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Classification of PCB by IPC and its advantages
117 1 Jan 29.2023, 15:25:13

IPC standards are made to regulate the functionality of PCB. The Institute of printed circuit boards (IPC) is a worldwide association that is developed for PCB-concerned standards. IPC has developed more than 300 functional standards which are being followed worldwide by all PCB companies. IPC categorizes PCB into three different classes 1, 2, and 3. These classes are based on the quality of production levels such as design, assembly, components, packaging, etc. IPC standards define the quality level of production and functionality of PCB. 

IPC is presently called Association Connecting Electronics Industries. It is associated with more than 4000 companies worldwide. These companies include automotive, computer, medical, military, aerospace, microelectronics, and telecommunication industries. IPC inspects their production value, assembly and components categorization, and inspection standards. 

History of IPC: 

IPC was developed in 1957 by six PCB manufacturers of the time. Over time, more electronics manufacturers started becoming part of IPC. IPC sponsored its first printed circuit world convention in London, in 1978. Then many other associations such as the Printed Wiring Board, Institute of Circuit Technology UK, Japan Printed Circuit Association, Institute of Metal Fishing-Printed Circuit Group, and European Institute for Printed Circuit and IPC started to work along.

In 1994 IPC’s first certification and training program was launched as IPC-A-610B in which 125,000 instructors were trained according to their designation such as operators, engineers, inspectors, managers, etc. In 2002 IPC launched its most widely used standard categorization system named IPC-A-620. This standard is used worldwide, especially for wires and cable assemblies.

Classification of non-IC electronics components for the assembly process (IPC-J-STD-075) was mutually developed by IPC and JEDEC (Joint Electron Device Engineering Council). IPC acts in almost 79 countries having over 4000 members worldwide by 2017.  

Classification by IPC:

IPC declared three main classes to distinguish the level of PCB products which are Class-1, Class-2, and Class-3 which are defined as general electronic products, dedicated service electronic products, and high-performance electronics products respectively. These categorizations are based on various PCB quality levels. These classes were developed under the IPC-6011 standard. 

Class-1: General Electronic Products

Class 1 includes PCB products that require assembly functionality. It is also referred to as the lowest category of PCB. These PCB products are simpler, low cost, and used for a short period. These products are mostly used in LED lights, remote controls, and toys that do not require high precision and ultimate accuracy.

Class-2: High-Reliability Electronic Products

As compared to class 1 this class is of higher quality and varied characteristics. These products exhibit higher performance and reliability as well as are used for a long time. To ensure the product’s quality and reliability high-end inspection is done during manufacturing and testing. Products referred to as class 2 PCBs are not crucial and stay functional for a long time. These devices are used in daily based communication systems, smartphones, laptops, and tablets. 

There are many beneficial characteristics Class-2 PCBs propose:

· Easy and fast inspection/testing.

· Low manufacturing cost.

· Fast manufacturing.

· Less amount of solder and barrel fill is required for PCB production.

· Simple and easy designing 

· Easy placement and routing for all PCB components.

· Class 2 requires 0.8 mils of plating thickness. 

Class-3: High-Performance Electronic Products

These products include PCBs that are used in crucial high-performance devices. PCBs that are for long-term and critical use include in this category. These devices require to be accurate and highly functional as these are used in continuity as well as on-demand for critical scenarios. 

Such PCB devices are often used for medical purposes, life support systems, rescue systems, and other critical systems. These PCBs are highly inspected and reliable. Such products are used in support systems, electronics manufacturing systems, and other critical devices used in the military. The product’s quality is the high end because these PCBs have to be used for uninterrupted and flawless usage.

Class 3 also includes advanced electronics products which fall under the IPC-6012 section or A-Level category. Their assembly, components, design, and production cost are very high as they require high precision and accuracy. Such devices are used in aerospace machinery, missile system, military avionics, airborne systems, and space equipment. 

Class-3 products are more reliable and accurate so they require careful manufacturing with flawless and professional testing. Some of its characteristics are stated below:

· Careful assessment and though inspection.

· Manufactured for high-performance hardware and devices

· High manufacturing and components cost. 

· Highly accurate and proficient PCB designing and assembly.

· Production of unwavering quality electronic devices. 

· Extensive cleaning and complicated installation are required.

· Uncompromised defects and missteps during all manufacturing systems. 

· Class 3 requires 1 mil of plating thickness.

· Class 3 printed circuit board must be tough and thick to prevent any damage during usage in severe conditions. 


IPC works to ensure maximum quality production of PCBs and affirms its reliable assembly and design along with many other crucial attributes. IPC classification for PCB products is very useful as well as time-saving as it helps you realize the needed product. Class-2 and Class-3 are very different in their manufacturing usage and stability levels. This classification categorizes the products based on their qualities, characteristic, as well as the designation. Users can choose their needed product on the go by using IPC cauterization for PCB.

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