Most people do not think about the internal workings of their electronic devices and the products they use every day in their homes. From your cell phone to your washing machine, if it uses electricity, it probably has a printed circuit board (PCB). The printed circuit board prototype is often the starting point for a new electronic device or product. The PCB fabrication process makes many of the devices we all love possible.
Why Are PCBs Important?
There are many reasons the development of the PCB fabrication process has moved the electronic industry forward. Before prototype printed circuit boards were invented, all of the components inside an electronic product has to be separately wired. This meant the interior workings of things like television sets were large and bulky. The wires themselves were large and bulky. Everything was just crammed in where it could fit and the results were not pretty.
When the PCB came along, everything changed. People talk a lot about inventions or events that are “game changers.” The invention of the PCB was absolutely a game changer for the world of electronics. Rather than wiring them to each other, the internal components of an electronic device could be attached to a non-conductive board. During the PCB fabrication process, they are connected via small pathways that are referred to as “traces.” They are now designed using computer software so many traces can be placed very close to each other.
In fact, boards are all designed for one specific use. The PCB fabrication process begins with the layout being done with this software. It allows the space between the traces to be 0.04 inches or 1.0 mm or even smaller. This means they can fit into even the smallest electronic devices. The software also lays out the location of the contact points and contact leads.
What Are the Parts of a PCB?
Traces: The traces are the first things you will notice when you look at most PCBs. These slender lines are what conduct the electricity and connect the various components on prototype circuit boards. If you think about these traces being wires instead, as they were back in the day, you can see how much smaller things can be with the PCB.
Holes: There are tiny holes. During the PCB fabrication process, they are drilled in precise locations and will be the home for the components. If it will be attached to a microchip with eight connections, the board will have that exact number of holes. The goal is to place the chip and the PCB flush with each other and not need to have any wires or leads connecting them. This is another way PCBs save space.
Components: These are added last during the PCB fabrication process. The small electrical devices that allow the nit to function properly are called components. They can be microchips, resistors and switches and diodes.
All of the work of the PCB is done by these components. The PCB is really just there to connect everything in a way that is realistic.
The PCB Fabrication Process
Computer software is used to design the vast majority of PCBs that are used today, This is good for a few reasons. Engineers can look at and work on their design on the computer screen before committing to their design and creating an actual PCB. Once the engineer is happy with the design, the boards are printed. There are two layers in a raw circuit board. The top layer is the conductive layer and is made of something like copper. The bottom is non-conductive. The design is printed on the metal with ink and then all the metal that does not have ink on it is removed with chemicals. Next the PCB is tested for quality. Once all of that has been completed, it is shipped out to customers around the world.
The PCB fabrication process is integral to the world we live in today. This is why the global market for PCBs has nowhere to go but up. In 2012, it had reached $60 billion, which was a 1.7% increase from the year before. Some experts say that between 2015 and 2019, it should grow by 3.4%, which just shows how much we need this technology.