PCB guide rails are some guides used to mount circuit cards in tight spaces inside racks or boxes in a certain place. It allows to mount the PCBs avoiding to fix the PCBs with screws. It also enables to place several PCBs in parallel separated by small distances. Usually, they are used a pair of guide rails to fasten the cards by two sides. The card guides allow to mount and dismount the boards easily and to better used the reduced space in the boxes, then it will be possible to place more circuitry in the same space.
There are many types, depending on the material used, the position in which the PCB guide rails will be placed and the application in which they will be used. Below, some features of the different PCB guide rails are described.
Types of PCB guide rails
Vertical or horizontal mounting. There are different structures depending if the PCBs will be mounted in a vertical or horizontal position. The possibility to have both options give a huge amount of flexibility to positioning the boards depending on the size and shape of the boxes and other components placed inside the box.
Different structures. There are different structures with different sizes and shapes for both horizontal and vertical mounting to be able to select the best option depending on many parameters. Two or more guide rails should be used to fasten the boards by different sides and have a robust assembly.
Different sizes. There are guide rails with different sizes, for different PCB lengths and also different widths can be selected for different printed circuit board thickness.
The installation can be performed with screws, but nowadays it is the less used, since the box or rack require holes with threads to fasten them. At this moment, most of the options are offered with snap-in mounting pylons for panel retention and press-fit installation. In this way, only through holes are required in the box, and the extraction of the card guides from the box is possible being carefully to not break the pylons. The last option for installation is with adhesives, this option avoids to put holes in the box and there is more freedom for the final position of the card guides, although the robustness for harder environmental conditions is lower. This option will be very helpful for first prototypes to have the possibility to place the guide rails in different positions and select the best place.
There are different materials like plastic, nylon, aluminium, polycarbonate materials or thermoplastic ABS materials. Depending on the application and the price planned to spend the selection of one or another should be studied. Standard colours are white or black (except for the aluminium options), but in many of the materials other different colours can be selected as green, red or blue.
There are different guide rails depending on the final application. There are standard guide rails used for standard applications, but if the module is going to be working in high vibration conditions or under high temperatures, there are options more robust for these applications. Also, if you need to improve the conductivity or ground of your system, there are options in which the card guides can help you to improve the results.
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