Beginner’s Guide to Printed Circuit Boards


What is PCB?

PCB stands for Printed circuit boards. PCB is the copper laminated circuit having a non-conductive top layer used to make the connection between different electrical components onboard and physical components. PCBs are invented by Paul Eisler in 1936. There were days when our approach was limited to use a circuit board with point-to-point wiring. These types of circuits were inappropriate due to failure chances like a short circuit. Advancement in science provides us circuit known as PCB which proved itself to be a core of electronics.

Components of Printed Circuit Boards

PCB ranges from simple layer circuit boards to more sophisticated circuit boards having multi-layers, sometimes up to twelve layers.

Generally, it consists of different parts which are listed below:

  1. Substrate(FR4)
  2. Cooper layer
  3. Solder mask
  4. Silkscreen

The base of the circuit is a substrate which is usually made up of fiberglasses such as FR4 which gives rigidity and thickness. Depending upon use there are some PCBs that are built flexible. Secondly, there is a copper layer laminated on both sides of the substrate providing conductivity to the circuit. You might be thinking of the green color of the board, so here comes the green layer which is usually called a solder mask. It is an insulating layer above the copper layer to avoid any misconnection.

This layer helps in the soldering connection between electrical components on the board and the physical component of the board. Lastly, there is a white silkscreen which adds letters, numbers, and symbols for the convenience of users.

Types Of PCBs:

PCB circuit has several types on the basis of a number of layers and their flexibility or method of manufacturing.

On the basis of a number of layers:

  1. Single Layer: It contains a single layer of base material or substrate with a thin layer of metal usually copper on the one side of the substrate.
  2. Double layer: It contains copper layer on both sides of the board and both sides are connected by either through-hole or with the use of surface mounts.
  3. Multi-layer: It consists of a series of three or more doubled layers PCBs secured together with specialized glue and sandwiched between layers of insulation to avoid breakage of any component due to heat. Let me tell you one interesting fact that the largest multi-layer PCB ever built was 50 layers thick.

On the basis of rigidity:

  1. Rigid PCBs: Substrate of this type of PCB is made up of such a material that prevents the circuit from twisting. Computer motherboard is one of the common examples of rigid PCB. Rigid PCBs are available ranging from single layer to multilayers.
  2. Flexible PCBs: Unlike rigid PCBs, their substrate is made up of flexible material like plastic. Like rigid PCBs, they are also available in single, double, and multilayers.
  3. Flex-rigid PCBs: Flex-rigid PCBs consist of flexible layers attached to rigid layers. They have several advantages over flexible or rigid PCBs.

How To Design PCB?

One question generally appears in mind that how can anyone make PCB? Or what is the procedure behind it? To do so you have to follow the following steps:

  • Start by making a schematic of your circuit. Schematic generally serves as a blueprint of your circuit and it will help you to get the general idea that how your circuit will look like. Different kinds of PCB schematic services are available to help you out.
  • Next, you have to make that schematic circuit on any software like proteus or Easy EDA. For proper use of the software, you should have some basic knowledge of the libraries and different components.
  • Then all you have to do is to give physical form to your PCB layout by using all types of layers mentioned above. You can make a PCB circuit of any shape, triangle, or any random shape, but usually simple circuits are used. Sometimes for larger circuits, you have to use two copper layers, with traces routed on both sides of PCB.
  • Generally, you have to just make the design layout of your circuit on the software of your own choice and then that design layout has to be sent to the manufacturers for making the PCB circuit.

They Are Everywhere!

After learning so much about PCBs, one thought that provokes in our mind is about the importance of PCBs in our daily life. Nowadays PCBs are used in almost all fields of science. Some of the major applications are:

  • Medical field: Versatile nature of PCBs allow them to be used in almost all types of equipment used in the medical field ranging from small devices, such as pacemakers, too much larger devices like X-ray machines.
  • Lighting: Nowadays almost everyone is familiar with LED-based lighting systems due to their cheapness and higher efficiency. Credits for all the features of LEDs go to aluminum backed PCBs.
  • Automotive and aerospace fields: Both fields require light and flexible substances like PCBs to endure high vibration environments. PCBs are also able to confirm the tight spaces present in these applications.
  • Maritime application: All types of marine vessels rely on PCBs to function. PCBs used in marine devices should be reliable because the safety of the whole crew depends on it.

PCBs Are Moving Toward Advancement

It is rightly said that technology is always changing. Today’s PCBs are far different than the days of Paul Eisler in 1936. They are getting smaller, more efficient, and faster to build. As they are so versatile that minute change in PCBs can bring evolution to the technology of this era and due to that fact all fields of science are so much concerned about PCBs’ advancement.

Scientists from the environmental sector are trying to make biodegradable PCBs to overcome solid waste pollution. PCBs are used in almost every device in every field of science so by making them biodegradable we can decrease a significant portion of pollution.

Furthermore, advancement can bring immense change in future technology by introducing new devices such as printed circuit board cameras and 3-D printed electronics.

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It is right to say that PCBs are oxygen for every device available in this world because each device requires electrical power to operate. So it is necessary to focus on the advancement of PCBs to make our future better.