Ask the Experts
November 7, 2017 - Updated
June 28, 2009 - Originally Posted

How to Clamp Odd Shaped Circuit Boards

If a PCB doesn't have any free edges to hold or clamp the PCB firmly due to components close to the edge, what solution can you offer to handle boards through an auto routing machine?

N. J.

Expert Panel Responses

Check with the manufacturer of your auto routing machine to see if they offer a tooling plate with tooling pins. These will support and position the board without any edge clamps.

Edward Zamborsky
Regional Sales Manager
OK International Inc.
Ed Zamborsky is a Regional Sales & Technical Support Manager for Thermaltronics, located in New York. His position requires frequent customer visits throughout North America and the Caribbean and his position encompasses not only sales but the role of trainer and master applications engineer for all of Thermaltronics products. His expertise includes such specialties as hand soldering, convection and conduction reflow techniques, array rework, fluid dispensing equipment, and fume extraction. Ed has authored many articles and has presented many papers on topics such as; Low Volume SMT Assembly, Solder Fume Extraction, SMT Rework, BGA Rework, Lead-Free Hand Soldering, High Thermal Demand Hand Soldering, Lead Free Visual Inspection and Lead Free Array Rework.

I would use or buy a vacuum plate, these are available from machine shop supply distributors. They are typically about an inch thick, have a vacuum pump and hose. Clamp the plate to your router table and lay the PC board on the vacuum plate. The vacuum should easily hold it in place. Hope that solves your problem. Now I am curious how you plan to support the board during component assembly and soldering.

Ken Bliss
President & CEO - Retired
Bliss Industries, Inc.
Retired - Mr. Bliss has 20+ years experience creating process methods that improve profitability by maximizing hidden unused capacity and throughput. Ken has expertise in all areas of manufacturing specializing in electronics assembly.

"Routing is the most reliable and low-stress option to depaneling assembled PCBs. Odd shaped and small PCBs can be held securely in place until the last cut by means of a custom fixture that is specially designed for the circuit card with pins and side wall mounts. In addition, the boards are assisted in holding their position with a bottom side vacuum suction that not only secures the board but also keeps dust and debris to a minimum during the depaneling process. For ease of pick up of multiple assembled circuit boards on one panel after tab cutting, a tray within the fixture can be set to easily lift all boards in one removal step."

Michelle Ogihara
Sales and Marketing Manager
Seika Machinery Inc.
Michelle is the Sales and Marketing Manager of Seika Machinery, Inc. She is an active member of the SMTA taking on a past position as Chapter President and currently Secretary, Co-Chairs the MSD Council and serves on several committee positions.

From a stencil viewpoint when the claps are too close to apertures the stencil can not gasket to the board because the clips prevent it. It is possible to do a relief etch on the bottom side of the stencil in the area of the clips to allow good gasketing. This is a common practice and is effective.

Bill Coleman
Vice President Technology
Photo Stencil
For over 18 years, Dr. Coleman has been the vice president of technology for Photo Stencil, working closely with customers to understand their printing requirements. His efforts have resulted in several new stencil products.

There are solutions out there. Fixturing can be created for almost anything - I suggest you to get in touch with a fixture/pallet manufacturer. You will be amazed by the solutions diversity that they can offer. For more questions and/or complete root cause analysis and solutions please contact me. See below.

Georgian Simion
Engineering and Operations Management
Independent Consultant
Georgian Simion is an independent consultant with 20+ years in electronics manufacturing engineering and operations.
Contact me at
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