7:30 AM - 7:30 PM
Monday to Saturday

PCB Terminology List in PCB Design-PCB Glossary

Introduction to PCB Terminology

Printed Circuit Board (PCB) design involves a wide range of technical terms and acronyms that can be overwhelming for beginners and even experienced professionals. Understanding the common PCB terminology is crucial for effective communication within the PCB design and manufacturing industry. This comprehensive PCB glossary aims to provide a clear explanation of the most frequently used terms in PCB design, helping you navigate the complex world of PCBs with ease.

PCB Design Terms

1. PCB (Printed Circuit Board)

A PCB is a flat board made of insulating material, such as fiberglass or composite epoxy, with conductive pathways etched or printed onto its surface. It serves as the foundation for mounting and connecting electronic components.

2. Schematic

A schematic is a graphical representation of an electronic circuit, showing the interconnections between components using standardized symbols. It provides a logical layout of the circuit design.

3. Footprint

A footprint, also known as a land pattern, is the arrangement of pads and holes on a PCB that corresponds to the pins or leads of a specific component. It ensures proper component placement and soldering.

4. Gerber Files

Gerber files are industry-standard file formats used to describe the layout of a PCB. They contain information about the copper layers, solder mask, silkscreen, and drill holes. Gerber files are essential for PCB manufacturing.

5. DRC (Design Rule Check)

DRC is an automated process in PCB design software that checks the design for potential errors or violations of predefined design rules. It helps identify issues such as short circuits, insufficient clearances, or missing connections.

6. Netlist

A netlist is a text file that describes the connectivity between components in a PCB design. It lists all the components and their respective pins, along with the nets (electrical connections) that join them together.

7. Copper Pour

Copper pour refers to the filling of unused areas on a PCB layer with solid copper. It is commonly used for power and ground planes, as well as for shielding and thermal dissipation purposes.

8. Trace

A trace is a thin conductive path etched or printed onto the PCB surface to connect components. Traces are typically made of copper and can vary in width and thickness depending on the current-carrying requirements.

9. Via

A via is a small hole drilled through the PCB to connect traces on different layers. Vias are plated with conductive material to establish electrical continuity between layers.

10. Pad

A pad is a small conductive area on the PCB surface where components are soldered. Pads come in various shapes and sizes to accommodate different component leads or pins.

PCB Manufacturing Terms

1. Etching

Etching is the process of removing unwanted copper from the PCB surface to create the desired conductive pattern. It involves applying a chemical solution that selectively removes the copper not protected by the etch resist.

2. Solder Mask

Solder mask is a thin layer of polymer applied to the PCB surface to protect the copper traces from oxidation and prevent solder bridges during the soldering process. It also provides electrical insulation between adjacent traces.

3. Silkscreen

Silkscreen, also known as legend or nomenclature, is the text and graphics printed on the PCB surface for component identification, orientation marks, and branding. It is typically white or yellow in color.

4. PTH (Plated Through Hole)

PTH refers to a hole in the PCB that is plated with conductive material, allowing electrical connection between layers. PTH is commonly used for mounting through-hole components and creating vias.

5. NPTH (Non-Plated Through Hole)

NPTH is a hole in the PCB that is not plated with conductive material. It is used for mechanical purposes, such as mounting hardware or providing alignment points.

6. Panelization

Panelization is the process of arranging multiple PCB designs on a single manufacturing panel to optimize production efficiency. It involves adding breakaway tabs, fiducial marks, and other features to facilitate proper placement and separation of individual boards.

7. Reflow Soldering

Reflow soldering is a process used for surface mount components where solder paste is applied to the pads, components are placed, and the entire assembly is heated in a reflow oven. The solder melts and forms a reliable electrical and mechanical connection.

8. Wave Soldering

Wave soldering is a process used for through-hole components where the PCB is passed over a molten solder wave. The solder adheres to the component leads and pads, creating a strong connection.

9. Conformal Coating

Conformal coating is a protective layer applied to the assembled PCB to shield it from environmental factors such as moisture, dust, and chemicals. It enhances the reliability and longevity of the PCB in harsh operating conditions.

10. AOI (Automated Optical Inspection)

AOI is a automated process that uses high-resolution cameras and image processing algorithms to inspect the assembled PCB for defects such as missing components, solder bridges, or incorrect component placement.

PCB Material Terms

1. FR-4

FR-4 is a common PCB substrate material made of woven fiberglass cloth impregnated with epoxy resin. It offers good mechanical strength, electrical insulation, and thermal stability.

2. High-Tg

High-Tg refers to PCB materials with a higher glass transition temperature (Tg) compared to standard FR-4. High-Tg materials provide better thermal stability and are suitable for high-temperature applications.

3. Isola

Isola is a brand name for a range of high-performance PCB materials, including laminate and prepreg options. Isola materials are known for their excellent electrical, thermal, and mechanical properties.

4. Rogers

Rogers is a manufacturer of specialized PCB materials, particularly for high-frequency and microwave applications. Rogers materials offer low dielectric loss, controlled dielectric constant, and good thermal conductivity.

5. Polyimide

Polyimide is a high-temperature resistant polymer used as a flexible PCB substrate. It offers excellent thermal stability, mechanical strength, and chemical resistance, making it suitable for demanding applications.

PCB Layer Terms

1. Single-sided

A single-sided PCB has conductive traces and components on only one side of the substrate. It is the simplest and most cost-effective PCB design.

2. Double-sided

A double-sided PCB has conductive traces and components on both sides of the substrate. It allows for higher component density and more complex routing compared to single-sided PCBs.

3. Multi-layer

A multi-layer PCB consists of multiple conductive layers separated by insulating layers. It enables high-density routing, better signal integrity, and improved EMI/EMC performance.

4. Power Plane

A power plane is a solid copper layer in a multi-layer PCB dedicated to distributing power to the components. It provides a low-impedance path for power delivery and helps reduce voltage drop.

5. Ground Plane

A ground plane is a solid copper layer in a multi-layer PCB that serves as a common reference point for electrical signals. It helps minimize noise, improve signal integrity, and provide shielding.

PCB Component Terms

1. SMD (Surface Mount Device)

SMD refers to components that are mounted directly onto the surface of the PCB without requiring through-holes. SMD components are smaller and allow for higher component density compared to through-hole components.

2. SMT (Surface Mount Technology)

SMT is the process of mounting SMD components onto the PCB surface using techniques such as reflow soldering or wave soldering. SMT enables automated assembly and higher production efficiency.

3. BGA (Ball Grid Array)

BGA is a type of surface mount package where the component has an array of solder balls on its underside. BGA packages offer high pin count and better thermal and electrical performance compared to other packages.

4. QFP (Quad Flat Package)

QFP is a surface mount package with leads extending from all four sides of the component body. QFP packages are commonly used for integrated circuits and provide good lead pitch and thermal dissipation.

5. DIP (Dual Inline Package)

DIP is a through-hole package where the component leads are arranged in two parallel rows. DIP packages are larger than surface mount packages but offer easy replacement and troubleshooting.

PCB Testing Terms

1. ICT (In-Circuit Test)

ICT is a testing method that verifies the proper assembly and functionality of individual components on the PCB. It involves using a bed-of-nails fixture to make electrical contact with specific test points on the board.

2. Flying Probe Test

Flying probe test is a non-contact testing method that uses movable probes to test the connectivity and functionality of the PCB. It offers flexibility and does not require a dedicated test fixture.

3. Functional Test

Functional test is a testing method that verifies the overall functionality of the assembled PCB by simulating real-world operating conditions. It ensures that the PCB performs as intended in its final application.

4. Boundary Scan

Boundary scan, also known as JTAG testing, is a method that uses a special test access port (TAP) to test the interconnections and functionality of digital components on the PCB. It enables testing of complex designs with limited physical access.

5. X-Ray Inspection

X-ray inspection is a non-destructive testing method that uses X-rays to visualize the internal structure of the PCB assembly. It helps detect hidden defects such as voids, cracks, or misaligned components.

PCB File Format Terms

1. Gerber

Gerber is a standard file format used to describe the layout of PCB layers. It contains information about the copper traces, pads, and other features on each layer.

2. Excellon

Excellon is a standard file format used to describe the drilling data for a PCB. It specifies the location, size, and type of holes to be drilled in the board.

3. ODB++ (Open Database++)

ODB++ is a comprehensive PCB data exchange format that includes all the necessary information for PCB fabrication and assembly. It combines Gerber, Excellon, and other data into a single file structure.

4. IPC-2581

IPC-2581 is an open, neutral file format for exchanging PCB design data. It aims to streamline the communication between PCB design tools and manufacturing processes by providing a standardized format.

5. 3D STEP

3D STEP (Standard for the Exchange of Product Data) is a file format used to represent the 3D model of a PCB assembly. It includes the geometry, materials, and properties of the components and the board itself.

PCB Design Software Terms

1. EDA (Electronic Design Automation)

EDA refers to the software tools and methodologies used for designing electronic systems, including PCBs. EDA tools assist in schematic capture, PCB layout, simulation, and verification.

2. ECAD (Electronic Computer-Aided Design)

ECAD is a subset of EDA that focuses specifically on the design of electronic hardware, such as PCBs and integrated circuits. ECAD tools provide a graphical interface for creating and managing electronic designs.

3. Schematic Capture

Schematic capture is the process of creating a graphical representation of an electronic circuit using EDA software. It involves placing component symbols and defining the interconnections between them.

4. PCB Layout

PCB layout is the process of arranging components and routing traces on a PCB using EDA software. It involves defining the physical dimensions, layer stackup, and design rules for the board.

5. Autorouter

An autorouter is a software tool that automatically routes the traces on a PCB based on predefined design rules and constraints. It can save time and effort in complex designs but may not always produce optimal results.

PCB Assembly Terms

1. Pick and Place

Pick and place is an automated process in PCB assembly where a machine picks up SMD components from reels or trays and places them onto the designated pads on the PCB surface.

2. Stencil Printing

Stencil printing is a process used to apply solder paste onto the pads of a PCB before component placement. A stencil with openings corresponding to the pad locations is used to deposit a precise amount of solder paste.

3. Reflow Oven

A reflow oven is a specialized oven used in PCB assembly to melt the solder paste and form a permanent connection between the components and the PCB pads. It follows a controlled temperature profile to ensure proper solder joint formation.

4. Selective Soldering

Selective soldering is a process used to solder specific components or areas on a PCB after the main reflow process. It is commonly used for through-hole components or rework purposes.

5. Rework Station

A rework station is a tool used for manual repair and modification of PCB assemblies. It typically includes a hot air gun, soldering iron, and other accessories for component removal and replacement.


1. What is the difference between a schematic and a PCB layout?

A: A schematic is a graphical representation of an electronic circuit that shows the logical connections between components using symbols. On the other hand, a PCB layout is the physical arrangement of components and traces on a PCB, defining their actual positions and routing.

2. What are the advantages of using surface mount technology (SMT) over through-hole technology?

A: SMT offers several advantages over through-hole technology, including:
– Smaller component sizes, allowing for higher component density and more compact designs.
– Faster and more efficient assembly processes, as SMT components can be placed and soldered automatically.
– Better high-frequency performance, as SMT components have shorter lead lengths and reduced parasitic effects.
– Lower cost for high-volume production, as SMT requires less drilling and consumes less board space.

3. What is the purpose of a ground plane in a PCB?

A: A ground plane serves several important purposes in a PCB:
– It provides a low-impedance return path for electrical signals, minimizing noise and improving signal integrity.
– It helps distribute heat evenly across the board, enhancing thermal management.
– It acts as a shield against electromagnetic interference (EMI), reducing both radiated and conducted emissions.
– It establishes a common reference point for all signals on the PCB, preventing ground loops and ensuring stable operation.

4. What is the role of solder mask on a PCB?

A: Solder mask is a thin layer of polymer applied to the copper traces on a PCB. It serves the following roles:
– It protects the copper traces from oxidation and corrosion, extending the lifespan of the PCB.
– It provides electrical insulation between adjacent traces, preventing short circuits and unintended connections.
– It helps control the flow of solder during the assembly process, preventing solder bridges and ensuring precise solder joint formation.
– It enhances the visual appearance of the PCB by providing a uniform surface finish and color.

5. What are the common file formats used for PCB design and manufacturing?

A: The common file formats used in PCB design and manufacturing include:
– Gerber: A standard format for describing the layout of PCB layers, including copper traces, pads, and other features.
– Excellon: A standard format for specifying the drilling data, including the location, size, and type of holes to be drilled in the PCB.
– ODB++: A comprehensive format that combines Gerber, Excellon, and other data into a single file structure for seamless data exchange.
– IPC-2581: An open, neutral format for exchanging PCB design data, aiming to streamline communication between design tools and manufacturing processes.
– 3D STEP: A format for representing the 3D model of a PCB assembly, including the geometry, materials, and properties of components and the board.


Understanding PCB terminology is essential for effective communication and collaboration within the PCB design and manufacturing industry. This comprehensive PCB glossary covers a wide range of terms related to PCB design, manufacturing, materials, layers, components, testing, file formats, software, and assembly.

By familiarizing yourself with these terms, you can better navigate the complex world of PCBs, make informed decisions, and communicate effectively with professionals in the field. Whether you are a PCB designer, manufacturer, or electronics enthusiast, having a solid grasp of PCB terminology will enhance your knowledge and contribute to the success of your projects.

Remember, PCB design and manufacturing is a constantly evolving field, and staying up-to-date with the latest terms and technologies is crucial for staying competitive and delivering high-quality products.