Basic Printed Circuit Troubleshooting Techniques

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PCB Because you can’t easily escape the possibility of component failure, you need to address it by knowing a few troubleshooting techniques. There will be an instance where a particular component is soldered in the wrong place, which could essentially lead to a circuit not working properly. Worse, it may not work at all. It is not that easy performing printed circuit board troubleshooting, so you have to equip yourself with the right knowledge on basic troubleshooting, and a few tools to help you with this task.

Printed circuit board troubleshooting is difficult primarily because of a number of factors, which includes the size of its parts, signal analysis, the amount of layers, and the kinds of components found in the board. If you’re working on a less-complicated PCB, troubleshooting should not require you to have any other tools other than an oscilloscope, LCR meter, logic analyzer, and a power supply.

The first thing you need to perform is a visual inspection of the PCB –

This can easily give you ideas on where the issue exactly lies. By simply checking the PCB, you can determine problems such as one or more components being burned out or missing, traces overlapping, and possible overheating.

However, damages caused by too much current or tinier components being burnt may only be observed with the help of a magnifying glass. There are also times when mere sniffing of the printed circuit board could tell that something is wrong, and a particular component may be damaged.

After visual inspection, you can then carry on with applying power to the problematic circuit. You can easily detect hotspots through this way by simply touching the printed circuit boards surface, as well as its components. You don’t need a pricey thermo graphic camera just to perform this procedure. As soon as you feel that a particular component is hot, you can cool it down by using compressed air. This allows you to perform a circuit operation test with the component being at low temperature. If you are attempting this part of the troubleshooting process, make sure you’re practicing safety precautions and that you’re testing a circuit that has a low voltage.

Before trying to touch a circuit with power, you should make sure you’re only using one hand at a time –

This is because electrical shock could be transmitted to your heart if you use both hands at the same time, and this could prove to be fatal. What you want to do is always keep your other hand inside your pocket, so even if you’re working on a live circuit, there would be no chance that you’d experience a shock like this. You should also ensure that every possible current paths leading to the ground are disconnected to minimize any undesirable experiences.

By touching a certain region within the circuit, you can alter the circuit’s impedance. This will affect how the entire system will behave and is useful for determining regions where additional capacitance is necessary for the system to work properly.

The most efficient way of troubleshooting the printed circuit board is testing each of its components. This is where you’d find an LCR meter or a millimeter very handy, as any of these can test parts such as the inductor, diode, capacitor, resistor, and other active components. If a component registers a value equal or less than its stated value, it means there’s no problem with it. However, if the value is significantly higher, it means that it is not soldered correctly or the component itself is in poor working condition. If you’re thinking about unpowered testing, which is where power is applied only to one component, you should consider nodal analysis.


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