The Basics of Printed Circuit Boards

Electronic devices are all around us, but have you wondered what’s inside them?

A PCB, or printed circuit board serves as the backbone for your smartwatch, mobile phone and computer, among others. You’d be surprised to know that they have been around for decades and started life to develop military weapons.

What is a PCB?

PCB boards, or simply known as PCBs make up the internal structure of an electronic device.

It’s the base component for things normally used in computers, such as the graphics card, motherboard and more. Printed circuit boards serve as the network relay among its components so they could ‘communicate’ and work together.

Going deeper, a PCB may consist of a flat structure and a circuitry that’s made up of traces, or metal wires and planes, or metal areas. The components are soldered into PCBs at the top or bottom (and sometimes on both ends) depending on the layout and application.

A complete PCB allows the components to be interconnected. It could have multiple layers stacked on top of each other (for complex machines), or composed of a single board.

It’s worthy to note that PCBs are non-conductors and are usually made of glass and fiber. This serves to keep the transmission ‘pure’ and to not allow any mixed signals from stray currents. Also, the tracks are usually made of copper for transmission quality.

How are Printed Circuit Boards Made?

PCBs are first designed depending on the purpose, then ‘printed’.

The printing process is made up of component placement on a base material, called ‘substrate’. The required components are put on the board and serve as the basis for the manufacturing outcome.

Components are manufactured to meet device requirements and are usually customized. A computer software can help with getting the right size or shape in order to fit perfectly in the PCB. Design pcb board is important not just for aesthetic purposes but for the device’s overall function as well.

PCB application depends on what you’re trying to make. CAD tools can turn concepts into reality, and it’s usually made up in two parts- schematic capture and PCB layout. Schematic capture is when you set up connectivity via diagrams, and layout is when the physical design is made.

PCB design and layout is important as it dictates whether the board will work or not. Effective design is needed to ensure it does exactly what the maker intends and serves its specifications.

Printed Circuit Board Applications

The possibilities for creating a new device or electronic machine is practically endless. One of the reasons why PCBs have stayed so long is that they work, they’re cost effective and flexible enough in terms of use and size.

Just about every electronic device or item will have a PCB board in it. From game controllers to children’s toys to more complex machines such as the mobile phone and computers.

Technological innovations have made PCBs assume a flexible shape, which expands its use. Manufacturers can now try and break the mold by making a unique case and have the PCB bend around it. Others use specialized materials and components due to their high frequency applications, while others put in multiple layers of copper for industrial purposes.

Design and component choice can also be made depending on where it will be placed or installed. Underground sensors and engine compartments are examples, and military, space and aviation industries will usually have strict requirements for how a device performs.

In short, PCBs are highly customizable, and with the right design and components can practically fill in any electronic need. It’s the de facto component in many devices and technology.

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