What Are Surface Mounted Devices and Why Do They Matter?

Sometimes, it feels like technology is developing faster than I can hope to keep up with.  Still, I do my best to keep myself in the know, despite the challenges that can come with that.  If you’re like me or are already a total tech junkie, hopefully, this article will provide useful insights!

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Surface-mount technology, or SMT for short, has made a big impression in the last few years.  It’s becoming a popular form of fitting components.  Devices made in this fashion are called surface-mounted devices, or SMDs.  If you aren’t sure what any of that means, continue reading for some explanations!

What is Surface-Mount Technology?

To get a proper grasp of what SMDs are, we must first understand SMT.  You can get some good background details on this page, if you’ve lost so far.  Hopefully, it can offer a baseline of knowledge. 

It was invented back in the 1960s.  However, it did not gain much popularity at first.  It was still only about ten percent of the industry in the 1980s.  It took a long time for people to realize its usefulness.

The decade in which it took off was the 1990s.  That is partially due to the increasing popularity of video game systems.  You see, they involve a process of putting electrical components onto the surface of a printed circuit board directly.  You might see those circuit boards referred to as PCBs.


How they are Made

The manufacturing process does require a good deal of precision.  There are usually pads on the PCB that are plated in a metal such as silver or gold, as they have high levels of conductivity.  These are solder pads and are fairly important in producing many electronics.

Often, a screen-printing device or printer is used to apply a stencil to the solder.  After that, they are sent on a conveyor belt to have the rest of the parts applied.  If everything has been done correctly, the surface tension will usually result in the components being added in the right alignment.

However, as this process is quite complex, it does not always happen that way.  Either way, most of the resulting surface mounted devices are cleaned and inspected before being shipped.  Hopefully, this technological jargon hasn’t been too boring – I just think it’s good to know where our items come from!

Why it Matters

You might be thinking that this isn’t important for the people who want to use them, but it is!  You see, there is another technique called the through-hole, but there are a few advantages that SMDs have over this.  So, when looking at circuit boards, it is good to know the differences between these manufacturing methods.

One of those benefits is having smaller components.  This might not seem like a good thing in some cases, as perhaps those smaller pieces would get lost, but in these situations, it is positive.  You see, more can fit on one PCB. 

This means that there will be a higher density of components, and more connections can be made, which is a good thing.  We want to increase the connection capacity without needing to make the circuit board larger.  Additionally, this allows them to be placed on both sides of the board when applicable.

If there are errors, they are generally corrected via the natural process of the surface tension of the solder pad shifting the alignment over time.  Because of this, they generally perform better under stressful conditions.  This includes shock or vibrations, as just a few examples.

You can read a bit more about that here, https://www.techopedia.com/definition/12371/surface-mount-device-smd, which explains some of the common devices that we see that use this technology.  Perhaps the most obvious ones are smartphones, which most people are familiar with nowadays.

As you can probably imagine, using this technique means fewer holes must be drilled in the circuit boards.  It can be expensive and take a lot of time, so lessening the need for this can be a big time-saver.  It also means that you can have a lower cost for the initial setup of mass production, as it is not as intensive as the other techniques.

Mass production can be done with automated assembly, meaning it can go quite quickly.  Even some machines can produce a large number of components in just an hour.  So, you can make more for a lower cost – that is certainly efficient!

Should You Try it?

If you’re looking to increase your productivity and efficiency in terms of manufacturing circuit boards, it is likely a worthwhile thing to try out.  If you’re a technology company looking to utilize surface-mounted devices or are at least considering trying them out, I recommend researching the benefits.

I mentioned some reasons to use the production technique above, but what is good about using these SMDs?  There are plenty of reasons to at least give it a try.  For example, thinner and more flexible, meaning they are less likely to break compared to the through-hole options.

In addition to that, purchasing them tends to cost less than the through-hole options because they do not require drilling in the production process.  This shaves a lot of extra expenses.  Even the packaging and transport are generally more affordable.

The final note I would like to make is that they also have good signal transmission rates and high frequency.  What does this mean?  Data is transferred where it needs to go quickly and frequently, which is a nice perk.

So, if you’re in the technology industry at all, I would recommend at least getting familiar with surface-mounted tech and devices.  It could help out your endeavors!

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