Beneath the surface of just about everything you rely on, from the computer in your car or the one on your desk at home, to the tiny one slowly wearing a hole in the pocket of your favorite pair of jeans. Printed circuit boards are everywhere, and they would be nothing without surface mount assembly, and that is why surface mount assemblies are the critical surface beneath the surface of virtually all the electronic equipment you use. So, what exactly is surface mount assembly?
Surface mount technology is a method used for constructing electronic circuits where the components that actually bring functionality to the assembly are mounted directly to the surface of the printed circuit board. In the past, instead of the components being mounted to the printed circuit board, they all had individual connections – which lead to very inefficient management of space and a level of performance that would eventually be overshadowed by surface mounting. Think of it this way, the old way was a mess of tangles and knots – the difference between a groomed show dog and a gnarly mess that’s been playing in the gutter for too long. With surface mount technology, devices can afford to be smaller, more compact, and better all-around products.
The main advantages of surface mount technology include the ability to incorporate smaller components in much greater number, fewer holes needing to be drilled through the PCB, much simpler (a nd much faster) automated assembly, and the ability to place components on both sides of the circuit boards.
Surface mounting technology was first pioneered in the 1960’s and came into prominence in the 1980’s when more and more consumer electronics and computers were being used. For the most part, the majority of research, development, and early testing was undertaken by IBM. With these new developments, components began getting smaller and smaller, allowing for greater circuit densities – bring greater capabilities to electronics without having to increase size, but instead decreasing space requirements. In the 1980’s the rapidly increasing popularity of surface mounting technology allowed for a greatly enhanced degree of automation, which reduced costs of production, increased production rates, and made many types of electronic devices readily available to a wider group of consumers.
So as you see, without surface mount technology, many of the commonplace products we have today ranging from simple toys and advanced consumer electronics to computer components and high tech missile systems would not be possible. When you reach for your mobile phone resting in your pocket or your ultra-portable laptop safely stowed away in your bag, think about what makes it all possible. Chances are in many cases, you have the early pioneers of technologies like surface mounting to thank.