Tube vs. Tray Component Packaging for PCB: What are the Differences?

Package a Printed Circuit Board (PCB) the right way and shipping it will be a breeze, literally. Make a wrong packaging and everything could fall apart. As a consumer, it is important that you are careful with choosing the best packaging options for your electronic components.

Today, there are several options, ranging from tube, tray and the tape-and-reel packaging styles. Irrespective of the discrepancies, some of the things to look for are the security and transportability of these components.

What is Tray Packaging?

It is one of the common packaging styles for electronic components, most especially the Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs). It refers to the use of rectangular partitions to divide the trays into equal parts. Note that this division has to be in line with the specific cavities.

Here are some pieces of additional information to know about the tray packaging design:

Tray Packaging Classifications

There are two (2) broad classifications for the tray packaging style. The one you choose to work with depends on the type of protection you want the components to have.

Here is a summary of the different classifications of the tray packaging:

  • Floppy Trays: these refer to the packaging style used for the special-shaped elements.
  • Hard Trays: it is a good idea to go for the hard trays if you are working on packaging either the multi-pin or QTP chip components. You can also use it for the chip components that are wire-sensitive. In this case, the style allows for the protection of the package body’s lead wires from deformation.

Specifics is Everything

The initial design allowed for the use with different larger-shaped capacitors. On the list are the medium, high and multilayer ceramic capacitors.

Despite these specifications, it is also possible to use the tray packaging with SOP and QTP chip components, even those with multiple pins.

Packaging Format

For electronic components to be packaged, they must be divided into equal parts, followed by the individual arrangement of the components into each of the cavities. Make sure that at least 50 pieces of the components are arranged in each of the cavities.

The completion of the above process sets the stage for the protection of the tray with a protective film.

Multi-Standard PCB Packaging Style

Tray packaging supports two standard JEDEC tray thicknesses. These are also divided based on the types of chip components they support.

The first is the low-profile standard of 0.25-inch or 6.3mm. It supports the packaging of the following chip components:

  • SOIC
  • BGA
  • CSP
  • QFN
  • QFP
  • SOP
  • TSOP
  • TQFP and;
  • SQFP

The second standard is the high-profile. With a measurement of 0.4-inch or 10.16mm, it supports the following electronic components:

  • PLCC
  • PGA

Based on JEDEC, the standard dimensions for tray packages are 12.7 x 5.35 inches, which translates to 322.6 x 136mm.

Tube Component Packaging for PCBs

It is also called the stick magazines. Tube packaging styles are your best bet for the chip components that have been manufactured using either the Through-Hole Technology (THT) or the Surface Mount Device (SMD).

Packaging Guidelines

Below are the steps to take if you are using the tube packaging style for your chip components:

  • Arrangement: the rule of thumb is to have the chip components aligned in the same direction. This makes it easier to fit them into the tube.
  • Insertion Procedure: the insertion method starts with the adding of the one-path-aligned components into the tube. This should be done one at a time. Next, you are to insert any of the following stoppers into the ends of an SMT machine line: rubber end plugs, plastic pins and plastic nails.
  • Once the above steps are completed, it is time to remove the cover of the Surface Mount Technology (SMT) box.

Note: as a sidenote, a chip component is to be fed into the substrate anytime the tube is pressed.

If you follow the above processes to the latter, you can be sure of having a well-packaged set of chip components inside a tube.

Differences between Tube and Tray Packaging Styles for Electronics

Some differences exist between these two styles and understanding what they are helps you to choose the best one for the job.

The first difference is that the tray packaging style is commonly restricted to the Surface Mount Device (SMD) components. This is unlike the tube packaging style that supports both the THT and SMD chip components.

The second difference is based on the versatility of the styles. The tray packaging format is more versatile, in the sense that it supports different chip components, such as BGA, PLCC, SOIC, PGA, QFN, TSSOP and CSP. It also divides these into the low-profile and high-profile standards.

Similarities between Tube and Tray Component Packaging Styles

Despite being different in terms of the versatility and supported chip elements, these two packaging styles are also similar. Here are some of the shared attributes:

Support for Larger Parts

It is common to use the tape and reel process to package and ship larger-sized chip components. However, some of these components might not fit into the package.

Using either the tube or tray packaging styles makes it possible to store and transport these elements with ease.

Component Durability

It is one thing for the electronic components to be packaged inside the package and another for the security to be fully assured.

You need not worry because the plastic carrier used to hold these components helps in the following ways:

  • The carrier helps to isolate or keep away one chip component from the other.
  • The isolation is also extended to the immediate environment.
  • This isolation standard helps in keeping the chip components durable. That way, they arrive in one piece and you don’t have to make additional expenses to fix the damaged ones.

Is Tray Packaging better than Tube?

The fact is that the tray packaging electronics style has a lot of benefits over the tube variant. Here are some of the downsides or disadvantages that dwindle the chances of the tube packaging style:

Component Trapping

The chip or electronic components are exposed to the risk of getting trapped or stuck in the narrow tube. This happens when the mounting pressure of each of the tubes is not balanced and evenly distributed.

Cost Considerations

Generally, it is costlier to use the tube packaging styles to store and ship PCB components. However, you might have a chance at saving some costs if you are working on storing the surface-mounted Integrated Circuits (ICs).

Limited Spaces

Since this is a tube, there is limited space for the components to be stored. Thus, you may find out that the tube packaging format doesn’t support the storage of multiple chip components.

What Other Options Have You Got?

There are up to three (3) other packaging formats you can use for PCB components’ storage and shipment. They include the popular tape and reel.

What is Tape and Reel Packaging?

Tape or cut tape is a tape-like packaging for PCB components. It refers to the protection of these elements/components, in the form of bit-sized or cut-up pieces of tape.

It is also important to mention some of the attributes here:

  • It is used for the shipment and handling of different SMD components. Examples of these components are: SOT, CHIP, QFP, BGA, QFP, SOIC and SOP.
  • The electronic components are separated from one another.

Bulk PCB Packaging

Consider this if your PCB storage and shipping requirements fit into any of the following:

  • Compact: due to the smaller size, it wouldn’t be possible to fit-in a wide range of larger components inside the bulk PCB package.
  • Specific Applications: it is commonly used with cylindrical resistors and a wide range of limited application scopes.
  • Budget: are you working with a budget and a tight one at that? If so, go for the bulk packaging style, which is low in cost, when compared to the other methods and styles of storing chip components.

How to Choose Tube and Tray Electronic Packaging

If you are to choose this packaging method, it is an avenue for you to put certain factors into perspective. These factors would help you narrow on what you get at the end of the day, in terms of performance and cost management.

1. Component Separation is Important

Not all PCB or chip components are to be joined together or used in one package. For example, the tape and reel packaging standards prevent multiple or several components from getting into touch. To this end, it makes sense that the separation is done.

However, the composition of several parts on the PCB is not enough reason for the separation. You may also want to do that if the component comprises cords or accessories. Some reasons that justify this separation include:

  • The separation of the accessories and cords allow for the appropriate labeling of the components.
  • The separation also supports the excellent arrangement of the components inside the tube or tray.
  • You can also benefit from component separation due to the prevention of tangling.

2. Component Protective Measures

Just as you are looking for the best packaging material to ship these elements, it is also important to consider the protective tendencies.

The protection of the components ensures that they remain in the utmost-performing conditions and that they can be shipped without hassles.

The following are some of the protective steps to take:

  • Use the Right Protective Materials: the ideal materials to use as protection include antistatic products and void-fillers. They ensure the protection of the components while being shipped.
  • Battery Protection: if the electronic components use batteries, it makes sense to make plans for the protection of the same. In this case, you can use a non-conductive and insulating material to protect the batteries against sparks and heat generation.

Overall Benefits of Electronic Component Packaging

You can protect your electronic components using either the tray or tube methods. It is also possible to use other options, such as tape and reel packaging and bulk packaging style.

Irrespective of the different options available for you, the point is that you get to reap a lot of benefits from the decision. Here are some of the reasons why these packages are important:

1. Protection for Different Electronic Component Production Levels

You can choose either the tray or tube packaging styles, all depending on the production levels. For example, you can use the tube option if you are manufacturing electronic components meant for either PCB prototypes or low-volume productions.

On the other hand, larger volumes require the broader tape packaging style.

2. External Damage Prevention

During the storage and shipping process, chip components are exposed to a varying degree of damage. From jamming against one another to having limited spaces to share; the risks of damage are higher.

Thus, the streamlined integration of smaller packages helps to facilitate the addition of the right components. That way, none of these elements would be put at a higher risk of damage.

Component Kitting – How to Make the Most out of Component Packaging Styles

The different styles of packing electronic components serve two purposes – facilitating the storage and shipment of these components and to make the production easier.

Once the elements have been shipped, the next step is to get them prepared for integration and production of the different electronics. Generally called component kitting, it has to do with the best ways to optimize the components for the best results.

As a leading consumer electronics company, we make sure to use your components the right way. Below are some of the ways we make that work:

  • Component Separation: we carefully select the SMD components from the THT components. Doing so makes it simpler to choose the corresponding manufacturing process. For example, the THT components can be manually processed, while the SMD need to be placed inside a pick-and-place machine for automated processing.
  • Feeder Preparation: we use different feeders for the different electronic component packages. For example, the stick-feeders are used to process the components placed inside the tube packages.

In conclusion, Hillman Curtis pays a special attention to the packaging that the components arrive in, as that helps us to choose the right feeders for the job. Also, barcodes containing important data, such as delivery lot information and manufacturing part numbers are used to determine the feeder that is fit for specific components.

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