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13, June 2016

PCB Assembly 101 – Printed Circuit Board Basics

Computing in the modern day is not what it used to be. In the early days of computing, programmers had to struggle with giant-sized components that are housed in actual rooms just to solve simple mathematical equations. Maintenance was such a big issue then, when vacuum tubes, which are devices used to control the electric currents, would overheat and have to be replaced every now and then.

Nowadays, computing is so advanced that what once required a whole room to function now fits on the palm of your hand! There are even chips that are so small you wouldn’t believe they’re capable of processing billions of data in a fraction of a second.

What was the innovation that made the leap from vacuum tubes to modern day portable devices possible?

Printed circuit boardsPrinted circuit boards, or PCBs, as they are called in manufacturing and electronics industries, are boards where tiny transistors and integrated circuits are attached in order to provide electrical connection between these components. The manufacture of PCB assembly is a booming industry, and here are the things you should know about this indispensable technology.

Brief Background on PCBs

Many inventors experimented with the early concepts of the printed circuit board, among them Albert Hanson, Thomas Edison, and Arthur Berry. Originally, computers were not made for public use, as they required large and expensive materials that have to be maintained every now and then. But later on, as the world recovered from threats of war, the technological advancements brought about were commercialized and improved.

The nearest relative of the printed circuit board is the process known as point-to-point wiring. Point-to-point wiring means that thin insulated wired were manually interconnected in board, therefore making this a laborious process. These components also short-circuited every so often, and wire junctions were unreliable in day-to-day use.

However, the modern printed circuit boards make use of various technologies in electronics and design to produce components that are not only reliable but also efficient. Insulated wires are a thing of the past, as electrical connections are now made by printing lines and traces directly on the boards and cards. These lines and pads connect the various components of the printed circuit board, which are soldered in place. This is basically how PCB assemblies are made by manufacturing companies.

More Than Meets the Eye

Printed circuit boards come in many shapes and sizes and are sometimes called different names depending on how the board was built and the electric components used.

printed wiring boardAmong manufacturing circles, a board without embedded electrical components is commonly known as a printed wiring board (PWB) or an etched wiring board (EWB). On the other hand, a PCB with various components that are etched on the board itself is called a printed circuit board assembly, or simply PCB assembly.

More and more businesses have to make use of PCB assemblies in order to modernize their work environments, and there’s a lot of things to know about these boards.

Here are the most common things you should know about them:

  • You can design your own PCB!

In PCB assembly, the only phase that requires human creativity and imagination is the designing part. After that, most of the process of printing the circuits and soldering the electrical components onto the board are done using automated machines.

This means that anyone with a little background in electronics and access to the Internet can design their own PCB! You just need to get a computer-aided design (CAD) software which you will use in laying out the components of your own board, and with enough research, you can come up with a board that works.

There might be some problems on your first few PCBs, but if you’re looking to cut down on costs, then this is the way to go.

  • There are methods for producing PCBs for either mass production or for simple hobbyists.

After the design phase of PCB manufacturing, there are many methods to manufacture the physical boards, depending on the volume and purpose.

For mass production, the silk screen printing and photoengraving methods are more efficient. For small-scale productions, methods such as PCB milling and laser resist ablation are more common. Hobbyists can also create their own PCBs, if they’re patient enough to learn the tedious processes, like immersion etching.

Prior to the sending commands to the automated machines, the PCB fabrication data are first collected and verified by computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software. PCBs are then grouped into larger boards called panels for large volume orders, and then sent to the machines for printing.

  • Buying printed circuit boards online are now easier than ever.

Due to the growing popularity of PCB assemblies, manufacturing companies are being more creative in their approach to the tough competition on the consumer market. Fortunately, this has led to convenience in the part of the customers who are looking for easier ways to get PCBs. Imagineering, Inc. is one of the leaders in the PCB manufacturing industry that offers an online quoting tool that lets you upload your design and receive a turnkey quote within minutes!

The world of printed circuit boards is a big one, but with these tips, buying a quality PCB assembly can be a hassle-free activity that won’t cost you a fortune.