Understanding the Ins and Outs of Printed Circuit Boards
Whenever a computer or a variety of other electronic devices is used, a PCB (printed circuit board) is engaged. PCBs were first introduced in the 1940s, but in 1995, just a little over 50 years after they were first introduced, they became an over seven billion dollar industry for the first time. With the tech boom of the modern era, the industry is now worth over $60 billion around the world. And, as time has passed, there’s been further innovation and streamlining in terms of the different kinds of PCB’s and how they’re assembled and manufactured. Manufacturers are always looking to cut costs where they can without (hopefully) sacrificing the quality, which can often lead to upset customers and a decline in sales. So how can costs be cut? What needs to go into the assembly and manufacturing of PCB’s?
A PCB is a slim board, usually made out of some type of laminate material, such as fiberglass. The “printed” part of its name comes from the conductive pathways that are impressed onto the board, which connect the different parts that work together on the PCB, such as circuits, transistors, and resistors.
You’ll find PCB’s in many different types of electronic devices, from computers to TV’s, cell phones, tablets, and digital cameras. Depending on how complex the circuitry it is, a PCB may be a multilayer board — the most common being four, six, eight, and ten layer boards. The most complex types of boards may have over 42 layers. A heavy copper PCB will have a thickness of copper that’s greater in three ounces in either the inner or outer layers. A PCB’s trace thickness is measured in copper ounces — usually between one to two ounces, but it can be as thick as six ounces.
In the early day of PCB’s, they were designed using clear Mylar sheets, usually much larger than the actual circuit board. Designers would make a transparent photomask of the design first, as a prototype. Today, PCB design software helps greatly simplify the prototype assembly and can put together a fast PCB prototype.
What are the Components of PCB?
There are three general main layers to a PCB — the substrate (usually a fiberglass known as FR4), copper, the soldermask, and the silkscreen. These layers are all blended together using heat or an adhesive product to make it all one item.
The soldermask layer that gets put over the copper layer helps insulate the copper from coming into contact with other metal, solder, or parts that could be conductive. It helps solder to the right places. The silkscreen is the last letter and provides letters, numbers, and symbols to assist with circuit board assembly and understanding what’s what with the board.
What Are Some Ways to Cut Assembly and Manufacturing Costs?
Turnkey PCB can be a quick way to get good deals on PCB’s. With turnkey PCB, you send the specifications of the PCB board and the money, and they’ll send you the units already made. With turnkey PCB, you don’t have to worry about having the right machinery or parts — just send it off!
However, apart from turnkey PCB, investing in the right kind of machinery to assemble and manufacture PCB’s and PCB prototype services can help cut down costs in the long run. For example, getting an accurate printing machine can help cut down error — indeed, problems stemming from printing technique were responsible for about 70% of all surface assembly quality issues. With a single automatic line, you can place and solder more components than with 50 operators. Your components will have more consistent quality and you can save money on salaries, benefits, etc. Working with solder paste appliers, high-speed chip shooters, pick-and-place machines and infrared ovens can crank out over 50,000 parts or more per hour.
Whether you go for turnkey PCB or invest in more efficient machinery, there’s a variety of ways to create and produce good quality PCB’s at a reduced cost. Explore all your options and see what you can do to make your PCB manufacturing more efficient.