Through-hole Assembly
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Through-hole Assembly

In recent years, semiconductor packaging has evolved with an increased demand for greater functionality, smaller size, and added utility. A modern PCBA design has two main methods for mounting components onto a PCB: Through-Hole Mounting and Surface Mounting.  


Through-Hole Mounting (THM):

Through-hole mounting is the process by which component leads are placed into drilled holes on a bare PCB. The process was standard practice until the rise of surface mount technology (SMT) in the 1980s, at which time it was expected to completely phase out through-hole. Yet, despite a severe drop in popularity over the years, through-hole technology has proven resilient in the age of SMT, offering a number of advantages and niche applications: namely, reliability.  

Through-hole components are best used for high-reliability products that require stronger connections between layers. Whereas SMT components are secured only by solder on the surface of the board, through-hole component leads run through the board, allowing the components to withstand more environmental stress. This is why through-hole technology is commonly used in military and aerospace products that may experience extreme accelerations, collisions, or high temperatures. Through-hole technology is also useful in test and prototyping applications that sometimes require manual adjustments and replacements.

Overall, through-hole’s complete disappearance from PCB assembly is a wide misconception. Barring the above uses for through-hole technology, one should always keep in mind the factors of availability and cost. Not all components are available as SMD packages, and some through-hole components are less expensive.

However, that doesn’t negate that fact that, in a modern assembly facility, through-hole is considered a secondary operation.

Axial vs. Radial Lead Components

There are two types of through-hole components: axial and radial lead components. Axial leads run through a component in a straight line ("axially"), with each end of the lead wire exiting the component on either end. Both ends are then placed through two separate holes in the board, allowing the component to fit closer, flatter fit. Radial lead components, on the other hand, protrude from the board, as its leads are located on one side of the component.

Both through-hole component types are "twin" lead components, and both have their distinct advantages. While axial lead components are used for their snugness to the board, radial leads occupy less surface area, making them better for high density boards. Generally, axial lead configuration may come in the form of carbon resistors, electrolytic capacitors, fuses, and light-emitting diodes (LEDs). Radial lead components are available as ceramic disk capacitors.  

Advantages: THM provides stronger mechanical bonds than SMT, making through-hole ideal for components that might undergo mechanical stress, such as connectors or transformers. Good for test and prototyping. 

Disadvantages: On the bare PCB side, THM requires the drilling holes, which is expensive and time consuming. THM also limits the available routing area on any multilayer boards, because the drilled holes must pass through all the PCB’s layers. On the assembly side, component placement rates for THM are a fraction of surface mount placement rates, making THM prohibitively expensive. Further, THM requires the use of wave, selective, or hand-soldering techniques, which are much less reliable and repeatable than reflow ovens used for surface mount. Most of all, through-hole technology requires soldering on both sides of the board, as opposed to surface-mounts, which only -- for the most part -- require attention to one side of the board. 

Contact us

  • Email: sales@jhcircuits.com
  • TEL: 86-755 27584969
  • FAX: 86-755 27584587
  • Add:  Xixiang, Bao'an District
    Shenzhen, China 

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