Blog  /  PCB Controller: All You Need To Know About the Core Control Circuit in a PCB

PCB Controller: All You Need To Know About the Core Control Circuit in a PCB

PCB controller is essential electrochemical or electro-mechanical devices for interfacing users and circuit boards.

Printed circuit boards create compact electrical connections and provide mechanical support to attached components.

But they need controllers to collect user inputs and interpret the control signals to send to the components. 

So, we will look at what a PCB controller is all about, beginning with its functions. Take a look!

PCB Controller Functions

This controller has six functions.

PCB Control

The primary function of a PCB controller is to ensure all the board functions run smoothly.

So it connects to the memory, logic, and power components to ensure all inputs and outputs are in order.

Managing Pins and Other Connections

PCB controllers also manage connection pins by setting & governing data exchange rules.

This function means the board has the power to manage the host board interactions with other PCBs.

Controlling Data Flow

While managing pins and connections, the controller can regulate data flow across the board.

For instance, it can decide when and which components should receive data.

Controlling data flow is critical if the board has different sections that must exchange data.

A controller board for an elevator

A controller board for an elevator

The other three include:

  • Power management
  • Timing management
  • Creating and managing the board’s configuration

Factors To Consider When Selecting a PCB Controller 

Power Requirements

PCB controllers have different applications that usually depend on the board they control.

So their power requirements also vary depending on their use.

For instance, industrial motor PCB controllers have higher power requirements than laptop board controllers.

Therefore, you should have a controller that matches the available power supply.


A PCB controller must be compatible with a board for it to send control signals from the sensed user input.

Check for software, hardware, and platform compatibility.

Memory Capacity

These devices have internal memories to store instructions and process more as a batch.

So the higher the internal memory capacity, the better the device, especially for controlling complex systems.


Circuit boards, especially those designed for critical applications like medical and military uses, need maximum reliability.

But generally, always go for reliable controllers because downtimes can be costly and risky.

A PCB being tested for reliability (vibration testing)

A PCB being tested for reliability (vibration testing)


The cost of a controller depends on its application. High-performance units are usually costlier than their low-performance counterparts.

We recommend picking a controller that matches the application to avoid underpowering or overpowering the board.

Overpowering the board is okay, but you’ll underutilize the controller and spend more money for no reason.

Ease of Use

A controller might be powerful and sufficient for the board but may not deliver if complex to use.

So always pick an easy-to-use controller to ensure maximum utilization, performance, and efficiency.

PCB Controller Materials

Considering the conductive tracks, a PCB controller can have traces etched from aluminum alloys, copper, or gold.

Copper is highly conductive, making it reliable for high-speed signal operations.

Gold is also conductive but is more resistant to corrosion. Although expensive, the material is ideal for harsh outdoor operations.

A circuit board with gold traces

A circuit board with gold traces

Aluminum alloys are cheaper than gold and copper and provide superb static electricity protection. But they are not as durable.

Another thing. The controller’s size determines the material used.

Tiny controllers can function with thin, less conductive materials, but large controllers need thick, more conductive metals.

How To Design a PCB Controller

  1. First, identify/determine the board controller requirements.
  2. Second, find a suitable microcontroller.
  3. Next, design the board layout.
  4. Then, choose the most suitable controller components.
  5. Test the unassembled PCB.
  6. Assemble and test the board.
  7. Finally, program, test, and debug the microcontroller.

General Purpose PCB Controller Best Design Practices

General-purpose PCB controllers usually require repairs or upgrades over time. So when designing them, we recommend splitting the board into separate modules.

For instance, you can have a microcontroller unit module and an I/O module.

With this setup, you can mount the I/O module in an enclosure (terminal rack).

Then install the MCU PCB in the I/O module. The distinct parts will separate the long-lasting modules from those that require frequent replacements.

A batch of automotive-printed circuit boards

A batch of automotive-printed circuit boards

So the I/O module will host passive components because they last longer than their active counterparts.

But the microprocessors, intelligent memory chips, and intelligent chip modules will reside on the microcontroller module.

They don’t last as long and may become obsolete quickly.

Since they are separate, ensure you have enough voltage to power the inter-board connectors.

Match these with enough ground pins to handle the return current.

PCB Controller Applications

You can find PCB controllers in these electronics.

An MRI machine

An MRI machine

  • Industrial equipment
  • Automotive equipment

A car headlight position control module

A car headlight position control module

Embedded Systems

Embedded systems usually incorporate PCB controllers like Field Programmable Gate Arrays and microcontrollers internally.

These controllers communicate with I/O peripheral devices to receive input signals for controlling the board.

Wrap Up

As you can see, PCB controllers play a critical role in circuit boards.

They act as the intermediary between the user input (control signals) and the hardware. 

However, you must consider several factors when selecting a board controller.

But instead of buying a ready-made unit, you can design the circuit for manufacturing. And we recommend contacting our technical team for guidance.

At OurPCB, we have the equipment and expertise to get the best PCB controller for your project.