Printed circuit boards are the fundamental base to almost every electronic product available today. They can be found in items ranging from computers and televisions to microwaves and digital clocks. Because they are essential to creating a successful piece of electronic equipment, it’s important to understand how they are designed and how to make them most effective. Here are some factors to consider when creating prototype printed circuit boards.
First, one should understand what the printed circuit board components are. The substrate, also known as the base material, is FR-4 glass epoxy. This is the panel found in all printed circuit boards, and it is partially composed of fiberglass. On the outside of the panel is laminated a thin layer of copper foil. The copper can be laminated on one or both sides of the FR-4 panel. When creating a prototype printed circuit board, it is important to think about the level of power the intended product will have – a more powerful product will require more copper layers. Etched in the copper is circuitry interconnections.
The remaining materials are the soldermask and silkscreen. The soldermask (which often give prototype pcbs their typical green color) protects the copper from coming into contact with other pieces of the product. And lastly, the silkscreen is placed on top of the soldermask and helps to identify the parts of the prototype pcb with letters, numbers, and symbols.
Next is the actual manufacturing for prototype printed circuit boards. This is often done in factories, especially for large production items. The circuit layout is printed on a plastic board, and copper tracks are automatically printed. The components are then pushed through holes that are pre-made. They are secured using solder, which is commonly used as an adhesive between metals. For individuals interested in printing their own prototype printed circuit boards, there are a variety of companies available to assist with production at affordable rates. Some companies manufacture boards from more than one customer on the same panel in an effort to reduce costs to all customers.
We hope this information has been educational in understanding the components and manufacture of pcbs, and will help in the design of your own prototype printed circuit boards.