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Learning More About Technology

When I realized that I wanted to go back to school, I stopped to think about what I would need to do. It had been years since I cracked open a textbook, much less learned something new on a computer. However, I wanted to succeed, so I started to learn more about technology. I spent hours brushing up on my computer troubleshooting skills and when I was done, I felt a little more prepared. After I started school, I learned even more. I made this blog to teach other people a little about technology, so that you can keep up with your peers.

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Learning More About Technology

How Can You Get Started In The PCB Repair Business?

by Alyssa Bates

If you've always been interested in taking appliances and electronics apart and figuring out what makes them work, you may have the skills needed to begin a lucrative home-based computer repair business. As computers continue to become smaller and more powerful, they rely more and more on the ultra-thin data connections contained on the printed circuit board (PCB) -- and when a PCB malfunctions, immediate repair or replacement is needed to keep the system running. Read on to learn more about several common PCB repairs that will quickly make you the "go to" person for local businesses and individuals suffering from circuit board issues. 

What is a PCB?

If a computer can be compared to a human body, the PCB is the nervous system -- it uses conductors etched into a thin copper sheet to connect the various mechanical components of an electronic device. By allowing each component to communicate with all others, a PCB ensures that a computing device operates quickly and accurately. 

PCBs can be made as simple or complex as necessary for the device they're intended to power. Some PCBs include multiple layers of copper conductors to help perform thousands of processing tasks simultaneously, while those used for simpler machines (like calculators) may have only a single copper layer with relatively few connections. Because each PCB operates under the same basic design principles, once you've learned to perform repairs on simple PCBs, you should be able to transfer these skills to more complex circuits.  

Which PCB repair methods should you learn before soliciting customers?

Because circuit boards are so small and slim, there are certain components that can be easily damaged if not properly protected. For example, a laptop computer that is repeatedly dropped on a hard surface may dislodge the copper sheet from within the connector, or sever some of the thin connections contained on this sheet. A computer that doesn't have adequate ventilation or cooling equipment may overheat, causing the rigid portion of the PCB to melt and corrupt the connections. Once you're able to diagnose these issues and perform some of the below repair methods, you should be able to remove and replace damaged components to restore the PCB to like-new condition. 

Soldering

Knowing how to effectively solder very small pieces of metal is crucial when making certain repairs to a PCB. Soldering helps fuse separate pieces of metal together to form a solid connection, ideal for repairing broken circuits or adding additional circuits to an existing board.

While soldering can seem relatively simple once you have the basics down, attention to detail is crucial. If you skip or rush through the steps to prepare the surfaces for soldering, your connection will be weakened and could have a domino effect, causing additional PCB failures.

You'll need to start the process by applying melted flux to the surface to be soldered. This flux helps remove any remaining oxides from the metal surfaces, allowing a solid connection to form. You'll also need to ensure that the soldering tip is at the proper temperature. Many experts recommend beginning with a 500 degree Fahrenheit soldering tip and then adjusting the temperature upward if this proves insufficient to adequately melt the solder.

By practicing this technique on some simple circuit boards you may have around the house, you'll quickly be able to get a feel for successful soldering.  

Component removal

Removing damaged components from a PCB is also essential when it comes to the repair process. There are a variety of methods to accurately remove damaged components, and the appropriate approach will depend on where the component is located and how badly it has been damaged. 

One way to remove soldered components is to desolder them -- essentially performing the same process required to solder them together, but instead disconnecting them once the solder has melted enough to allow the components to move freely. This solder will then be quickly vacuumed away, restoring your board to its pre-solder state and allowing you to remove the damaged component and replacing and soldering a new component.

Another effective method is to remove certain types of components using hot air or gas. Unlike desoldering, this process doesn't require you to touch the component, and can be useful when dealing with especially delicate parts.

Once you've toyed with several component removal methods and are somewhat skilled at soldering components, you should be ready to accept assignments from paying customers who are dealing with faulty PCB components that must be replaced. As your skills continue to improve, you may even expand into PCB customization, adding additional components to enhance the processing speed or power of the PCB. 

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