Blog  /  PCB Hardware: Performance Enhancing Hardware for Your Circuit Board

PCB Hardware: Performance Enhancing Hardware for Your Circuit Board

After assembling your PCB board and testing it to ensure everything works as required, the next step is mounting it. You need several items to ensure the board sits and performs optimally in its housing. For this, you need PCB hardware, and we have listed what you need to mount your board successfully.

Why is PCB Hardware Important?

When assembling a PCB, you need some hardware pieces to help you mount the board in its cabinet, junction box, or appliance. In other words, you cannot place the board without securing it and attaching extra hardware to ensure it works optimally. The hardware pieces needed for these purposes are the PCB hardware.

 

Assembled PCB

Assembled PCB

 

Components of PCB Mounting Hardware

 

You need the following items.

 

PCB Supports

 

Also known as PCB support pillars or posts, these supports hold a circuit board in place, providing a stable, secure hold. Additionally, they provide insulation and protection from the soldered electrical joints.

 

 

 

Lego pieces as electronic standoffs and spacers

Source: Flickr

 

The component can be plastic or metallic. Plastic supports are lighter and easier to install than their metallic counterparts. The mounting options/types are different and include the following.

 

Self-Adhesive PCB Support

 

Adhesive base supports don't require mounting holes, creating time and space efficiencies.

 

Snap-Lock

 

Snap-lock posts fit and lock into a panel/chassis hole, creating a secure but easy-to-release fix.

 

Snap-Fit

 

Snap-fit pillars push quickly into a chassis hole, saving time during installation. Generally, they provide sturdy and efficient support and include types like a bayonet, edge lock, and fir tree.

 

Press Fit/ Blind Hole

 

This pillar contains blind hole fins that hold securely into the panel hole. Also, they feature a painted style that fits easily into slots with space restrictions.

 

Threaded

 

  • Undercut: These pillars give a more secure fit by fixing the board into the thread.
  • Standard: Such supports hold the board via a nut that you can release or tighten.
  • Self-Tapping: Require no nuts or washers because they have self-tapping threads.

 

PCB Spacers

 

As the name suggests, spacers help keep some spacing between PCBs and their positioning. They are common in consumer electronics and data cabinets with limited spaces.

 

Spacers and Standoffs

Spacers and Standoffs

Source: Wikimedia Commons

 

Spacers fall into different categories, which include the following.

 

Material

 

Ceramic spacers are ideal for high-temperature applications. On the other hand, plastic spacers are affordable and corrosion-resistant. Also, they are lightweight and provide good mechanical properties.

 

Body Shape

 

The spacer length and internal diameter can vary, but the available shapes include round standoff or hexagonal spacers. These can either be threaded or unthreaded with male or female connector ends. Other varieties include self-tapping and metric threaded standoff.

 

Card Guides

 

PCB card guides are mounting hardware used to fit circuit boards in tight spaces, usually in electrical cabinets or racks. Additionally, they keep the PCB from bending. They come in different types, which include the following.

  • Adhesive backs
  • Snap-in
  • Screw card guides
  • Push-fit guides

Also, you can categorize them by material, leaving you with acetal, nylon, polycarbonate, ABS, polystyrene, and PVC. These have operating temperatures ranging between -40°C to 140°C (-40°F to 284°F).

 

Card Guides Fitted

Card Guides Fitted

Source: Wikimedia Commons.

 

Card Ejectors and Pullers

 

Also known as extractors, inserters, or circuit card pullers, card ejectors help relieve stress in circuits. They do so by pulling the board out of restricted spaces. They mount on the board and have handles you can use to pull out the PCB. Essentially, they act as levers, utilizing mechanical strength against the chassis/guide rack to force out the board.

Also, you can use the piece of hardware to push the board back into position. Therefore, it comes in handy if you are experiencing extraction/insertion issues. These issues typically occur when dealing with tight-gripping multi-pin edge connectors and large boards.

 

PCB Mounting Blocks

 

Mounting blocks create a secure connection if using solderless connectors. They are ideal for mounting PCBs and tiny panels at right angles. Also, they provide both electrical properties and mechanical strength.

 

Fuse Covers

 

Fuse covers envelop electrical fuses for insulation and protection from liquids and contamination. They include rigid/solid, flexible, transparent, quick fit, and holder covers.

 

Fuse covers

Fuse covers

Source: Wikimedia Commons

 

PCB Fan Accessories

 

Fan accessories are essential because they assist with heat management. Technically, they don't help transfer heat, but they safeguard the fan, whose work is to blow or transfer heat out of the PCB. They include the following.

 

Fan Gasket

 

This accessory provides noise and vibration insulation while preventing air leaks. It seals the tiny gap between the fan and housing, improving efficiency, minimizing feedback airflow, and reducing pressure losses.

 

Fan Guard

 

Fan guards keep dust and water particles from getting to the PCB. Most are plastic or metallic, and the choice between the two should depend on your preferred strength or appearance. Besides that, plastic fan guards are more versatile because you can mount them by screwing or snap-in. However, you can only install metal fan guards by screw-mount application.

 

A fan guard

A fan guard

Source: Wikimedia Commons

 

Fan Mounts

 

This accessory helps secure and position your fan. The anti-vibration rubber fan mounts are usually elastomer made (ABS or silicone rubber) and assist in noise reduction.

 

Fan Filters

 

Filters prevent dust and small particles in the fan's airflow from getting into its internal mechanisms and causing internal damage. Aluminum and stainless-steel filters allow more air to flow freely than the felt type, but the increased airflow comes with more dust. However, they are easier to clean, take up less space, and feature a sleeker design.

 

An aluminum fan filter

An aluminum fan filter

Source: Wikimedia Commons

 

But it is more convenient to get a filter set because it contains a filter cover, finger guard, felt filter, and mesh filter.

 

A used felt filter bag

A used felt filter bag

Source: Wikimedia Commons

 

Fan Rivets

 

Instead of using screws and nuts when mounting the fan, it is easier to use rivets.

 

Two fan screws and spacers on the left

Two fan screws and spacers on the left

Source: Flickr

 

You can either use push-fan or fan-snap rivets for this installation.

 

LED Mounting Hardware

 

LED mounting hardware like LED spacer mounts hold the position and restrict the movement of your LED lights. The spacers also elevate the LEDs from the board's surface for better stability, height conformity, and rigidity.

Other components include LED mounts, which contain holes to pass the leads through before soldering the LED. Even though thru-hole LED sizes can vary, the spacer must have the precise hole number to accommodate the attached leads.

 

SMD LEDs on PCB

SMD LEDs on PCB

 

Screw Grommets

 

These pieces help secure panels. Most are metallic, but you can also use plastic screw grommets to fasten PCBs on racks or cabinets.

 

Transistor Insulators

 

Lastly, transistor insulators help transfer heat efficiently from the transistors to the heatsinks. The alternative is to use thermal grease, but this option is messy and laborious.

 

How to Choose PCB Hardware?

 

There are four things to consider when choosing which PCB hardware to buy.

 

Application Area

 

If installing the PCB in white goods, go for hardware components that provide aesthetics and heat stability. For automotive applications, look for lightweight, miniaturized, and reliable components with the advantage of heat stabilization.

PCBs in data/electrical cabinets or other applications with space restrictions require limited space solutions. On the other hand, office machinery and consumer electronics need highly conductive and insulative PCB hardware design.

 

Mounting Type

 

As described earlier, there are five mounting types. The snap-in, threaded, blind-hole, and snap-lock options require mounting holes, but the adhesive base type does not need them.

 

Typical TO-3 mounting profile

Typical TO-3 mounting profile

Source: Wikimedia Common

 

PCB Substrate Type

 

Flexible PCBs work well with snap-fit or snap-in components, while rigid boards require spacers for support.

 

Material Type

 

PCB hardware can either be plastic or metallic. With plastic, the materials used are usually ABS, PVC, nylon, acetal, polycarbonate, or polystyrene materials. They have the advantage of being lightweight, corrosion-resistant, non-conductive, and affordable.

Metallic hardware can be stainless steel, brass, steel, or aluminum. Such components help maintain electrical conductivity in a circuit, have high tensile strength, and can withstand high temperatures.

 

Summary

 

To sum up, PCB hardware is critical for efficient circuit board mounting. This hardware includes several components, each with a specific function. If you need further advice on which hardware to purchase for your project, send your message in the chats or contact form.