I found a board by dumpster diving. I am almost sure that it is SMPS board. I didn't understand black strips at the bottom of the PCB marked by red rectangles. By the way, it is a single layer board with all thru hole components. I couldn't peel off them. They most likely on bare PCB like a solder mask layer.

Can anyone explain usage of this strips? My first thought was isolation but i am not sure about it. For example, the rightmost one is wierd. Does it provide an extra isolation layer in addition to the solermask between traces and legs of component?

Strip Lines 1 Strip Lines 2


This is photo of the other side. Sorry about quality. At that moment, I can't take a new one. Bottom-left corner of the following photo corresponds to bottom-right corner of photos above.

enter image description here

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    \$\begingroup\$ It appears to be an extra layer of insulation (in addition to the soldermask), but it is not being used consistently. Note that there is a fourth area over on the left side of the second picture that is NOT covering a copper track. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dave Tweed
    Oct 31, 2015 at 14:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ Could you post a photo of the other side? \$\endgroup\$ Oct 31, 2015 at 14:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @RespawnedFluff I added photo of the other side. \$\endgroup\$
    – ayazar
    Oct 31, 2015 at 16:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, definitely a SMPS: transformer+optocoupler across the isolation barrier, large cap on the primary side with 4-diode rectifier. What's more unusual is the (almost certainly filter) stuff before the rectifier (to the right in this top-view photo). It's pretty massive for a SMPS of this size. The longest strip of black isolation on the solder side of the PCB separates this [presumed filter] from the rectifier... which is again pretty odd. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 31, 2015 at 16:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ I wonder if it is some form of arcing protection, looking at where the black areas are they seem to be in areas where you might expect unintentional high voltage to arc - there is black stuff under the bridge rectifier and at the output. Possibly it is to encourage arcs at that point and nowhere else, or to protect the board if it happens? Just a guess, could be way off, hence leaving this as a comment. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 31, 2015 at 16:46

1 Answer 1


This is pretty hilarious. It's drafting tape with soldermask applied over it. You can tell from the width, color, and the texture (drafting tape has a pretty unique ripply-rough texture). This stuff:

drafting tape

It's pretty much standard to use this stuff for last minute bodges and various other "sticking-things-to-stuff" and "touching-up-the-mask" related activities at a PCB fab house. Especially on these phenolic paper single sided boards that are used throughout ultra-commoditized products like power supplies. They're pretty close to the platonic ideal of a 'crappy PCB.' Quality you can stomach at prices you'll lower your standards for!

I've taken apart many an old power brick or ATX power supply in my day (don't ask - I was a teenage male and wanted those 400V caps for...stuff) and occasionally you'll find weird things like this. Obvious mask touching up in the form of blocky copper artifacts in spots (like someone just taped over part before the photo resist was exposed), component and footprint mismatches, silkscreen that is simply wrong, and sometimes surprise 'leftovers' entombed under solder mask. Also, sometimes if you desolder some components, you'll catch a waft of foreign food smell. Seriously. I try not to think too hard about what is even going on with that one.

Who knows what happened, but there was something taped to it, or being touched up or fixed, or both and it may or may not have been intentionally left there. It looks like it was deliberately placed between the pin header pads, its usual use case involves small cuts and an exacto-knife. I suspect someone just forgot to remove it before the solder mask got applied and there it has stayed. The parts of the tape that were not covered (pin header connector pads) would have been scrubbed off during the cleaning and pre-HASL phase of the board manufacture, except for the bits safely shielded by the solder mask.

If there are these same strips on others of this board, then it was probably something that had to be touched up and some poor soul probably tapped strips of drafters tape on thousands of those boards. Maybe there was a problem batch, or even board, and it's not common to this whole run. Who knows. Either way, it doesn't really matter. There is no deeper engineering reason behind it, hence the inconsistent use of the tape. It is not involved in the circuit itself, but rather an artifact of the board's manufacture.

If you like, you can scrape off some solder mask and peel off a strip. It won't hurt anything if you pick some that is not covering copper, and you can empirically confirm this answer. And I'll update this answer and leave in shame if it turns out not to be good ol' drafting tape, but I am very certain that's exactly what is.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Wow, that's interesting! At the next week, I will try to peel strips off to see what is hidden under. PCB is defective and pulling copper will not cause any additional problem. \$\endgroup\$
    – ayazar
    Nov 6, 2015 at 15:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ Definitely. People are already giving this answer up votes, but I would encourage everyone to wait and see - I could be wrong. I think I'm correct, but what I think does not actually impact reality. Sorry to put you on the spot, but if I'm wrong, I will happily edit/delete the answer. Plus if it isn't drafting tape, I have no idea what it would be, it would quite a mystery to me! \$\endgroup\$
    – metacollin
    Nov 8, 2015 at 9:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ Update after long time. It is impossible to peel off a strip. It is like a paint similar to solder mask and very thin. I can't easily say that they are drafting tapes. Also they are almost perfect rectangles with almost perfect edges and corners. It is hard to believe that they are hand cut. Your comment is the best one until now, I agree. However, I can't easily say that they are tapes. I may try to ship a piece of PCB if you wish. \$\endgroup\$
    – ayazar
    Jan 14, 2016 at 20:41

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