper design and layout guidelines, and handle and store your PCBs carefully to ensure the best possible results…and no PCB bow and twist!

Measuring PCB Bow and Twist: Exceptional Techniques

Measuring PCB bow and twist may sound technical and complicated, but it is a straightforward process involving specialized equipment and techniques. In this section, we’ll take a closer look at the exceptional methods used for measuring PCB bow and twist.

3D Optical Inspection

One of the most effective techniques for measuring PCB bow and twist is 3D optical inspection. 3D involves using a specialized machine that uses lasers and sensors to create a 3D image of the board’s surface. The device then compares this image to a reference image to detect deviations or warping, allowing for precise measurement.

exceptional Techniques measurement

PCB Testing Machine

X-Ray Inspection

Yet another technique commonly used for measuring PCB bow and twist. This involves using X-rays to create an image of the board’s interior, which can reveal any internal defects or deformations that may cause bow and twist.

Shadow Moiré

This technique involves projecting light onto the surface of the PCB. Doing this measures the pattern created by the shadows to detect any irregularities in the board’s surface. It’s particularly useful for detecting low-level warpage and distortion.

Digital Holographic Microscopy

Dubbed a non-destructive technique, this one uses lasers to measure the surface topography of a PCB. It is a highly accurate method for measuring bow and twist. It detects even the smallest deviations from the reference image.

By utilizing these exceptional techniques, trustworthy PCB manufacturers can accurately measure the bow and twist of their boards to ensure they meet industry standards.

Note that these techniques require specialized equipment and expertise, so working with a reputable and experienced PCB manufacturer with the necessary resources to ensure your boards are manufactured to your liking.

Deleterious Effects of PCB Bow and Twist

The electrical performance of your PCBs can be affected. Bow and twist can cause signal integrity issues, resulting in degraded electrical performance. The case can lead to problems such as increased noise, signal distortion, and reduced bandwidth. These problems can affect the overall functionality of your electronics. They may result in intermittent connection issues or total failure of your device. It’s crucial to address any bow and twist issues in your PCBs to avoid such electrical problems.

If left unaddressed, the electrical performance issues can have a cascading effect on other components of your electronics and lead to more severe problems down the line. So, choosing a reliable PCB manufacturer and following best practices to minimize bow and twist during the manufacturing process is necessary.

Bow and twist can create mechanical stress on the board, leading to physical damage or even breakage of the components, traces, and vias. As the board experiences mechanical stress due to bowing and twisting, it can cause cracks, fractures, or even breakages that can cause short circuits, open circuits, or other problems that can make your PCB unusable.

Unusable PCB

Unusable PCB

Mechanical damage can be difficult to repair and often requires the replacement of the entire board, resulting in additional time and costs for your project. Furthermore, mechanical stress on the PCB can also make it more susceptible to damage from vibration or shock, which can occur during shipping, installation, or regular use.

Lastly, you risk not being able to count on your PCB. You don’t want premature wear and tear of your precious board and the likelihood of failure while it’s at work. A long-lasting PCB is important because it ensures your electronic device lasts an extended period. If a PCB fails early due to wear and tear caused by bow and twist, you must buy another one. A long-lasting PCB also saves time and money that would have been spent on constant repairs and maintenance.

Correct PCB Bow and Twist Issues

Correction & Prevention Guidelines

How to Correct PCB Bow and Twist Issues

Obviously, PCB bow and twist issues cause significant damage to your boards. So let’s know how to correct and prevent these issues! They all occur during the manufacturing process. By implementing the right procedures if your DIY your PCB, ensure maximum functionality. Now we’ll explore how first to prevent bow and twist from happening, and then we’ll talk about best practices.

Preventing PCB Bow and Twist During Manufacturing

During the manufacturing stage, a lot can be done to stop PCB bow and twist issues even before they happen. Here are some key steps to follow:

Initial Stage: File to Film

It all starts with the file-to-film process, where the PCB design is converted into a film that will be used to create the PCB. Use high-quality film material to minimize the risk.

Printing the PCB Design

The copper and other materials should be evenly distributed throughout the board during the printing process. Uneven distribution can lead to stress points and complications.

Printing the Copper for the Interior Layers

The interior layers of a PCB are where bowing and twisting issues are most likely to occur. To prevent these issues, the copper must be printed evenly and accurately on both sides of the board.

Etching the Inner Layers or Core to Remove Copper

After the copper is printed on the interior layers of the board, the excess copper is etched away. The etching process can cause stress points, leading to bow and twist issues. To prevent this, use advanced etching equipment and standard PCB processes.

Here’s a video about correct etching, if you want to DIY.


Drilling of Holes / Vias

Use a drilling machine with automatic tool change capability to drill at high speed. The drilling process should be controlled and monitored to ensure accurate hole size and position.

Plating and Coating

Choose a renown manufacturer with the best plating and coating materials. (Or, use the genuine and coating materials if you make the PCB yourself.) The plating thickness should be consistent and uniform. Bow and twist issues will occur and reoccur without a controlled and monitored plating process.

Solder Mask and Silkscreen

The solder mask and silkscreen should be applied in a controlled and monitored process. Use the best PCB Ink, which adheres well to the board’s surface. Proper curing is also important to ensure the solder mask and silkscreen stick well to the board’s surface.

Quality Control: The Final Inspection

The final inspection is crucial to identify any bow and twist issues in your PCBs. QC should include a measurement of bow and twist using specialized equipment, e.g., a Coordinate Measuring Machine (CMM) or an Automated Optical Inspection (AOI) system. Measurements should also be conducted at different stages of the manufacturing process, from the initial design to the final inspection.

Ending Notes: PCB Bow & Twist Best Practices

As a final note, we want to leave you with some best practices to keep in mind when it comes to preventing and correcting bow and twist issues in your PCBs. We’ve already discussed this topic at length in the section about PCB fabrication. Let’s just stick to the very basics here:

Firstly, always use high-quality materials and components. Cheaper materials may seem like a cost-effective option, but they can result in poor performance and premature failure of your PCB. It’s worth investing in superb materials to ensure the longevity and reliability of your electronics.

Secondly, follow proper PCB design and layout guidelines. Suitable design and layout can minimize bow and twist issues by ensuring that the materials and components are distributed evenly across the board. Using design software that includes DFM (design for manufacturing) rules can help you identify and correct potential issues before sending your design to production.

Lastly, use correct handling and storage techniques. Improper handling and storage can cause mechanical stress on the board, leading to bow and twist issues over time. Always handle your PCB with care, and store it in a dry, cool place to avoid exposure to humidity and temperature fluctuations.

You can reduce the risk by observing these recommended practices. You’ll also guarantee your electronics operate at their best for years. Remember, a little extra effort and attention to detail can go a long way in achieving your desired results.

Reputable PCB Manufacturer

Reputable PCB Manufacturer

Choose a Reputable PCB Manufacturer to Minimize Bow and Twist Issues

Finally! You’ve made it to the end of our blog on PCB Bow & Twist! We hope you have found the information helpful in understanding the causes, negative effects, and solutions to PCB bow and twist issues.

We have highlighted the need to pay close attention to every last detail while constructing a PCB to ensure its high caliber and dependability. Now, let’s talk about PCB manufacturers, shall we?

Selecting the right PCB manufacturer is crucial when it comes to minimizing bow and twist issues in your printed circuit boards. Working with an experienced manufacturer is assure that PCBs are manufactured to acceptable standards and meet industry requirements.

You can count on us—

It’s important to look for a manufacturer that uses certified materials, advanced equipment, and technology. PCB companies that are reputable employ skilled engineers who oversee the manufacturing process. At PCBMay, we pride ourselves on our high-quality manufacturing process, state-of-the-art equipment, and experienced team of engineers. We utilize advanced testing methods to ensure that our PCBs meet the industry’s most rigorous standards for quality and reliability.

By choosing PCBMay, you can trust us to deliver the best possible results for your PCB project. Our credo of customer satisfaction and competitive pricing makes us an excellent choice for cost-effective production. We can help you minimize bow and twist issues in your PCBs and ensure that your boards are of the highest quality.

If you want to prevent PCB bow and twist issues, you can follow our tips. Or you can take the easy way and hand over your problems to us. At PCBMay, we have the expertise and capabilities to deliver superb PCBs that meet your needs. We’ll exceed your expectations. Contact us to learn more about our cheap PCB supplies and services. We can help you with your PCB project at the lowest price.

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