Understanding Printed Circuit Boards

Almost all electronic devices produced in the last forty years utilize (PCB) printed circuit boards. From the simple design of garage door openers to the complex power of a personal computer, PCBs control the products of our everyday lives. But what do they do?

A simple explanation is that printed circuit boards are electrical roadmaps for electronic devices. There are many components to a PCB, (processors, diodes, semiconductors, resistors, etc.) and a PCB is what directs electric charges between those components.

Our electronic devices are getting physically smaller due to improvements in PCB technology.

Designing Printed Circuit Boards

Every PCB starts with a diagram of circuits that direct the connections to each of the PCBs components. There are many PCB design software programs that enable users to map out their connections. Most of these programs offer low cost or free versions for hobbyists, DIY, and students.

Once completed in the PCB design software, the designs can be printed for your own etching or output in industry-standard formats to be sent to a PCB manufacturer.

Printed Circuit Board Production

PCBs are produced in very similar ways whether it be a hobbyist or a PCB manufacturer. To get this process underway, a non-conductiong board coated with a thin layer of copper on either side will be needed. Next the design of the circuitry is printed onto the copper using a compound that resists etching. Then the board will be washed in a chemical bath. These chemicals remove or etch away extraneous copper which leaves a complex array of copper circuits where different components are to be attached.

Components are attached using a few different methods. One method is drilling holes in the board, and soldering components right into those holes which is a through-hole design. Another method is to solder the components right on to the surface of the board which is a surface-mount design.

The board is then ready to be inserted into the device for which it was made.


Post a Comment