The printed circuit board (PCB) is the “brains” of your technology, and therefore critical to a device’s operation. When considering how to protect the PCB, barcode labels come into play, enabling automatic identification.
The data contained on a PCB barcode label includes:
- When and where the board was made,
- Solder temperature,
- Flux density,
- Component lot numbers, and
- Test data.
This information helps track the PCB from the bare board to the completed unit, so you have real-time data on inventory, work-in-progress, and other essential information that improves your operational efficiency.
While electronic equipment manufacturers appreciate the value of automated data collection, the challenge has been finding the right barcode label and label printer for printed circuit boards.
PCB barcodes need to be scannable, even at a tiny size, and they must withstand heat and chemicals without shrinking, curling up, or falling off. With solder temps rising to 550°F, the choice of printer, label material and adhesive is critical.
Here are a few features to look for in your thermal barcode label printer.
1. Superior precision and tight registration
The placement of the barcode must be consistent throughout the print run. With a small (micro) label, there’s no room for shifting. A barcode that drifts off the label is useless.
2. High-resolution printing
Look for higher resolution, like 600 dpi, to produce scannable barcodes at small sizes (e.g., ¼” x ¼”), with fonts less than 10 point, and/or regulatory symbols smaller than six point. The Zebra Xi Series is a good example of a thermal printer that meets this criteria. For more on which print resolution to choose, watch a [Video]: What DPI?
Choose a printer that consistently outputs the labels you need, within the environmental conditions you’re printing in. It will likely have to stand up to changes in temperature and humidity, and not every printer is that hardy. A good fit may be the Zebra Xi Series 110Xi4.
4. Easy troubleshooting
On occasions when your barcode label printer is having difficulty, you should have an early warning system in the printer’s interface.
You might need to be able to change labels and specifications throughout the day, depending on the PCBs you’re manufacturing. Easy media loading and customizable menus expedite the process and reduce downtime.
Not sure what printer works best for you? Check out Zebra’s Printer Portfolio.
Next, evaluate the barcode label itself, which includes the media and the adhesive combination.
1. You will need a synthetic material for the thermal transfer printer.
2. Make sure the labels are tested and certified to withstand high heat.
Feel free to use Zebra’s media selector to help narrow down the best option for your requirements.
If you need help finding the right barcode labeling solution for your PCBs or other traceability challenges, our team of tech experts are waiting to help you!
About the Author
Elyse is a member of L-Tron’s Content Education Team. She is a proud RIT Alum with a passion for digital content education, creation and data collection solutions. She dances to any beat, even songs in her head, and could eat breakfast food all day long. She can be reached at (800)-830-9523 or info@L-Tron.com