Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs) are comprised of two essential processes: PCB Fabrication and PCB Assembly. These two processes are crucial in the manufacturing of electronic devices, but their purpose is different. In this post, we will discuss the difference between PCB assembly and PCB fabrication. We will also explore their key features and highlight the importance of each step in the production of high-quality PCBs.

What is PCB Fabrication?

PCB fabrication is the process of creating a bare PCB which involves transforming a design layout into a physical circuit board by etching conductive pathways and adding insulating layers. During PCB fabrication, various materials such as copper, fiberglass, and solder mask are used to create a robust and reliable foundation for printed circuit board.

The PCB Fabrication Process

The PCB fabrication process typically includes the following steps:

  • Designing: Engineers use CAD and other designing software to create the PCB layout, which includes component placement, routing, and layer stack-up.
  • Material Selection: selection of high-quality materials are selected based on the specific requirements of the PCB, such as the number of layers, thermal conductivity, and dielectric constant.
  • Substrate Preparation: The chosen substrate material, usually a fiberglass-reinforced epoxy laminate known as FR-4, is cut to the desired size and cleaned to ensure optimal adhesion.
  • Copper Cladding: A thin layer of copper is added to both sides of the substrate through either a chemical or electroless deposition process.
  • Photoengraving: A light-sensitive layer called a photoresist is applied to the copper-clad substrate, which is then exposed to ultraviolet light using a patterned photomask. The unexposed areas are subsequently removed, leaving behind the desired circuitry.
  • Etching: The exposed copper areas are chemically etched away, leaving only the copper traces that form the circuitry.
  • Drilling: Precision holes are drilled into the PCB to accommodate component leads and provide electrical connections between layers.

What is PCB Assembly?

PCB assembly, also known as PCBA, is the process of transforming a bare board into a functional PCB by soldering components. Without the components electronic devices cannot function properly. This step involves soldering or mounting components onto the PCB to create a functional electronic circuit.

PCB assembly services encompass the following key processes:

  • Component Procurement: this involves sourcing electronic components from trusted suppliers, ensuring their compatibility with the PCB design and functionality.
  • Solder Paste Application: A mixture of solder alloy and flux known as solder paste is applied to the PCB’s solder pads using a stencil or a jet printing process.
  • Component Placement: Automated machines, known as pick-and-place machines, accurately position and solder the components onto the designated pads on the PCB.
  • Soldering: The PCB is subjected to a reflow soldering process, where heat is applied to melt the solder paste, creating reliable electrical connections.
  • Inspection and Testing: After assembly, the PCBA is thoroughly inspected for any potential defects or errors, and functional tests are conducted to ensure proper operation.


PCB assembly and PCB fabrication are distinct yet interconnected stages in the production of electronic devices. PCB fabrication lays the foundation by creating the bare PCB through processes like etching and layering, while PCB assembly involves adding components and soldering them onto the PCB to create a functional circuit. Understanding these differences is crucial for manufacturers, designers, and engineers to optimize production workflows and deliver high-quality electronic products to the market. By partnering with experienced PCB assembly services provider, companies can ensure efficient and reliable production processes for their electronic devices. Get in touch with us today with you PCB requirement.