Printed circuit boards don't last forever – even the most expensive ones.
Despite this unfortunate reality, there are still plenty of proactive steps that can be taken in order to extend the life of one's circuit boards and potentially put off the need for circuit board repairs a little longer.
The number one reason printed circuit boards need repair is aging components. Unfortunately, this is pretty much out of the owner's control. The second biggest reason they end up in repair though is due to damage caused by dirt, heat, moisture, and neglect/accidents. This arena, on the other hand, is certainly one that can be monitored and attended to.
The following are some simple and straightforward tips on how to save money on downtime and repairs with good circuit board maintenance by being cleaning house, being proactive, and using good storage and handling techniques instead of waiting until the PCB stops working to address issues.
- Clean the dust that accumulates on the PCB boards every 3 to 6 months.
- Regularly check PCB components to look for obvious trace damage (usually caused by overheating). Look for signs like burn marks, solder blobs, and broken traces. Check the electrolytic capacitors for bulging or leakage.
- Check connectors for signs of corrosion which is especially common with edge connectors.
- If using a device coated with thermal grease, check to see if the thermal grease is dried. If it has become overly dry, gently wipe it out and then coat with new thermal grease to aid with heat dissipation – especially important since excessive heat will result in damage.
- Store electronic equipment in moisture vapor barrier bags (MBBs).
- Use desiccant bags to absorb moisture and include a moisture/humidity card which can detect any moisture. This will indicate if the storage bag has been compromised.
- Keep spare circuit boards at a consistent and cool temperature – between 60° and 70°F.
- If there are many circuit boards or other electronics stored, invest in a moisture-free environment. The best choice is a dry atmosphere cabinet (drybox) to maintain a very low humidity (>5% relative humidity). By using this type of cabinet, one can forego the MVBs.
- Locate electronics storeroom away from dirt, temperature extremes, and moisture, as well as excess vibration. It is best to have a dedicated and secure storeroom with strict access records on what parts come and go.
If a circuit board has run out of warranty and is in need of repair, contact an independent industrial electronic repair center. A good electronic repair center should offer free evaluations for damaged equipment and, if needed, a free quote for repairs (no bench fees!). They should also provide circuit board repair reports, if requested, and a warranty of at least one year that covers both parts and labor.