Success in the printed electronics industry requires constant communication and collaboration with manufacturers, customers, component suppliers, and materials vendors. A common vocabulary helps everyone work together and understand each other’s goals. It is critical that when new designers learn circuit board basics, they also learn the correct terminology to describe designs, ECAD applications, fabrication processes, and assembly processes. Most university courses don’t teach these topics, which is why we’ve created the glossaries below as a guide.

We’ve broken down the most common terminology into three key areas of the PCB industry: design, fabrication, and assembly. Browse through these helpful glossaries to learn common PCB terminology, ensuring you can better understand circuit board basics and professionally communicate with your colleagues.


Coworkers reviewing physical PCB in front of computer

All circuit boards start in your CAD tools and eventually move to full-scale production


Design and Layout Terminology

Every new product begins as a concept in schematic sheets and a CAD file showing the physical layout of the product. PCB designers need to know the basic ideas and processes involved in creating a circuit board as well as the important terminology used in ECAD software. There are also important file types used to describe various design documents, components, and fabrication data.

Fabrication Terminology

A thorough understanding of PCB design requires understanding bare board fabrication, where the copper features and board stackup are created. Designers that know how to accommodate the PCB fabrication process can expect higher yields, fewer redesigns, and more reliable products. PCB fabrication terminology is less about naming machines and more about understanding the processes used to create, test, and clean a bare printed circuit board. Many design rules in ECAD applications are based entirely on manufacturability, so keep fabrication in mind when designing a circuit board.

Assembly Terminology

Before a product can be placed into its enclosure and released to market, the board needs to be assembled and inspected. The second half of manufacturing is PCB assembly, where components are soldered to the bare board, the board is put through inspection, and some rework may occur to correct any defects. Just like when designing for fabrication, PCB assembly processes impose constraints on a PCB layout, and designers should understand the important terminology used to describe assembly processes.


Terminology is critical in all highly technical industries, and PCB design and manufacturing are no different. The electronics industry has greatly matured over the past 50 years and is responsible for enabling nearly every aspect of modern life. With the right resources, new designers can quickly learn important terminology and communicate on the same level as industry veterans.

Electronics vocabulary spans far beyond PCB design, fabrication, and assembly. Things like the features on a finished circuit board and an understanding of the electronics supply chain are keys to success. Here are some more resources to help new designers understand these areas and much more:

woman assembling PCB with coworker watching

Check out our introductory article giving an overview of the most essential PCB terms to know

When you’re comparing components for your designs, follow our guidelines on how to read a component datasheet

Finding parts is one thing, but sourcing them for a manufacturing run is fraught with risks. Learn more about circuit board parts procurement

Designers have plenty of circuit board basics to learn when they’re starting their careers, and companies like Ultra Librarian are here to give designers the resources they need to be successful. In addition to design information and component sourcing guidelines, Ultra Librarian’s electronics search engine features give designers access to datasheets, technical specifications, CAD data, and verified 3D models that can be imported into popular ECAD applications. Users also have access to aggregated lifecycle and sourcing data from worldwide distributors free of charge.