Printed Circuit Boards are the backbone of most electronic devices. They’re in everything from your phone to your computer, but what exactly is a PCB?
Let’s explore the many functions of this complex piece of technology and why they’re so important.
What Are They
A Printed Circuit Board, or PCB for short, is an electronic board with metal circuits embedded in it that connect different components on the device. It consists of layers that are etched separately then laminated together to form patterns known as traces.
These patterns are where signals travel through the board and carry information between different parts of the circuit.
The boards come in many shapes and sizes depending on what they will be used for – some have holes drilled into them while others might only need small pads to connect components.
The electronics that are built on the PCBs connect to the board via solder pads, which come in two different flavors – through-hole and surface mount. Through-hole refers to components that have wires or pins that pass through holes drilled into the circuit board while board-mounted devices, typically SMDs, are attached on top of a pad by melted solder.
Both ways of connecting components have their pros and cons, but for the most part, through-hole is becoming less common due to its size and weight, while SMDs are becoming more popular because they’re smaller and faster.
Types of Boards
If you’re looking for a PCB for your next project, there are so many options to choose from. There are flexible PCBs, rigid ones, single-layer boards, and multi-layer boards. As well as different materials such as an FR4 which is a glass epoxy laminate or a CEM.
You can get them through PCB Assembly service providers that will mount electronic components you need on the PCB. These providers have different specialties, like for example, embedded systems, sensors, or wireless technology.
These are made of silicone or polyimide and can be bent over sharp corners without breaking.
They come in two different types: the rigid-flexible type, which is a combination of both rigid and flexible PCBs, and the foldable type, which can be folded in half without breaking.
Single-layered and Multi-layered Boards
Board thickness also varies, with some boards having just one layer while others can have as many as 16 layers. The more layers a board has with each other, the more complex the board becomes.
But with that complexity comes more functionality. Single-layer boards are used for simple devices while multi-layer boards are used in more complex devices.
What are PCBs Used for
Almost every electronic device you can think of contains at least one PCB. Phones, computers, tablets, televisions, cars – you name it.
The main function of a PCB is to connect different components on the device and allow for communication between them.
For example, your phone has a PCB that connects the screen, the buttons, and the circuits in the back. Without this board, those components wouldn’t be able to talk to each other and the phone would cease to function.
PCBs also play an important role in protecting these components from damage. By placing them on a board and shielding them with metal layers, you create a Faraday cage that protects them from outside interference like electromagnetic radiation.
The Benefits of PCBs
There are many benefits to using printed circuit boards. The first thing is that they allow for products to be smaller and more portable.
The circuits on a PCB can take up much less space than the individual components themselves, so you get a much smaller product in the end. This also makes it easier to put together different parts of your circuit and route traces where you need them to go.
Next, they’re very durable and long-lasting. They can take a lot of damage such as heat, moisture, or even physical force, without breaking apart. This makes them ideal for use in areas that are hazardous to electronics – like under the hood of an automobile where they are exposed to things like oil and water.
Allowing the boards to withstand these elements is crucial for ensuring it continues working properly, especially if it’s something critical like braking systems.
Thirdly, they’re extremely safe. The circuits on a PCB are encapsulated so that it’s almost impossible to touch two contacts at once with your bare skin. This eliminates the chances of you getting an electric shock from your device.
Fourthly, PCBs are very efficient and economical. They allow for devices to be made with fewer components, which in turn, saves on cost, for both yourself and your business.
Finally, PCBs are easy to repair and recycle. If a component on the board fails, it’s usually much easier to fix than if it were located elsewhere in the circuit. And when the board eventually reaches the end of its lifespan, it can be recycled without any negative environmental effects.
They Keep Devices Cool
Another important function of PCBs is their cooling abilities. All the parts of a circuit generate heat, and this can cause damage to your device if left unchecked. The metal layers on a PCB deflect and dissipate heat away from the components that produce it.
This then prevents overheating and keeps your device running smoothly for as long as possible. Overheating is one of the biggest causes of electronics failure, so by keeping them cool, you increase the lifetime of your product.
But, while they keep things cool, they also make it more difficult to efficiently transfer heat away from the inside of your device. This is because the metal layers act as an insulator, preventing heat from dissipating outwards.
There are ways around this such as through thermal vias (connecting two or more metal layers with a conductive material) but it’s not always an option.
Without Printed Circuit Boards, our devices would not be able to function. They are essential in connecting different components and allowing for communication between them. Additionally, PCBs help protects these components from damage and interference.
In a world where everything is becoming more and more electronic, it’s important to have a component like the PCB that can keep up with the demand.
So next time you’re using your phone or computer, take a second to appreciate the hidden Printed Circuit Board that’s making it all possible!