PCB Edge Clearance

In my continuing saga of answering the question, What are the real limits?, I’ll spend a little time giving my thoughts on edge clearance. That makes the question for the day: How close can I put parts to the edge of a PCB?

It’s a good question but, regardless of what IPC says, surprisingly difficult to nail down.

The problem is that there are a number of valid answers, all governed by the phrase “it depends.” I’m not going to leave it at that, though. I could. But I won’t. Not today anyway. It really does depend on a number of factors, but I think it can be nailed down a little tighter than that. Start by considering a few things:

1. First, our old friend IPC-7351A does specify a keep-out area (aka Courtyard Manufacturing Zone) on the part footprint. Keep stuff out of that area. This includes the board edge. Don’t have any part of the component’s keep-out area hanging over the edge of the PCB.
2. Second, look at your PCB mounting arrangement. Make sure the keep-out area does not interfere with any mounting screws, and that includes any washers you may be needing. If your PCB mounts with slots or rails, make sure the keep-out area doesn’t interfere with any of the rails or slots or case edges.
3. Check with your manufacturer about its specific line limits. Many manufacturers have specific edge clearance limits based on their assembly line.

Now, take your application and consider those three items. Whichever gives you the biggest number is the edge clearance you need to follow. Based on your mounting scheme, you may have different clearance requirements on different parts of the board. Still, make sure that for each section of the board, you use the biggest number from above.

Now, in the world of prototypes, things are a little different. At Screaming Circuits, we sometimes build up boards with parts right up to, and in some cases, over the PCB edge. You just have to ask yourself two questions for your prototype:

1. Is there enough copper to give a good electrical and mechanical connection to the PCB?
2. Am I likely to knock the part off the board with my handling?

If the answer the #1 is yes and #2 is no, then go for it. Of course, in the prototype world, you can always accept the risk yourself and go for it whatever the answers are. That’s up to you.

Duane Benson
No worries. The green patches will burn off in the reflow oven.


2 thoughts on “PCB Edge Clearance

  1. Quite often, due to space constraints I have to put components ‘close to the edge’, nearer than the 3mm clearance I prefer. For assembly purposes I’ve always panelised boards, so that any assembly requirements such as conveyor clearances are catered for by the panel. This allows me to utilise the full board area when required and still be able to assemble the boards; though a suitable stress free de-panelisation method is required to remove the individual boards from the panel.
    Thus I belive it is best practice to think of the board and panel of equal importance.

  2. Our main PCB assembly sub-contractor requires 6mm edge clearance
    for SMD components, but on two (opposing) sides only. On the other
    sides he can tolerate SMD to within 0.5mm. So far I have been able
    to accommodate that requirement.

    He loads so few thru-hole components that he either uses casual labour to
    load them, or if the volumes are sufficient, one of his placement
    robots. His only thru-hole placement rule is that if it overhangs,
    it cant fall off when he wave solders them. In that case he wants a
    tooling strip.

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