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Interesting/Unusual/Old Electronics nomenclature

I've been getting into some minor board design work lately, and got confused a few times, because some of my colleagues were talking about "spinning" boards or getting things right on the first "spin" of a board.

Where did the term "spin" come from for fabricating / printing a circuit board?

  • \$\begingroup\$ I've never heard it. (not native English) \$\endgroup\$ – stevenvh May 24 '12 at 16:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ Historical information about terms used in EE seem offtopic and almost more on topic for english.SE. Needing to know what it means makes sense but why it came about is not useful. There are two definitions, "To make or produce by or as if by drawing out and twisting." or "To shape or manufacture by a twirling or rotating process.". I would assume the first as it may of come about when referencing board manufacture or design as a magical process where a board is spun out of thin air. \$\endgroup\$ – Kortuk May 24 '12 at 16:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Kortuk - Shouldn't it be closed if it's off-topic? \$\endgroup\$ – stevenvh May 24 '12 at 16:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ Technically it's english usage, but this question is so localized to electrical engineering that I have no problem with it here. Topic-specific jargon seem on topic to me. \$\endgroup\$ – Olin Lathrop May 24 '12 at 17:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ Perhaps "spin" has something to do with making one more cycle around the spiral model? \$\endgroup\$ – davidcary May 24 '12 at 20:55

The term is in common use.

Boards used to be spin-coated with liquid resist. Perhaps that is where it came from.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I think this is the correct answer. They still use spin-coating for the resist on semiconductor wafers. PCBs have primarily moved to laminated dry-resist, though. \$\endgroup\$ – Connor Wolf May 25 '12 at 1:06

It is a common term which refers to the process of laying out, routing, fabricating, populating, and testing a PC board.

I don't know where the term came from, but I'm guessing it refers to re-doing part of the engineering cycle. To "re-spin" something isn't limited to circuit boards or electronics. It basically means to re-do, retry, make another revision, "back to the drawing board" (partially), etc. Eventually the term "spin" came to be used sortof as slang in the industry for this particular set of tasks. Now it's to the point where you can talk about the "first spin", even though nothing is re-done.

  • \$\begingroup\$ To whoever downvoted this: What exactly do you think is wrong here? \$\endgroup\$ – Olin Lathrop May 24 '12 at 18:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ Well, I'll guess that you got downvoted because you didn't answer the question "Where did the term "spin" come from ...?" \$\endgroup\$ – W5VO May 24 '12 at 18:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ Very strictly speaking the question starter asks 2 questions: why do we use the term spin (reason), and where does it come from (origin). Olin certainly explained why "spin" is a common term. Not covering the whole/other question isn't worth a downvote in my opinion. \$\endgroup\$ – Hans May 24 '12 at 19:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ And Leon's answer of "The term is in common use", which isn't an answer at all really, gets 2 upvotes? \$\endgroup\$ – dext0rb May 24 '12 at 19:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ I provided an answer, as well. \$\endgroup\$ – Leon Heller May 25 '12 at 13:49

As others have pointed out, the term is not limited to electronics. Spin literally means to "turn around" rapidly.


Sense of "to cause to turn rapidly" is from 1610s; meaning "revolve, turn around rapidly" first recorded 1660s

In PCB terms, the turnaround time is how long it takes to make a design change and get boards made. So, a spin is a design change and manufacturing turnaround.


Spinning makes me think of the textile industry. My best guess is that the term spinning worked its way into electronics production terminology somehow, as they are both industrial type processes.

Also, the fact that PCBs are "fabricated" lends some small amount of credence to my spinning theory, as spinning is one of the processes that leads to the creation of fabrics.


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