Electronic Assemblies

The Basics of Printed Circuit Boards

By December 10, 2018 January 15th, 2019 No Comments
printed circuit board

For all the wonders of electricity, it’s hard to forget that it takes something very physical to make the “magic” happen. That factor is printed circuit boards (PCBs), which have long been the foundation of electrical engineering. PCBs are the “brain” and the backbone of any electrically-powered device or type. Regardless of its size, no electrically-powered device will work without a PCB of some kind. Whether it be a cell phone, a remote control, something as complicated as a computer or as simple as a child’s toy, a PCB provides the connectivity between all of the components of a device. As a result, the device will function as it should.

This article provides the basics of PCBs and how they work.

PCBs in one form or another have been around for decades. Before PCBs were developed, circuits were wired on a chasse which was usually a metal frame on a wood bottom. In the late 1930s, an Australian engineer invented a printed circuit as part of a radio set and revolutionized the industry. Fortunately, as the need for everything to become smaller and smaller, as well as more efficient ways to power these systems, PCBs became not only more integral in and of themselves, but thanks to the Internet, they became more connected to everything else.

The result of all this has been not only advancements in the design of better and smaller PCBs, better connectivity with more devices that were far beyond their capabilities only a few years ago, with things such as mobile apps, wearable devices, and much more.

PCBs Like Never Before

PCBs are deceptively simple when it comes to their construction, but amazingly complex when it comes to the multitude that they allow us to accomplish in all of our electronic wonders. Regardless of how simple or complex a device might be, a PCB of some sort is involved in channeling the electricity that is drawn into the device to accomplish its intended purpose. It really is that easy. It’s a wonder when you consider that with only a few layers of resin and some channels of solder that allow electricity to travel through the different elements of a board, small miracles happen that could not have been accomplished only a few years ago. But not only do PCBs channel power, but they support the mechanics of the device itself. This is because PCBs send electrical impulses where they need to go as well as provide a support structure for all of the components to hold fast to. It only takes a quick look at a computer and its internal apparatus to see this clearly. With all of this support provided by a PCB, it’s not hard to see how PCBs are considered the brains of a piece of equipment. Without the PCB, a piece of electronic equipment quite simply wouldn’t work.

Again, PCBs are deceptively simple for other reasons as well. Although their design is simple, their creative process is quite complex, beginning with a designer, creation of electronic design automation (EDA) software, manufacturing, assembly and testing. It is at this point that a good circuit designer can be worth his or her weight in gold since they have the capability of creating a PCB that will maximize your specific technological needs. They will also make sure that you have the support you need to excel in your market and not allow your PCBs to become the weakest link in your product. A well-designed PCB will also be easy to troubleshoot when there is a problem with your equipment.

Once a file with the design is created the manufacture can be started. In this process, the actual physical parameters of the PCB can be determined and maximized in order to result in a product with minimal problems and maximum benefits. During this process, every possible output is thoroughly tested to make sure that it works as it was intended to. With the testing methods available today there is literally no way an aspect of a PCB that will not be examined. This will ensure that there will be no failures in the future of the PCB that operates your product.