PCB: what is it, and what are the most common troubleshooting techniques?

The printed circuits were created to replace the old terminal bridges where the electronic components were fixed, using tracks or pads. The printed course consists of an insulating board made of fiberglass, polyester fiber, polyester film, various polymers, etc. A minimal printed circuit with a single component used for prototyping is called a breakout board. Printed circuits are used in almost all electronic products. Alternatives to printed circuits include coated wire and point-to-point construction. 

Troubleshooting PCB Problems

PCB is a surface of insulators and copper pads or traces that connect densely packed components to create a modern circuit. Troubleshooting them is often a big challenge, including size, number of layers, signal analysis, and component types. Some complicated boards require specialized equipment, but most problems can be done with essential electronic equipment.

The most basic PCB troubleshooting can be done with just a few tools. The most versatile tool is a multi-meter. Nevertheless, depending on the complexity of the PCB and the problem, an LCR meter, oscilloscope, power supply, and logic analyzer may also be needed to delve into the operating behavior of the circuit. It is always suggested to get in touch with a professional PCB repair service.

Visually inspect the PCB.

Visual inspection of your PCBs can find several potential problems. Overlapping traces, burnt components, and signs of overheating and missing components can be easily found through a thorough visual inspection. Some burnt components cannot be seen easily. Bulging components are another good indicator of a problem, especially for electrolytic capacitors.

Troubleshooting problems with naked eyes

Another critical step is a physical inspection with energy applied to the circuit. By touching the surface of the printed circuit board and the components on the board, you can detect hot spots without using an expensive thermal imager. When a hot component is detected, cool it with compressed air to test circuit operation with the element at lower temperatures. When physically touching a live circuit, you should take several precautions. Make sure only one hand contacts the circuit at any one time. 

Perform testing of discrete components

Testing each component is often the most effective technique for troubleshooting PCB issues. Testing each resistor, capacitor, diode, transistor, inductor, LED, and discrete active components can be done with a multi-meter or LCR meter. Diodes and transistors can be checked using the diode test mode. 

Testing ICs on the Printed Circuit

The most complex components to verify are ICs. Their markings can quickly identify most, and many can be operationally tested using scopes and logic analyzers. Nevertheless, the number of ICs specialized in various PCB configurations, and designs can make them very challenging. 

Component failure is a truth.

Component errors and failures are an unpleasant fact. Sometimes circuit boards are made with errors, components can be soldered in the reverse or wrong position, and parts look bad. On the other hand, PCB failure is common after long service life. Solving printed circuit problems can be a monumental task that overloads the will and the mind. Fortunately, with our recommendations, you can do it without giving maximum effort.