Screaming Circuits: Panelization


Panelization

A lot of small quantity PCBs come individually routed these days, but when they get too small or come in larger quantities, panels can be very nice to have. When you have your PCBs panelized, what's your preferred method? And why?

We get questions about this reasonably often: "What's the best way to panelize my boards?" For our shop, we have some guidelines on how to go about it (make sure to follow the specific guidelines from whatever manufacturer is assembling your boards), but the guidelines don't specify whether you should use V-score or tab routed. That's a decision left to you.

V-score section What if you don't know? Well, it depends then, but you can easily eliminate a few options. For example, if you have curves in your board outline, you can't V-score. V-scoring only works in straight lines. With curves or odd shapes, you have to use tab-routed. If your outline is a pure rectangle, V-scoring tends to require less board-edgBoth tab and 
v-scoree so you can get a bit more out of your PCB real estate. But it's more difficult to deal with on very thin boards and V-scoring leaves a rougher edge after snapping the boards apart.

Two of the key disadvantages of tab-routing are the greater waste area and the nubs that stick out after separating the boards. You can leave the nubs, sand them down or use a clean-up router.

Here's my take on it: A) If it truly doesn't matter, use whichever method is less expensive or that you think looks prettier. B) If you have curves or other odd shapes, you'll probably need to go with tab-routed. C) If your boards are rectangles and you can deal with the less-smooth board edge, go for the V-score.

Duane Benson
Tab. Not Diet Coke.

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Comments

I encountered this panelization set-up during college. It took me awhile to get used to the proper setup.

Is there a tutorial for a DIY on removing a PBX for example in the case of a foreclosure where county laws states that all electronics must be removed.

Hahahaha... "Tab. Not diet coke"..

@Timothy: I do agree with you that there are PCB manufacturers that provide PCB panelization services. In addition, they also offer as well as pcb fabrication. Since there are different models of PCB, they also offer multiple board layers and a varying board thickness to fit any PCB model.

Laen: that's hilarious (in a sad way).

This is what really pisses me off about designing prototype PCBs. I want to slap as many on there as possible, but most board houses charge roughly twice as much for two designs. Yet enlarging the first design 2x costs very little. The only difference between the two is a few minutes of CAM routing.

I was really lucky for a few years, myropcb would not charge extra for number of designs on a panel. I had 12+ designs at one point :). Recently they added it to the online quote system and a $300 pcb is now a $1000 pcb. Argh.. I'm seriously looking into doing my own routing as its not that difficult (and hoping that they let a multi-design pass as one PCB).

I think most fabs just don't want you panelizing several different designs together. Advanced Circuits has never given me any grief about panels of the same circuit, and pricing was better than single boards.

T

The PCB or PCBA manufacturers that I use usually handle the panelization for me. I haven't had to worry so much about panelization on my side of the design. Test jigs are designed for single units, so wants assembly is done the units are broken apart and tested.

Laen - not to take away from Sunstone, but have you considered BatchPCB by Sparkfun?

A lot of board fabs really don't like panelization. After months of submitting panelized boards to Advanced Circuits, I was fired as a customer (well, given a 400% price increase and told that I can't use the online quoting engine anymore).

Do you know what Sunstone's policy on panelized boards is? I do a panelization service for DorkbotPDX (a group of electronics hobbyists here in Portland, http://www.dorkbotpdx.org/wiki/pcb_order !), and am looking for a new fab house.

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