Through-hole versus Surface Mount

Many older electronic designs use through-hole components, which are usually manually placed onto circuit boards before they can be soldered. While some components are best kept as through-hole, such as connectors, most can be replaced with surface mount equivalents. Let’s look at why this might be a good idea.

When we work with through-hole components, the following happens for larger jobs:

  1. Manually place the through-hole components
  2. Use our wave solderer to solder all the through-hole components on the board
  3. Clean the boards

The wave solderer itself has an associated set-up and clean-up cost as well. (Note: some manufacturers use “selective soldering” for this task, which has a few advantages over wave soldering.) For small jobs it is usually cheaper and easier to manually solder the through-hole components. However, labour is not very cheap compared to machines.

On the other hand, for surface-mount components provided on a reel, we load the reel into a feeder element, mount the element in the feeder trolley and program the feeder. Then the pick and place machine does the rest. Once again, there is a set-up cost associated with each type of component, but if you are wanting hundreds of boards or more, surface mount components are the way to go.

Components on a reel, loaded onto a feeder element
Component feeders in a feeder trolley

Author: Sandra Bogerd

Music: composer, singer-songwriter, recording artist, conductor. Language: author (A. L. Uitdenbogerd) of the Gnomeville comic book series for absolute beginners in French. Work: Director of R&D and assistant manufacturing engineer for Agile Electronics; RMIT associate with computer science research interests in music, language, and HCI. Business: co-director of Ad Hoc Software Pty Ltd and Agile Electronics.

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