7 Reasons Why Silkscreen is Important in PCB Design

A silkscreen layer is often deemed unimportant in the whole PCB assembly process because it has no direct impact on the electrical functionality of a PCB. As a result, little attention is given to the silkscreen compared to the tremendous value it brings and the importance it holds.

A green printed circuit board with white silkscreen

Silkscreen serves as a means of providing information about a PCB. It is mainly used for PCB identification and labeling, with zero connection to the electrical functionality of the PCB. It is generally one of the last steps in PCB design.

The silkscreen refers to the printed text on a PCB board containing information regarding the PCB assembly process, especially in the placement of components such as the references, identifiers, and the company logos.

The silkscreen is usually used on the component side to identify different components and is sometimes used on the solder side.

The information provided by the silkscreen layer is inseparable from the board, as it contains certain symbols, unique identification numbers, certification logos, and manufacturer logos.

The valuable information provided by the silkscreen layer eases the PCB manufacturing process and testing, too, as long as it is visible and readable.

It is essential because an excellently designed silkscreen can impact the overall quality of a PCB. It reduces the possibility of making errors during the PCB assembly process and goes as far as spotting them in the rework phases. There are also silkscreen markers that give accuracy to the placement process.

Without a silkscreen, a layperson will be clueless and find understanding a PCB board more daunting than it is. In contrast, a PCB with a silkscreen shows where every connection leads.

Therefore, here are seven crucial reasons you should pay attention to your PCB Silkscreen.

1. Testing and Troubleshooting the Board

The silkscreen layer helps troubleshoot and test circuits to ensure no burnt parts or undesired results.

A silkscreen guides the technician toward the test points or location where the technician should take measurements during testing or troubleshooting. They serve as initial indicators of problems with PCB operation.

It also recognizes components type, board numbers, part numbers, and process types like RoHS or SnPb easier during PCB engineering and assembly testing. These labels can help identify potential failure causes and verification of device performance.

2. For Identification or Recognition

Identification and recognition are the primary and pivotal use of silkscreen layers. IPC made it a requirement for PCB manufacturers to provide both a manufacturer’s mark and an identifier, making tracing more effortless in the event of problems or mistakes.

Identification can be circuitry, like testing points, ground points, component interconnect, or parts, such as when replacement is required or if there is a need for design evaluation.

Silkscreen help authorities recognize registration numbers, standards, company name, and RoHS compliance.

It also helps maintenance and field installation personnel to recognize critical components, board names, revision, part numbers, and hazard markings, like dip switch, voltage, function, and waveform.

The location of components, their polarity, details for their placement and orientation, identifiers, labels, and logos for various parts on a PCB, are all identified or recognized through silkscreen markings. Also, regardless of how packed the PCB may be, the silkscreen can still easily label the passive components of the PCB.

3. Reduction of Errors

The identification and visibility of the details on a PCB by silkscreen layers automatically lessen the likelihood of errors. In addition, it also reduces the time taken to spot the errors of a PCB.

Therefore, a well-designed silkscreen layer will go a long way to save you time, costs, and the chances of a faulty PCB.

4. A Safety Net

Silkscreen layers serve as a safety net with the high level of valuable information it provides, such as the placement of components, location of parts through reference designators, identifiers, etc.

This information is invaluable when assembling a PCB, as it provides simple visual feedback on deeper problems.

Silkscreen layers can also include warning symbols, which can be taken as signals of bizarre high voltages, grounding, or other parameters that should be treated with the utmost care. These are all safety precautions for your PCB.

Technicians and engineers can also use it to verify device performance or help identify potential failure causes, making it a safety net for your PCB.

5. Save on PCB Manufacturing Costs

When you pay significant attention to understanding silkscreens, it can also go a long way in reducing PCB costs while manufacturing your PCB.

For example, silk-screening on one side only can reduce artwork costs. Also, limiting yourself to standard colors, which are black, white, and yellow, during the silk-screening process can impact the cost of PCB fabrication without affecting its benefits.

6. Branding and Publicity of the Manufacturer

A Silkscreen layer makes your PCB design unique amongst others, usually by imprinting the manufacturer's mark through the company’s logo and name on the silkscreen.

Markings will grant the manufacturer publicity and, most importantly, serve as protection against illegal copying of circuit design.

7. Product Evolution Process

Upgrading a PCB or making massive changes such as component replacement testing or rating verifications will be simplified with a silkscreen layer.

A simplified design allows the visibility of the PCB details provided by the silkscreen and will serve as an excellent guide.

Conclusion

Paying attention to your silkscreen requirements will help you avoid issues on your PCB and elevate its accuracy level.

The silkscreen PCB layout accuracy is paramount for several reasons: board design, labeling, PCB assembly, and testing.

For the silkscreen to be effective and beneficial, it must have the readable text and meet CM’s printing capabilities and font requirements. And also provide sufficient image resolution and be spot on.

The silkscreen undoubtedly provides vital details and can thus be regarded as highly useful to the functionality of a PCB.

911EDA PCB designers always pay close attention to silkscreen.