Solder Masks in Circuit Boards

circuit boards

Often, solder masks are not required in circuit boards. A solder mask is a coating applied to a circuit board to prevent corrosion and to allow for greater voltages to be placed near one another. Circuit boards that have solder masks are also often silkscreened. This process allows for labels to be put on without risking having them accidentally be a part of the circuit. The silkscreened ink of these labels allows them to be placed directly on the board without interfering with the circuit. When labeling happens without silk-screening boards, then corrosion is more likely to happen with those labels and the possibility of an interference increases as well.



Safety

circuit boards

The main reason for there being a solder mask and a silkscreen is to prevent the conductivity of the copper from getting to things such as labels. It also prevents things like ink from interfering with the circuit. This protective coating is very noticeably green and is what most people see when they see a circuit board for the first time. All it does is protect the corrosive layer from interfering with the circuit and maintains the integrity of the circuit board and the product.



Partial Solder Mask

circuit boards

Some designers and manufacturers opt for a partial solder mask, protecting the most at prone areas for corrosion while leaving some other areas unprotected. This is a common practice as well and it depends on the process that the PCB is being used for. Some areas are not as prone to corrosion and they can last longer.



Creating One

A soldier mask will incur extra costs. However, the cost is minimal for the amount of savings that can result from having a circuit board last longer. The most common way to acquire a solder mask and a silkscreen is to have one custom built and assembled. A hobbyist can make their own by using UV resistant paint. Applying a silkscreen layer and a solder mask layer in most design programs is relatively easy to accomplish.

circuit boards

Without a solder mask layer, any copper etchings that are created are automatically conductive and it can cause a bridge if the corrosion is too great. A silkscreen layer and a solder mask is normally not applied during the prototyping phase in the beginning to test its conductivity, checking for bridges, and because of its lower costs. Hobbyists and rookies often do not see the point of having a silkscreen and a solder mask until it is too late for their early projects. One of the biggest mistakes that a designer can make is not including a solder mask. Alternatively, one of the most common mistakes that a manufacturer could make is to cut corners by not including one in their services. A solder mask is a very important layer to add on despite the extra cost that is incurred. Most experienced designers and experts in safety will attest to the usefulness of adding the layer for the sake of safety and effectiveness.