PCB Fabrication and Understanding the Process

Prototype pcb


The Product
Prototype PCB assembly was originally made from electrical connection systems using metal strips and rods. Typically they were used to connect electric parts that were secured onto wood bases. Over time, those metal strips and rods were replaced by wires that could be connected to screw terminals. Then, the wooden bases were replaced by metal chassis. Even though this was a big leap in technology there was still a need for a smaller and more compact design in order to increase the operating needs of the products that were using the circuit boards. Finally, in 1925 a patent was submitted for a technique that included making an electrical path right on to a surface that was insulated. This was done by using a stencil with electrically conductive ink to print. Hence where the term ‘printed circuit’ was derived.

The Process
Every single prototype PCB assembly has a unique way of being done. There really isn’t a standard type of printed circuit board. They all have to be designed differently in order to perform properly and function according to their specific intention. Designers typically use a computer to design the systems before laying them out on the board. The spaces between the conducting paths have to be less than 1.0mm and the locations of the holes are laid out to specific measurements as well. All this information is made into a numerical language by the software so that a machine can efficiently drill or the automated solder pasting machine can function properly.

The Materials
Glass fiber reinforced by epoxy resin is the most popularly used material in the prototype PCB assembly process. A copper foil is bonded to either one or both of the sides of the board. These materials are used because they are the most inexpensive types of materials that still are effective in the assembly. Designers look for a certain pattern on the boards during the prototype PCB assembly and that is achieved by etching away the surface of the copper made board to reveal the desired pattern. Resistors, capacitors, transistors, circuit chips and more raw materials are also used during the process.

The Health Hazards
There is a need to be concerned about toxic materials such as lead during prototype PCB assembly. The fumes that come from the soldering process are thought to be a health hazard so that part of the process has to be done in a closed off area. Extraction and cleaning must be done before being allowed to go out into the atmosphere. The potential for lead and other toxic fumes to enter the water stream and end up in landfills is very high if it is not properly cleaned up. Recycling efforts have been upped in the recent years in an effort to try and salvage the damage that has already been done.

The Future
Everything in technology is being made smaller and smaller and circuit boards are no different. It was commonly accepted that circuit boards did not need to be made smaller as technology moved on but it’s happening. Printed circuit boards are being made as more densely packed boards. This does not mean they will not be as efficient, however; quite the opposite is happening. Even though these boards are smaller and smaller, the electronic capabilities of them only continue to grow and advance. Because of this, printed circuit boards will continue to be a dynamic and important industry and field for a long time to come. There is no worry about them becoming obsolete as technology continues to move on.

Conclusion
Even though the whole idea of printed circuit boards can be a difficult concept to grasp and understand, unless you are already familiar with the industry, hopefully this article will help you understand a little bit better why they are so important and what they mean to us as a race. Circuit boards are used in literally every single electronic device that exists, in some way or another. Being able to understand prototype circuit boards and PCB fabrication is crucial to the advancement of technology. We all use electronics and technology on a day to day basis so it would be helpful if we could understand and appreciate the intricate details that go into designing them.

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