List of Common Technical Terms in PCB Fabrication

Printed circuit boardThere are so many technical terms when it comes to the fabrication of printed circuit boards (PCBs) that an ordinary person would be lost when they encounter them.This article will reveal some of the most common PCB fabrication terminologies and their meanings.

Here they are:

1. Additive method

A method in PCB fabrication where copper is placed directly onto the board following the PCB design instead of etching.Opposite of the subtractive method.

2. AOI

Automatic Optical Inspection. This is a computer software used to locate errors in the design of a printed circuit board.


Bill of Materials. This is simply a list of electronic parts that will be used in a specific design of a PCB. The list must include descriptions of each piece and references to their functions. BOM is commonly used when ordering electronic components from suppliers.

4. CAD

Computer Aided Design. This is a computer software used to design circuit board layouts.

5. CAM

Computer Aided Manufacturing. The term CAM files is actually more widely used. CAM files are the final product of a PCB design. These are the files sent to a PCB manufacturer for processing. Some types of CAM files are Gerber, NC Drill, and pen plotter files. Today, the industry standard are Extended Gerber files or RS274X.

6. CAS

Computer Aided System. Similar to Computer Aided Design (CAD).

7. Gerber file

Is one of the data outputs of CAD. This is the current industry standard, specifically the Extended Gerber or RS274X.

8. HDI

High Density Interconnect. This is the most modern PCB configuration after single-sided laminate, double-sided laminate, and multi-layer.

9. Laminating presser

A device used in multi-layer PCB fabrication that gives pressure and heat to laminate stacked up boards.

10. Laser photoplotter

This device is an upgrade from the vector photoplotter. It uses lasers to create a finer image from CAD files.

11. Route

A layout of a connection in the circuit; the act of making or designing such connection.

12. NC Drill

Numeric Controlled Drill. This is a computer-controlled device used to drill holes on a PCB. This is also popularly known as CNC drill.

13. NC Drill file

A data text file containing specific instructions on the exact locations of holes to be drilled on a PCB.

14. PCB database

This is the collection of all important data regarding a PCB design. This is stored as computer files.

15. Plated-thru hole

A hole in the PCB that is metal-plated to be a soldering point or a via.

16. PWA

Printed Wiring Assembly. Another term for Printed Circuit Board (PCB).

17. PWB

Printed Wiring Board. This is an empty PCB, without any electronic parts or components yet. There is already a pattern printed on it, but without the parts soldered onto it, it is not yet considered a PWA.

18. Schematic Diagram

an image that represents electronic components, connections, and functions of a certain circuit design.

Printed-circuit-boards19. SMT

Surface Mount Technology. This is one of two methods of attaching or soldering electronic components on a PCB. This method uses shorter legs on its components which are directly soldered on the surface of the board.

20. Subtractive method

A method in PCB fabrication when you take away existing metal coating to reveal the required PCB layout. Opposite of the additive method.

21. Through-hole Technology

This is one of two methods of soldering and mounting electronic pieces on a PCB. The components have long legs that are inserted in holes and then soldered with lead on the other side.

22.Vector photoplotter

This is a device used for plotting CAD images on photographic film. This is slowly replaced by laser photoplotter which gives faster and more accurate images.

23. Via

This is a plated hole in a multi-layered PCB than can electronically connect all the layers to each other.


PCB fabrication is a multi-step process that is mostly carried by PCB machines. PCB fabrication is all about the assembly of circuit boards used in electronics and computers.