We all use integrated circuit boards every day. They’re amazing, wondrous, and incredibly complex inventions that allow us to process, store, and transfer information at lightening speeds. They would be useless to us, though, without the printed circuit board, or PCB. So what are they?
The Body That Supports the Brain
The integrated circuit is like the brain of your computer, but the PCB is the system that supports it all. As integrated circuits have grown more and more complex, there has been increasing competition to create ways of producing a fast PCB prototype that can be quickly tested and then put into batch production to meet development needs.
How Are They Made?
Circuit board assembly is a fascinating process of printing out multiple layers of metals, polymers, and resin in paths. PCB fabrication involves special software, called Computer Aided Design, or CAD software, as board designers design systems for a fast PCB prototype, laying down conducting electrical paths that can be 1.0mm or even smaller. Prototype assembly can be done in nearly any design that might be needed, including multiplayer and even double-sided circuit boards. Most commonly, there are four, six, eight, or ten layers to the PCB board. However, there can be more than 42 if required for extremely complex circuits. Double-sided boards connect on each side either using through-holes or surface mount technology.
What Kind of Issues Are There in Manufacturing?
One big issue in printed circuit board assembly is problems in the actual printing process, which accounts for 70% of quality issues, no matter what the design or quality of the components. Temperature can also become an issue in soldering quality. If the temperature goes up too quickly, the components may be destroyed or deformed. Despite this, however, the ability to print PCBs using machine assembly allows for incredibly fast turnaround between design, a fast PCB prototype assembly, and the production of an entire batch. A single automatic line can be 75% faster than handmade circuits, producing more than 50 hand operators could do and with more consistent quality.
Where Are The Circuit Boards Used, and How Are They Tested?
The first PCB wasn’t made until 1936, and they didn’t become widely used until the United States military began using them in the 1950s. But today, PCBs are important to nearly any equipment that uses electronics, from computers to cars. Since the PCB is so integral a piece, it has to be tested to make sure it functions as required. A fast PCB prototype is designed, then goes into prototype assembly, and then finally into testing. If there are no faults or shorts, the PCB will go into full production.
We rarely see PCBs unless we open up electronics, but you could not be reading this sentence if they did not exist. They are the support and connection for all the “brain” of any piece of electronics, and an important part of life in a modern world.