Through-hole technology (also spelled "thru-hole"), refers to the mounting scheme used for electronic components that involves the use of leads on the components that are inserted into holes drilled in printed circuit boards (PCB) and soldered to pads on the opposite side either by manual assembly (hand placement) or by the use of automated insertion mount machines.
Through-hole technology almost completely replaced earlier electronics assembly techniques such as point-to-point construction. From the second generation of computers in the 1950s until surface-mount technology (SMT) became popular in the mid 1980s, every component on a typical PCB was a through-hole component. PCBs initially had tracks printed on one side only, later both sides, then multi-layer boards were in use. Through holes became plated-through holes (PTH) in order for the components to make contact with the required conductive layers. Plated-through holes are no longer required with SMT boards for making the component connections, but are still used for making interconnections between the layers and in this role are more usually called vias.
Axial and radial leads
Components with wire leads are generally used on through-hole boards. Axial leads protrude from each end of a typically cylindrical or elongated box-shaped component, on the geometrical axis of symmetry. Axial-leaded components resemble wire jumpers in shape, and can be used to span short distances on a board, or even otherwise unsupported through an open space in point-to-point wiring. Axial components do not protrude much above the surface of a board, producing a low-profile or flat configuration when placed "lying down" or parallel to the board.
Radial leads project more or less in parallel from the same surface or aspect of a component package, rather than from opposite ends of the package. Originally, radial leads were defined as more-or-less following a radius of a cylindrical component (such as a ceramic disk capacitor). Over time, this definition was generalized in contrast to axial leads, and took on its current form. When placed on a board, radial components "stand up" perpendicular, occupying a smaller footprint on sometimes-scarce "board real estate", making them useful in many high-density designs. The parallel leads projecting from a single mounting surface gives radial components an overall "plugin nature", facilitating their use in high-speed automated component insertion ("board-stuffing") machines.
When needed, an axial component can be effectively converted into a radial component, by bending one of its leads into a "U" shape so that it ends up close to and parallel with the other lead. Extra insulation with heat-shrink tubing may be used to prevent shorting out on nearby components. Conversely, a radial component can be pressed into service as an axial component by separating its leads as far as possible, and extending them into an overall length-spanning shape. These improvisations are often seen in breadboard or prototype construction, but are deprecated for mass production designs. This is because of difficulties in use with automated component placement machinery, and poorer reliability because of reduced vibration and mechanical shock resistance in the completed assembly.
Multiple lead devices
For electronic components with two or more leads, for example, diodes, transistors, ICs, or resistor packs, a range of standard-sized semiconductor packages are used, either directly onto the PCB or via a socket.