PCB is a vitally important aspect of the tech industry, as it’s responsible for providing the foundation for many internal parts of a computer or electronic devices. Before PCB software was on the market, the printed circuit boards had to be designed using clear Mylar sheets that were four times as big as the circuit board needed to be, where designers would make a transparent photomask of the design. In 1995, just over 50 years of PCBs were introduced, they became over a $7 billion industry and in 2000, a $10 billion industry. As tech has really taken off, the demand has only increased and since 2012, the PCB industry is worth over $60 billion on a global scale. Machine assembly for a variety of sizes has meant that PCBs can be assembled in just a fraction of the time that it would take for them to be hand assembled. Some PCB assemblers have a turn-time of five days or less — three-quarters faster than the average. However, some small batch PCB is still assembled by hand.
What Is PCB Exactly and What Kinds Are There?
PCB stands for printed circuit board and are thin boards composed of fiberglass or other laminate material onto which conductive pathways are printed onto the board. This connects other parts of the PCB and connects them to the motherboard (which is also a PCB). They help everything from our computers to our cell phones to our radios run properly.
The main types of PCBs are single sided, double sided, multilayer, rigid, flex, and rigid-flex. Generally, the PCBs in cell phones are thinner with finer circuitry, to accommodate the smaller device. Heavy copper PCB have a copper thickness of over three ounces in either the inner or outer layers and PCB trace thickness is measured in copper ounces. Generally one to two ounces are used by PCB designers, but manufacturers can go up to six ounces of thickness.
The most common multilayer boards are four layers, six layers, eight layers, and 10 layers, but can go over 42 layers. The higher the number of layers, the more complex are the electronic circuits.
Tell Me About Small Batch PCB
Small batch PCB involves a similar PCB fabrication and assembly as mass produced PCB, but there are smaller numbers produced. If you need a good number of PCBs, but don’t need thousands, seeking out a business that does small batch PCB will be the smart choice. Low volume PCB reduce your chances of waste and may be less expensive, since you’re not paying for bulk quantities.
However, if you’re going this route, you should plan on not having a quick turn-around; unlike some bigger PCB assembly companies, small batch PCB manufacturers might take weeks to get them back to you. As you can see, there are both advantages and drawbacks to small batch PCB, but with some planning, it’s easy to work around the longer time difference.
How Does Circuit Board Assembly Work?
Circuit board assembly is different than actually manufacturing the PCB. With circuit board assembly, the electronic components are soldered to the PCB, which turns into a PCBA (Printed Circuit Board Assembly). Surface mount technology and through hole assembly processes are both used and soldered using a wave soldering process.
The pathways that are in the laminated copper sheets combine with a non-conductive susbstrate to complete the assembly. However, new technology has started to find other methods of circuit board assembly that don’t involve soldering, such as plated through-hole technology and electr-mechanical assembly.
Almost every technological gadget needs some type of PCB in order to run effectively. Whether you need only a hundred PCBs or thousands, the PCB industry offers you the chance to start innovating.