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Printed circuit board is the most common name but may also be called “printed wiring boards” or “printed wiring cards”. Before the advent of the PCB circuits were constructed through a laborious process of point-to-point wiring. This led to frequent failures at wire junctions and short circuits when wire insulation began to age and crack.

As electronics moved from vacuum tubes and relays to silicon and integrated circuits, the size and cost of electronic components began to decrease. Electronics became more prevalent in consumer goods, and the pressure to reduce the size and manufacturing costs of electronic products drove manufacturers to look for better solutions. Thus was born the PCB.  

How to design a PCB?

The simplest PCBs are single sided boards (one copper layer). However, the copper traces can also be installed on both sides of the board, creating a double sided PCB. They become more and more complex as additional layers are added to the original design. These new layers have their own copper trace formations. The copper connections cannot cross one another without the path of the electrical charge being compromised, so multi layered PCBs become necessary for advanced electronics. However, in the single sided boards one side is reserved for the copper trace and the other side houses the components.

There are different types of PCB circuit boards, depending on the number of layers and nature. They include the following:

  • Single-sided PCBs
  • Double-sided PCBs
  • Multilayer PCBs
  • Rigid PCBs
  • Flex PCBs
  • Rigid-Flex PCBs
  • How to design a PCB?

PCB design is more than putting together a few components and drawing traces linking them together. Instead, it is a systematic process that starts from capturing the requirements of the design to testing out the finished prototype.

While working on a PCB layout is fun, equal attention must be accorded to capturing the design specification and translating it into functional schematics. The process also involves identifying key components to be used in the design. The resulting schematic should fulfill the requirement of the design and free from errors before the respective nets and footprints are transferred to the PCB layout designer.

In PCB design, the first thing you’ll want to do is to have a plan on how to fit all the components within a specific area. But squeezing all the components together isn’t what you’ll want to do. Instead, you need to place the components according to their functional module and separate noisy components from sensitive analog modules.

  • How are PCB produced?

There are two main methods for prototyping a PCB:

Through-hole Technology

Through-hole technology is the traditional method of manufacturing PCBs and prototypes. This method involves inserting leads through holes on a single side of the circuit board. Then, the leads are soldered to the copper or other metal layer on the other side.

Manufacturers who use through-hole technology often make prototypes by hand. They usually have some issues because they don’t always have all of the same robust components that go into making the final version. These hand-made prototypes tend to be simple in design, and some do not last through the challenges that arise during the testing process.

Surface-mounted Technology

This method of producing a prototype is more technologically advanced. Surface-mounted technology does not need leads. Instead, the components are soldered in place usually with a speedy soldering technique.

SMT allows manufacturers to create more precise, compact boards with complex abilities. Components can be added to both sides of the board because of the soldering technique. These prototypes tend to last through testing procedures because the process makes them stronger than those made through through-hole techniques. SMT prototypes can be made quickly and efficiently.

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