What is Printed Circuit Board ?

Printed Circuit Board

There is no doubt that we are living in a technological era right now. However, much of the tech that we utilize daily wouldn’t be available right now without the component known as PCB or Printed Circuit Board. Printed Circuit boards did not only help technicians downsize gadgets that were earlier gigantic, for example, televisions and cellphones, but they also managed to make the production process of powerful and effective circuitries cheap. Due to these features, manufacturers can now generate small, powerful gadgets, for example, smartphones, and then sell them at affordable prices.

As per the 21st century, PCBs are in almost every electronic component you come in contact with, ranging from watches to fridges and computers. Moreover, these components come in varying sizes, shapes, and complexities, and their functionalities vary according to their designs. But are these the only features that make Printed Circuit Boards a marvel of engineering?

Printed Circuit Boards in a Nutshell

What is Printed Circuit Board

PCBs (Printed Circuit Boards) are crucial electrical components that electrically connect and mechanically support electronic components. Printed Circuit Boards utilize signal traces, tracks, or conductive pathways that technicians etch out from copper sheets. First, the sheets are laminated onto non-conductive substrates that don’t conduct electricity, reducing the chances of short circuits. Technicians then add electronic components onto the circuit board and make etchings on its surface. The etchings allow the flow of current from one component to another in the circuit board through the copper tracks.

Today the utilization of Printed Circuit Boards is widespread. These components now have multiple applications in multiple sectors. However, things have not always been like this when it comes to circuit boards. That’s because PCBs initially hit the market back in 1936, and since then, they have been crucial in the tech industry. With PCBs in the market, manufacturers can now mass-produce different electronic gadgets without incurring a lot of money. Therefore this invention has undoubtedly flipped the entire tech world upside down.

The Printed Circuit Boards also go by the names:

  • Printed Wiring Cards
  • Printed Wiring Boards

Types of PCBs

Generally, there are three major categories of Printed Circuit Boards:

  • Metal core Printed Circuit Boards
  • Flex Printed Circuit Boards
  • Rigid Printed Circuit Boards

Rigid PCBs

If you deal with electronics, then chances are that you have come across a rigid printed circuit board. That is because these PCBs are pretty common in the Circuit Board sector. Moreover, research dictates that PCB Designers mostly encounter rigid PCB designs; hence they are widespread in the electronics market.

A Rigid PCB is simply a printed circuit board whose layout is contained in substrates that are rigid that technicians generate from a high-pressure and heat laminations process. To create these printed circuit boards, technicians primarily utilize an element known as FR-4 due to its efficiency. However, the material preference might change according to the user’s needs and how the PCB will function.

Flex PCBs

Flex or Flexible Printed Circuit Boards are circuit boards that encompass less rigid components, which let them gain more significant deflection or become flexible.

To create these Printed Circuit Boards, technicians primarily utilize a material known as tactilely reminiscent of roll film. Moreover, the thickness of these PCBs is usually less than that of rigid printed circuit boards.

Even though Flex PCBs already have multiple applications in different areas, most people believe this technology is not yet fully utilized. However, experts believe that flex PCBs will help boost wearable technology as time passes and clear the planar constraints that currently affect rigid Printed Circuit Boards.

Metal Core PCBs

Metal core Printed Circuit boards are offshoots of rigid PCB designs. However, these PCBs can efficiently dissipate more heat throughout the circuit board compared to other types of PCBs. Doing so helps it shield sensitive circuitry from excess heat.

Technicians utilize the metal core PCB design to generate high-current PCBs. That is because this design helps prevent thermal failure and wear.

Types of Printed Circuit Board Assembly Processes

In the PCB assembly process or PCBA, technicians mount various components onto the circuit board according to the user’s requirements.

For this process to occur, the technicians must first select the PCBA technology they want to use. However, only three PCBA technologies exist:

  • Thru-hole mounting
  • Surface mounting
  • Mixed mounting

Thru-hole mounting

During the THT (thru hole tech) mounting process, assemblers place and secure various components onto the board via holes that they drill into the bare board.

Compared to SMT (Surface Mount Tech), this mounting technology develops a far stronger connection. Therefore technicians mainly utilize this type of tech in applications that need high reliability. Moreover, THT is also great for prototyping and testing applications requiring the user to manually adjust various components on the board.

Surface Mounting

In Surface mounting or SMT (surface mount technology), technicians mount various components directly onto the circuit board’s surface using solder. Though this method hit the sector in the 60s, it became popular in the 80s. In the 21st century, SMT is the most utilized technology for mounting components on Printed Circuit Boards.

SMT boards utilize small components known as VIAs instead of holes to connect various components and layers of Printed Circuit Boards.

Using SMT assemblers can utilize both sides of a Printed Circuit Board by attaching components on either side of the PCB. Moreover, due to the design of surface mount circuit boards, SMT components can be smaller, hence allowing technicians to fit more components on a single circuit board. Due to this feature, manufacturers can reduce the cost of PCB production, thus resulting in cheaper but more powerful gadgets. Moreover, due to the same feature, technicians can develop even smaller components that are just as effective and powerful as the larger versions.

Surface Mount Technology is also faster and less involved than THT, reducing production costs further.

Mixed Tech PCBA

As the name dictates, mixed Technology PCB assembly is simply an assembly technology that bears the properties of THT and SMT. Therefore, technicians mostly utilize this type of technology when the assembly process requires a combination of SMT and THT assemblies.

Conclusion

Printed Circuit Boards are, without a doubt, crucial components in electronics. Without these components, televisions would still be gigantic, and phones wouldn’t fit in our pockets. However, we now have minuscule phones that are as small as our pinky finger through PCBs. Moreover, through the invention of wearables, you can expect to see more PCBs in the coming years.

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