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PCB vs PCBA-What is the Differences

Technological advancements over the past decade have been nothing short of awe-inspiring. These feats of human genius and innovation would mean nothing without an important piece that serves as the cornerstone: the PCB vs PCBA.


Together, we will examine what makes them unique and how to differentiate one from the other.

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Technological advancements over the past decade have been nothing short of awe-inspiring. These feats of human genius and innovation would mean nothing without an important piece that serves as the cornerstone: the PCB vs. PCBA.

Together, we will examine what makes them unique and how to differentiate one from the other.

1. PCB vs PCBA– What is a PCB?/PCB meaning

A PCB (Printed Circuit Board)is a compulsory module that we use to connect electrical components. The board uses pads, conductive traces, and other copper-etched features to facilitate the functions of electrical devices effectively.

Experts then place one component individually on the substrate and solder to the appropriate interconnecting circuits. The substrate has ‘contact fingers’ along the edges that connect to external devices or other PCBs.

The majority of the electrical devices we use these days run off PCBs. From virtual devices like radios and pagers to sophisticated instruments like radar equipment and computers. The PCB circuits can be configured to perform single or multiple functions as desired.

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1.1 PCB vs PCBATypes of PCB

Now that you know what a PCB is, you should know we have more than one kind of PCB. There are mainly three types of PCB, and they are:

Single-sided PCB

A single-sided PCB has all its components installed on only one side of the board. Proper construction ensures that all components are well-sited and secured.

Double-sided PCB

A double-sided PCB is used when the components to be placed are too much for a single side. Electrical connections between both sides are enabled by drilling holes straight through the substrate in strategic positions. Internal pores coated with a conductive material to achieve efficient current.

Multi-layered PCB

Consecutively printing layers of circuitry design a multi-layered board on each other, separated by layers of insulating material. The fabricator connects the components on the surface to the appropriate circuits by drilling plated holes to the desired layer.

PCBs are crucial to every aspect of our daily life. The appliances and resources we utilize to keep our lives running rely on printed circuit boards. Read on to learn how this fantastic technology design is the design.

1.2 Design

The design of a PCB offers limitless possibilities. Each board’s design allows it to carry out a specific function for a unique product. Experts employ CAD (computer-aided design) systems and dedicated software to lay out the board’s circuit pattern for PCB design. A board designer must maximize the allotted space for the board and achieve the desired functions.

After the fabricator has laid out the circuitry, a printer etches a negative image (mask) on a transparent plastic sheet with precise dimensions. The cover colors are not part of the design in black, and the circuitry appears clear against the background. The locations for contact-point holes are also easily distinguishable from the overall design.

1.3 PCB vs PCBA–Common Materials Used

You already know the critical processes involved in PCB design. It is nothing short of amazing how a small piece of tech can have such a powerful impact. The importance of PCBs means that only the best and most durable material is used in its creation. Read on to find out what items make up the PCB.

In PCB manufacturing and printing, the substrate material used is usually a glass fiber-reinforced epoxy resin. High-end board production involves pairing the glass fiber-reinforced epoxy with a copper foil bonded to one or both sides of the substrate.

Boards produced using paper-reinforced phenolic resin with a copper foil bonded to it; tend to be less expensive. You can find these PCBs in most household electrical devices and appliances.

The printed circuits of the board consist of copper. The fabricator etches or plates it onto the surface of the substrate in the desired pattern. To prevent oxidation of the copper circuits, manufacturers coat them with a layer of tin-lead, which provides the required protection.

The contact fingers on the outer edges of the substrate are first plated with a tin-lead mixture, followed by nickel, then finally gold for maximum conductivity.

I believe we have covered just about all there is to know about PCBs. However, that’s just one side of the coin. The next chapter will delve into what Printed Circuit Board Assembly(PCBA) is and why it’s so important.

2. PCB vs PCBA– What is a PCBA?

A PCBA stands for Printed Circuit Board Assembly. It refers to the board obtained after all printing and mounting operations have been completed. When choosing PCB vs. PCBA, the critical point is that a PCB is just a board with circuitry printed on it. PCB Rapid Prototyping. 3D PCB Printing makes the PCB and does the Printed Circuit Board Assembly PCBA is the complete package; it has been fitted with all necessary components and is ready for deployment for its desired purpose.

A PCB Rapid Prototyping. 3D PCB Printing makes the PCB, but it also does the Printed Circuit Board Assembly (PCBA will undergo a process known as reflow furnace heating; to help establish a mechanical connection between the board and its accompanying components. The manufacturer can then mount the components onto the PCB Assembly. These components include capacitors, inductors, resistors, diodes, triodes, modules, and more.

3D PCB Printing makes the PCB and does the Printed Circuit Board Assembly (PCBA manufacturing. PCB Assembly Is a delicate process and everyone should take it seriously. Only skilled technicians and specialized computer systems can carryit out. The next chapter talks about the assembly methods used in PCB Rapid Prototyping.

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2.1 PCBA

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There are two primary methods for assembling components in a PCB Rapid Prototyping. 3D PCB Printing not only makes the PCB, but it also does the Printed Circuit Board Assembly (PCBA. These are:

·Surface-Mount Technology (SMT)

This method of PCB Rapid Prototyping. 3D PCB Printing not only makes the PCB, but it also does the Printed Circuit Board Assembly (PCBA is highly suited for small-sized circuits and components. It is a fully automated SMT). This will make it easy for a pick-and-place machine to easily pick and place the details on the PCB (PCB Assembly process that features three main steps. First, the printed circuit board gets a generous application of quality solder paste from the printer. Next, install all the necessary components in their respective locations. Finally, the board passes through a 500-degree furnace that liquefies the solder past, thereby sealing all parts in place.

·PCB vs PCBA–Thru-Hole Device (THD)

THD technology is the result of a combination of both manual and automated operations. It also involves three steps of execution.

During the first step, a technician manually places the electronic components on the board. The second step deals with the inspection and rectification of all set components. In the third step, the whole PCB Assembly undergoes wave soldering.

Wave soldering is the process of passing an assembled board through a wave of liquid solder at 500-degrees Fahrenheit.

3. PCB vs PCBA

So far, we have learned what a PCB is and also how PCB Rapid Prototyping. 3D PCB Printing makes the PCB and does the Printed Circuit Board Assembly (PCBA) works. With this critical knowledge in the bag, it’s time to discover the differences and what sets them apart.

When discussing the critical topic of PCB vs. PCB Rapid Prototyping. 3D PCB Printing makes the PCB and does the Printed Circuit Board Assembly (PCBA); one needs to note the most distinguishing factor. A PCB is only a blank circuitry board, while a PCBA is a fully functional board with the required components attached.We can view the Printed Circuit Board Assembly (PCBA) as such, after the manufacturer has fully developed the PCB.

3.1 PCB vs PCBADifferences

It is essential to be able to spot the differences between a PCB vs. PCB Rapid Prototyping. 3D PCB Printing not only makes the PCB, but it also does the Printed Circuit Board Assembly (PCBA. The significant differences are:

·Manufacturing Procedure

While a PCB Rapid Prototyping. A PCB (printed circuit board) is easier to produce; since it requires no assembly. 3D PCB Printing makes the PCB, but it also makes the Printed Circuit Board Assembly (PCBA) more complicated due to the various components that need to be attached and the subsequent furnace soldering its connections.


For the same board, the cost of manufacturing a PCB is far lower than the cost it takes to produce a unit of PCB Rapid Prototyping. 3D PCB Printing not only makes the PCB, but it also does the Printed Circuit Board Assembly (PCBA. The additional components attached to the PCBA carry substantial costs that ramp up the overall cost of the completed PCBA.


A PCB is a ‘blank board.’ It has no components that facilitate the passage of electricity through it. PCBA, on the other hand, has all the essential details attached and is ready for deployment.


Manufacturers pack PCBs using vacuum packaging. On the other hand they pack PCBAs using compartmental or anti-static packaging.

3.2 PCB vs PCBA–Applications

Our cars, media devices, and home appliances would all be imaginary luxuries if we didn’t have printed circuit boards (PCB)and printed circuit board assembly (PCBA). The applications of PCBs extend across all electrical devices that we use. From simple pagers and alarms to complex machinery like MRIs and radar equipment. Modern society as we know it runs on the back of production film work that you require to manufacture PCBs. In the case of PCBA.

As complexity increases, the boards are optimized to be smaller and more powerful. We are even in the process of developing 3D circuits that offer extraordinary capabilities for such a futuristic design.

How Do PCBs and PCBAs Relate to Each Other?

People sometimes use the terms PCB and PCBA interchangeably (erroneously). While these concepts are related, they’re not essentially the same. 

The PCBA cannot exist without the PCB forming its foundation. The PCB is the core part of the PCBA. Ultimately, the PCB is a clean slate or precursor to what will eventually become a PCBA. Only after a manufacturer situates, fits and applies the necessary components can you consider a PCB a PCBA. 

Soldering Iron Tips Automated Manufacturing

Soldering Iron Tips Automated Manufacturing

What is the Difference Between PCBA and PCB

Ultimately, the PCB is the base product, while the PCBA is its completed form. Essentially, we can consider implementations such as motherboards, power supply boards and even single-board computers (SBCs) as PCBAs. All these examples would not exist without the PCB. 


As with PCB and PCBA, people often use the term printed wiring board (PWB) inappropriately. PCBs and PWBs are fundamentally the same in purpose and usage. However, their structures are slightly different. PWBs are a legacy technology. Like PCBs, they have no electronic components but have copper traces or wiring in place.

In the past, manufacturers and fabricators did not have the technology they have today. They could not automatically draw and etch circuits into boards. As such, they had to manually wire the board and then attach electronic components onto the board on a point-to-point basis. Hence, they referred to them as PWBs and not PCBs.

Female Electronic Manufacturing Employee Clean Suit

Female Electronic Manufacturing Employee Clean Suit

PWBs typically consisted of an epoxy glass substrate. After the component attachment process, we could then refer to them as printed wiring board assemblies (PWBAs) or just printed wiring assemblies (PWAs). These are essentially the same as PCBAs. 

PWBs were eventually phased out and replaced with modern-day PCBs. In contrast to PWBs, engineers perform much of the PCB design and fabrication process through computers. A majority of the fabrication process is automated, allowing manufacturers to mass-produce PCBs.

The fabrication process isn’t the only big difference. PCBs can accommodate more components than PWBs. Thus, PCBAs are far more advanced than PWBAs. Today, despite some key differences some may still refer to PCBs as PWBs. However, as you can see, it’s a deprecated term. 

Choosing Between PCB and PCBA

So now that you’ve explored the differences and similarities between the two technologies, it’s important to examine what circumstances you can use each for.  

Printed circuit boards have no electronic components, making them ideal for educational purposes. Breadboards and prototype boards may be best for beginners. But intermediate and advanced electronic/electric engineers may move on to practicing soldering and electronic component placement on proper PCBs. Similarly, hobbyists can use plain PCBs for their own home projects.

On the other hand, PCBAs are typically intended for specific use cases. While you can still use them for educational purposes, they’re far more appropriate for electronics. PCBAs are typically embedded in larger devices such as computers. As we previously mentioned, you can also use them as single-board devices such as SBCs and microcontrollers.   

Choosing a PCB or PCBA Manufacturer

You need to pick your PCB manufacturer carefully. Factors that must be considered include:

Source of Materials:

While the source will ultimately affect the quality, it isn’t the only reason why you should worry. 

Does your PCB manufacturer source materials ethically? What’s the environmental impact of the materials or the sourcing process? These are just a few of the questions you should be asking when vetting PCB and PCBA manufacturers.

Standards, Credentials and Certifications:

You must establish that the manufacturer is accredited and registered by the relevant governing bodies. 

Some compliance and certifications you should look for include:

  • ISO 9001 
  • RoHS 
  • IATF 16949
  • IPC-A-610F 

In addition to this, you can also try to consult with the candidate manufacturer’s past clients. Some reviews and testimonies are available online.

Technology, Infrastructure and Expertise:

Does the manufacturer have the technology to accommodate your orders efficiently? Some manufacturers offer tours allowing you to see the equipment in real-life, while others have videos and virtual tours. You can also visit their website to see the specifications of their machinery and equipment. It’s best to ascertain whether your candidate manufacturer is using state-of-the-art equipment.

Customer Support

You must ensure the manufacturer has good pre-sale, technical, great service and after-sales consultation and support.    


It is no doubt that PCBs are the essential building blocks of all electrical systems. Our society relies on the continuous performance of circuit boards for the effective running of our affairs. If this fundamental technology were to fail, all human systems that run on electricity would be rendered unusable.

The future holds some exciting prospects for the development of PCBs and PCBA in general. We are steadily edging towards more optimized designs and the ability to pack super complex functionalities into tiny-sized circuit boards.

At WellPCB, we provide PCB and PCBA one-stop services. If you want to learn more about PCB vs. PCBA from certified professionals, click here, and we will connect you to an expert immediately.

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Emma Lu
Our professional engineering support saves our customers a lot of trouble and loss. >>>>>> After you place the order, our engineer will conduct technical reviews to make sure the parts can be mounted well/correctly on the boards. We will check if the component packages match well with the Gerber footprints, if the part numbers you provided match well with the descriptions, and if the polarity is clearly marked. >>>>> When your design is ready, please send your Gerber and BOM so we can quote and start!