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GLOSSARY of Printed Circuits

by John Walt Childers, IPC-CID, Founder of Golden Gate Graphics

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Pronunciation Key

Golden Gate Graphics in an official Altium Service Bureau

Golden Gate Graphics is an official Altium Service Bureau

Terms that contain digits are alphabetized as if the numeric characters were spelled in English.

Terms with two or more words are alphabetized "dictionary style." They are alphabetized as though the spaces between the terms have been removed.
   If there are other characters in the term, such as a slash (/), these are treated the same as spaces and ignored for the purpose of alphabetizinig.


TOP       P

Index to terms on this page:

package   pad   paddle   padstack   panel   panelize   part  
passive component  
PC board   PCB  
PCB database  
PCB design  
PCB designer  
PCB design service bureau  
PCB layout   PCMCIA   photoplotter   pin  
pin out   PI   plasma  
plated-through hole   PLCC   populate   Pos   position   positive   PQFP   prepreg   primitive  
printed circuit board  
probe card   PWA   PWB  



package

  1. Decal or printed wiring board component.  
  2. A type of PCB component which contains a chip and acts to make a convenient mechanism for protecting the chip while on the shelf and after attachment to a PCB. With its leads soldered to a printed circuit board, a package serves as the electrical conduction interface between the chip and the board. An example is a DIP.


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pad  — (PAD) Pronunciation Key

  1. noun [PCB Manufacturing] An area of copper or other conductor provided for soldering a terminal of a component to a PCB. (Also called "land")
        
  2.  
  3. noun [PCB Manufacturing] Copper surrounding a plated-through hole on a PCB, including such copper on internal layers (See padstack).
        


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paddle — (PAD əl)  Pronunciation Key  noun  [PCB Components] See die paddle.


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padstack — (PAD stak)  Pronunciation Key  noun  [PCB Manufacturing] The size and sequence of pads together with the finished hole size for any one type of pin or via.

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panel — material (most commonly an glass/epoxy-copper laminate known as core) sized for fabrication of printed circuit boards. Panels come in many, many sizes, the most common being 12" by 18" and 18" by 24". Subtract 1/2" to 1" margins (check with your board house) from the panel size to arrive at the space available for printed circuitry.

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panelize

  1. To lay up more than one (usually identical)printed circuits on a pans. Individual printed circuits on a panel need a margin between them of 0.3". Some board houses permit less separation.
  2. Lay up multiple printed circuits (called modules) into a sub-panel so that the sub-panel can be assembled as a unit. The modules can then be separated after assembly into discrete printed circuits.


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part

  1. Component.
  2. A decal in a PWB file or drawing.
  3. A symbol in a schematic.


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passive component — A device which does not add energy to the signal it passes. Examples: resistor, capacitor, inductor. (Contrast with active component.

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PC board Printed Circuit board.

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PCB Printed Circuit Board.

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PCB database — All of the data fundamental to a PCB design , stored as one or more files on a computer.

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PCB design

  1. The creation of artwork for the manufacture of bare PCBs.
  2. The artwork so created.
  3. A computer file (for example, an Altium Designer file with the extension .PcbDoc) from which artwork can be generated as data files ( CAM files ). Also called PCB layout.


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PCB designer — One who creates the artwork for printed circuit boards.   For you recruiters out there who are asked to find one, and for anyone else interested, here is a plain English description for a Printed Circuit Board Designer. Hint: It is not the same as an electrical engineer.

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PCB design service bureau — (A business engaged in) PCB design as a service for others, especially electrical engineers. The word bureau is French for desk, or office, and this service is indeed performed from an office while sitting at a desk. Also called PCB design shop.

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PCB layout PCB design.

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PCMCIA — An acronym which means: "People Can't Memorize Computer Industry Acronyms." Wait a minute. That's WRONG! Click here to find out its true meaning: Personal Computer Memory Card International Association

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photoplotter — Device used to generate artwork photographically by plotting objects (as opposed to copying an entire image at once as with a camera) onto film for use in manufacturing printed wiring.

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pin

  1. A terminal on a through-hole component. [Derived from its physical shape on through-hole components, which predated SMT.] Also called lead.
  2. In the term "pin count," pin refers to a terminal on any component, whether through-hole or SMT.


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pin-out — Pin-number assignment, the relation between the logical inputs and outputs of an electronic device and their physical counterparts in the PCB package. pin-outs will involve pin numbers as a link between schematic and PCB design (both being computer generated files). In more complicated packages, they may also involve pin names. Even for devices with only two pins and no polarity, such as resistors, the netlist extracted from a schematic will have a pin 1 and pin 2 for each resistor, even though the schematic might not show a pin number label as such. (The visibility in the schematic of the pin numbers can be turned on or off at will, but the significance of the pin number assignment is still there in the schematic and subsequently, through the netlist extracted from it, the PCB database.) For CAD CAE electronics to work at all, the pin-outs for the PCB database must agree with the schematic.

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PI — Polyimide. (Also Pi)

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plasma — A highly-ionized gas containing an approximately equal number of positive ions and negative electrons. Thus, as a whole it is electrically neutral, though conductive and affected by magnetic fields.

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plated-through hole — A hole in a PWB with metal plating added after it is drilled. Its purpose it to serve either as a contact point for a through-hole component or as a via.
   In PCB vernacular and documentation, the spelling of the word through is sometimes shortened to thru. PTH is the acronym for plated thru hole.
   Getting plating in a hole through PCB dielectric (fiber-glass and epoxy or other non-conductive material) was a technological breakthrough for the PCB manufacturing industry. Obviously, you can't start with electroplating because a non-conductor can't be used as a cathode in electrolytic plating.
   A special process had to be used to get metal to adhere to non-conductive material. This problem was solved long ago, but the orginial solution carried with it environmental hazards.
   There are several methods covered by this article on green technology for PTH by Retallick and Ding.
   Contrast with NPTH (Non-Plated Through Hole).


Plastic Leaded Chip Carrier — An SMT chip package that is rectangular or square- shaped with leads on all four sides. The leads are spaced at 0.050 inches, so this package is not considered fine-pitch.

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populate — Install (place, attach and solder) components onto (a printed wiring board ). (Slang) Also known as " stuff." This can refer to a single component, as in the acronym used in schematics "DNP", which means "Do Not Populate".

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Pos — An abbreviation for Position used by GC-Prevue.

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position — A type of index for an aperture in an aperture list which is a number from 1 to the number of apertures in the aperture list. Position 1 is linked to D code D10, 2 is D11 and so on. Positions appear only in aperture lists, and never in a Gerber file.  Cadstar aperture lists use the column heading Position to mean D code.  Abbreviated "Pos" in GC-Prevue.

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positive — () noun A developed image of photoplotted film, where the areas selectively exposed by the photo plotter appear black, and unexposed areas are clear. Board houses work from positives, and a photo plotter produces positives, thus one set of positives is all the film that is needed to produce a printed wiring board. modifier (of a printed wiring image) Representing copper as black areas and absence of copper as clear areas. Typical of images of routed layers of a PWB.

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PQFP — Plastic Quad Flat Pack. See QFP.

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prepreg — Fiberglass cloth pre-impregnated with uncured resin. The particular type of resin is usually either epoxy or polyurethane. Prepreg is dialectric only, so use of it requires an accompanying layer of copper foil.Printed board layer stackups of 4 or more layers typically employ prepreg along with core and copper foil (q.v.).

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primitive — ()[CAD software programs and documentation]  

  1. Some CAD software documentation (especially Altium Designer) extends this term to mean any object in a CAD database--graphics, text or otherwise; so this could be a group of graphic objects if manipulated as a unit, eg. a PCB decal.   It may also mean an indivisible graphic object, i.e. a graphical object which may have component parts, but which can not have those parts separated out as individual entities. It can also refere to a parameter or text string. Examples of this in PCB CAD: wire segment, route, pad or padstack, text string.
  2. Any geometric shape such as a circle, polygon or square.  
  3. A function, operator, or type which is built into a programming language (or operating system), either for speed of execution or because it would be impossible to write it in the language. Primitives typically include the arithmetic and logical operations (plus, minus, and, or, etc.) and are implemented by a small number of machine language instructions.

[ FOLDOC - Free Online Dictionary of Computing , © 1993-2002 Denis Howe, editor, used with permission.]

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printed circuit board

  1. A flat plate or base of insulating material containing a pattern of conducting material and components placed and soldered to it. It is an electrical circuit. It is a " printed wiring board " (PWB) that has been " stuffed."
  2. The conducting material is commonly copper which has been coated with solder or plated with tin or tin-lead alloy. The usual insulating material is epoxy laminate. But there are many other kinds of materials used in more exotic technologies.
  3. Single-sided boards, the most common style in mass-produced consumer electronic products, have all conductors on one side of the board. With two-sided boards, the conductors, or copper traces, can travel from one side of the board to the other through plated-thru holes called vias , or feed-throughs. In multilayer boards, the vias can connect to internal layers as well as either side.
  4. A PCB without the components, a "bare board" or a printed wiring board.


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probe card DUT board.

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PWA — Printed Wiring Assembly; same as PCB. A PWA is a bare board ( PWB ) that has been populated.

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PWB

  1. Printed Board. According to IPC, PWB is an older term that they prefer no longer be used. But to be honest, they still use it in their publications.
  2. Some electrical engineers use PWB to distinguish from PCB . PWB stands for Printed Wiring Board; a "bare board"; an unstuffed PCB. It is flat plate or base of insulating material containing a pattern of conducting material. It is not an electrical circuit until components are placed and soldered to it.
    The acronynm PWB, followed by a part number, can be included in clad, sometimes in both clad and silkscreen, on a PWB.


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Example Printed Boards

Click for Examples of PCBs designed by Golden Gate Graphics



References and Dictionaries

Modern Dictionary of Electronics by Rudolf F. Graf

This is the best, most usable dictionary for electronics, because its definitions help you grasp the terms and therefore the subject. Lesser dictionaries define electronics terms with even more difficult technical jargon, leading one into endless "word chains." Not this one.
You can buy the Modern Dictionary of Electronics new or used via the Internet.

Citation:
Graf, Rudolf F. Modern Dictionary of Electronics. Newnes, 1999.


The Random House Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged, 2nd Edition

You need a big, comprehensive dictionary. Get this one. Despite being a big dictionary, The Random House has great definitions, quick to grasp.

Although out of print, as of 2020 you could still buy a great used copy online for $30 including shipping or possibly for much less. Two versions are available of the 2nd Edition, Unabridged:

I have no idea what the difference is for the deluxe edition, but there seem to be fewer copies of it available in 2020 than the regular edition. I'm sure they both have the same set of definitions. My copy has both ISBNs listed in the front matter, and it is the regular edition.

Citation:
Flexner, Stuart Berg, and Leonore Crary Hauck, editors. The Random House Dictionary of the English Language. Unabridged, 2nd Edition, Random House, 1987.

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