Printed Circuit Boards The Engine for Technology

Prototype printed circuit board

Televisions. Computers. Laptops. Cell phones.

What do they all have in common?

A small piece of equipment called a printed circuit board.

A printed circuit board has its early beginning in the late 1800s when inventors experimented with conducing chargers through different types of materials. Then in the 1930s, an Austrian inventor named Paul Eisler invented the printed circuit as part of a radio set, setting the stage for wartime as proximity fuses.

The American military developed the initial technology that found its way into electronics at that time. The result became growth, as technology grew more and more prevalent into the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

So, what is the printed circuit board?

In a nutshell, it is copper. Printed circuit boards can be single layer (single layer of copper), double-sided (two copper sides) or multi-layered (copper stack on top of one another).

The basic principles remain for each type, no matter how many sides or layers: electronic pieces are affixed to the copper layer, then connected with different conducive material, so that each piece receives the electric current that it needs, without overheating the circuit board and destroying the components.

Two methods of constructing printed circuit boards dominate the market. There is the through hole technique, which involves slipping leads through small holes in the circuit board and soldering them on the opposite side. This was a method popularized in the 1950s, before the advent of the personal computer.

The other method, called surface mounting, became popular in the 1980s as components of electronic devices grew smaller. In this case, components, especially in the 1990s and into today’s day, were affixed with metal caps that could be soldered on, eliminating the need to have wires running from one side of the circuit board to the other.

Surface mounting has many economical benefits to companies. The components tend to be smaller, sometimes 10% of the size of the through hole components. The components tend to be cheaper and the soldering can be done by machine.

The global printed circuit board market is projected to reach an estimated $72.6 billion by 2022. And printed circuit boards have other uses besides the personal electronic device such as television sets and cell phones. To just list one example, printed circuit board assembles have been integrated into the design and operation of most traffic lights used in North America, over the past three decades.

A PCB manufacturer may rely on several processes to in PCB manufacturing. There is the PCB camera, panelization, and copper patterning.

PCB CAM stands for “Printed Circuit Board Computer Aided Manufacturing.” This term encompasses the design process, especially the use of PCB CAM software. PCB CAM software involves the use of fabrication data, verification of the data, panelization, and even output, such as copper patterning.

The PCB CAM software is beneficial for not just the beginning–the design phase. It is useful for all parts of the process. The PCB CAM software guides engineers in the constructing of a PCB, start to finish.

It is very beneficial in the areas of panelization, where a decision is made to put several PCBs onto one panel, and copper patterning, such as etching the initial design onto the copper. It is helpful for a PCB layout and even a prototype PCB.

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