Through Hole vs. Surface Mount Technology

In modern times of smart phones, tablets, and watches that have the ability to do more than just tell time, surface mount technology has become the superior soldering practice used as technological devices continue to shrink in size and drastically increase in capability. As surface mount technology is seemingly the dominant process used in smaller, more advanced products, the question stands; is through hole technology becoming an obsolete practice as our electronics continue to shrink? The answer is no. While through hole soldering is not used as often in newer electronics, it still holds some advantages over surface mount technology. Here are the advantages and disadvantages of both methods:

Through Hole Technology

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Through hole soldering is the process by which a component’s leads are inserted into pre-drilled holes on a printed circuit board (PCB). Once inserted through the designated hole in the PCB, the leads are soldered to pads which are located on the bottom of the board. Through Hole Technology is used on larger components that are intended to undergo more mechanical stress, high power, and high voltage. This is because through hole soldering offers a stronger mechanical bond between the board and the component. One disadvantage of using this method is that the production process in more expensive due to the added cost of drilling holes through the PCB. A technician then is required to hand solder the component onto the board. In addition, the routing area for signal traces is limited due to the amount of holes in the PCB.

Surface Mount Technology

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Using surface mount technology, a component is soldered to a pad located directly on the top of a printed circuit board. This method is used on smaller devices, which is why it is considered a more advanced method. Unlike through hole, surface mounting does not require the drilling of holes in a PCB thereby solving the problem of available space. In addition, the physical components are much smaller, allotting for more room. This method allows companies to produce smaller printed circuit boards that function the same if not more better to their larger counterparts. Another advantage is that surface mount technology allows for high volume, automated production at a much lower cost than through hole technology. While surface mounting can still be done by a technician, surface mount machinery is available to accomplish many of the same tasks at a faster rate. Unfortunately, this machinery can be very expensive and because of this, it is beneficial to have printed circuit boards for surface mounting manufactured or repaired at a company that already has the resources such as AER Technologies.

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Obviously, both methods have advantages and disadvantages; so to settle the debate between which process is more sufficient, both have proven their adequacy depending upon component requirements and desired outcome. Through hole may seem to be overshadowed by surface mounting, but it is not irrelevant to the soldering industry.

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