Differences between PCB and PCBA

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Nowadays, we have more and more elctronic products of different functons in our daily life. There is a crucial part in all of these electronic products-PCBA. People also frequently talk about PCB. Then, what’s the difference between PCB and PCBA? In many cases, people are confused by them. In this article, we will give you some clues.

Difference in Name

PCB is an abbreviation of Printed Circuit Board. Some people also referre to it as “circuit board” or “PC board”. “PCBA = PCB + Assembly”. We can put it in this way, a board without assembled electronic components is called PCB, while a board with assembled electronic components is called PCBA.

Difference in Functionality

PCB is a board (carrier) with printed electronic circuits. It must carry electronic components on it for the their full functionality. It also provides the communication channels between electronic components.
PCB can be regarded as one of the most important electronic parts in today’s electronics industry. It is the support body of electronic components and the carrier of electrical connections between electronic components.

PCBA can basically be regarded as a finished product (Finished Goods), because some factories will produce and sell PCBAs (for example computer motherboards). The PCB can basically only be regarded as a component. The PCB is an important component in the entire PCBA, other components like the integrated circuit (IC), resistors, capacitors, etc. are welded to the PCB.

How are electronic components arranged on PCB to form PCBA?

SMT (Surface Mount Technology)

The mainstream PCBA assembly is called “SMT (Surface Mount Technology)”. With this assembly techology, the solder paste is first applied on the empty board, and then the electronic components are attached to the PCB. The PCB then flows back to the high-temperature soldering furnace to ensure the components are soldered to the PCB through solder paste.

DIP (Dual In-line Package)

“Wave soldering” technology may be found in some cases of PCBA assemblies. Generally, there will be some electronic components on the assembly board that are relatively heavy or need to withstand external force insertion and removal. Such components cannot be fixed to the PCB with the SMT technology because SMT is not applicable technically or the cost of SMTing these components is too high.

These components will be designed as DIP (Dual In-line Package) components, which flow through the wave soldering furnace and get soldered to PCB. There are also designs that use SMT and wave soldering technologies simultaneously to achieve the purpose of soldering to the PCB. DIP components are pin-based electronics, usually larger in size, strong in vibration resistance, and more stable than SMT components.

A Simple Way to Understand the Differences in PCB and PCBA

We can imagine the PCB as a piece of land. The PCB is the land already filled with roads, and electronic components are the cities and towns. The PCB is the carrier of various components just like a land for towns or cities. PCB is a well-planned land on which roads have been built, waiting for someone to put towns (components) with different functions to specific locations. After all the electronic components are assembled onto the PCB, it is called PCBA.


In a word, PCBA is an assembly on PCB with other additional electronic components. When you are looking for potential suppliers of PCBA, don’t use the wrong keyword “PCB supplier”, but “PCBA supplier” instead.

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