What Is PCB?
The printed circuit board (PCB) has been around for several decades, since the time this smaller, more efficient form of electrical wiring replaced individual pieces in early equipment. The PCB has two main purposes when used in electronic devices. It’s not only a place for mounting the individual components but is also the method for connecting the components.
A PCB is called a “board” because it’s made of a thin sheet or board of plastic or fiberglass. This base is covered with a very thin copper layer using a process that causes the copper to adhere to the board. The “printed” part of the process involves putting the connections on the copper sheet. Rather than using individual strands of wire there are various tracks in the copper that lead from component to component.
Printing is done with a material that is acid-resistant. When the PCB is submersed in acid much of the copper is removed. Only the areas that are protected by acid-resistant material remain. The connecting lines remain. It’s not magic, it’s chemistry. After holes are drilled and individual components are mounted on the board the PCB is read to be mounted in its specified location. The copper tracks that provide connections are usually protected by a coating to keep them from corroding.
Both sides of a PCB can be used in what we just described as a two-layer PCB. Multiple layers may be placed on a single board with careful placement of the connecting tracks. Most current computers have four-layer PCBs and some have up to 12 layers.
One of the advancements made in PCB construction involves soldering the component parts on the board rather than placing them in carefully drilled holes. Soldering parts allows more components to be placed on the board. Quality circuits must be constructed very carefully, especially with the soldering step in the process.
PCB use is common in the electronics industry. In fact, you probably won’t find a modern-day piece of electric equipment without a printed circuit board. This technology is used for random-access memory chips, computer motherboards and many similar components.
Some people refer to them as PC boards, which might lead us to think of them as specifically used for personal computers. While our computers certainly depend on PCB technology to work properly, the printed circuit board is used in nearly every personal appliance in the home and in the car. Your radio, home stereo, television, portable music players and kitchen appliances all use the PCB.
The low profile of the PCB makes this the perfect technology for slim-design items like music players and small notebook computers, for example. Much of the cost of quality electronic equipment is in the PCB. These crucial items are also used for life-saving and health-producing medical devices. Whether they are in our entertainment centers or in our heart-rate monitor, PCBs are essential. It seems that modern life wouldn’t be possible without the printed circuit board.