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A PCB trace is what it sounds like, a path for the circuit to follow. The trace includes the network of copper, wiring, and insulation, as well as the fuses and the components that are used on the board.

The easiest way to understand a trace is to think of it as a road or bridge. To accommodate vehicles, the trace needs to be wide enough to hold at least two of them. It needs to be thick enough not to collapse under pressure. They also need to be made of materials that will withstand the weight of the vehicles that travel on it. But, traces do all of this to a much smaller degree to move electricity rather than automobiles.

Components of PCB Trace

There are several components that make up the PCB trace. They have various jobs that need to be done for the board to do its job adequately. Copper has to be used to help the traces do their jobs, and without the PCB, we would not have any electrical devices. Imagine a world without smartphones, laptops, coffee makers, and automobiles. That is what we would have if PCBs did not use copper.

PCB Trace Thickness

The PCB design depends on the thickness of the board. The thickness will affect the balance and will keep the components connected.

PCB Trace Width

The width of the trace is also important. This does not affect the balance or the attachment of the components, but it does keep the current transferring without overheating or damaging the board.

PCB Trace Current

The PCB trace current is necessary because this is what the board uses to move electricity through the components and wires. Copper helps this happen, and the free electron on each atom gets the current moving smoothly over the board.

What are reasons of using copper of PCB?

There are two similar terms used in PCB design; copper balancing and copper thieving. Although they are often used interchangeably, there are some important distinctions between the two:

Copper balancing

This is the process of adding non-conductive patterns of copper to a circuit board in order to alleviate the possible bending of the board during manufacturing. PCB layer stackups that are not configured symmetrically, or individual layers with dense copper on one side versus the other, can all cause the board to warp during fabrication. Uneven copper in the board structure can also twist during the assembly process due to the excessive amount of heat used for soldering. To counter this, the PCB CAD design system will add area fills, or pours, to sparse areas of the board to copper balance the design.

Copper thieving

This is also the addition of non-conductive patterns of copper to the circuit board, but in this case, it is to even out or “thieve” some of the electrical current used for plating the board. On areas of the board where there are isolated or “lonely” traces, the current applied to the board for plating can become more concentrated on those features. This scenario may result in an under-etching of the trace giving it a “mushroom” profile instead of the clean squared edges that were expected. You can see an example of this in the image below, where the cross-section of the trace on the left depicts serious undercutting, while the trace on the right is more squared off as desired.

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