PCB physically supports and electrically connects the components in electronic devices, and it is why all electronic devices work. Technology is synonymous with change, in that it is always evolving. Advancement is technology affects everything thing in the world, and PCB is not in any way left out. Almost all electronic devices use PCB, so manufacturers have the aim to improve the technology, and this has affected PCB cost. The objective of this article is to educate readers on the various techniques that affect PCB cost and how they do so.
1、Evolution of PCB
Before talking about the multiple technologies that influence PCB cost, it is essential will make a pit stop to understand how PCB came to be and how it has evolved over the years. In the time before PCB came into existence, circuits where connected exclusively by wires and later on wire wrapping, where a small gauge wire is used to link connection points by wrapping them around a post.
However, this came with a lot of problems that included frequents short circuits, wire damage, loss of connectivity, and lots more, especially when the wires got old. But, as time went on, the need to decrease the size of electronic components arose, which was when the PCB was born.
Since PCB was invented in 1936 by Paul Eisler, it has significantly evolved. One of the first versions used different base materials (including wood.) In the year 1960, the design of PCBs started with a more advanced technique, which helped to safeguard the traces and components from corrosion.
The versions made in the years between the 1970s and 1980s came with reduced circuiting and overall size of the circuit boards. It also led to a significant reduction in PCB cost at that time as the reduced size of the PCB meant the use of fewer materials. From the 1980s onwards, small surface-mount parts replaced the through-hole components that were used in previous versions, thus making the printed circuit board more complicated, but much smaller.
During this period, most PCBs were manufactured for specific functions, reducing the PCB production cost and hence the overall PCB cost. In the 1990's High-Density Interconnect (HDI) PCB was invented that caused a decrease in the production time required but increased the demand for PCB.
Image 1: PCB Cost
2、The Different Technologies That Affect PCB Cost
Various factors affect PCB cost, and some of them are listed before:
• Material choice: The type of material used in produced a PCB will affect its cost. Top-quality PCBs are usually laminated with FR4 material, although this might not be enough for PCBs made for high-intensity uses, like those used in the fuel industries and aerospace. Equipment like microwaves that require PCB of higher frequencies will use materials of higher grade quality than the standard FR4 and would thus be more expensive.
• The number of layers: The number of layers in the PCB is another factor that influences PCB cost. The PCB cost for PCBs with three or more layers is higher than those with just two layers. Therefore, the production cost increases with an increase in the number of layers.
• PCB thickness and aspect ratio: Until recent technological advancements, the thickness of the PCB only played a minute role in the cost of PCB. That is because manufacturers in the past did not consider the thickness of the PCB. Thick PCBs usually cost more as it requires more materials and production process compared to its thinner counterparts.
• PCB size: The size of the printed circuit board is another factor that influences PCB cost. The larger the size, the more materials required to produce the PCB, and therefore, the higher the PCB cost. As technology has advanced, manufacturers have worked to reduce the PCB size, thus resulting in a reduction in PCB cost.
• PCB finish: This factor is often left out when accounting for the PCB cost as it is considered a minute. PCB uses different types of finishing.
Some finishes are of higher grades and provide a longer shelf life, therefore incurring higher PCB cost. HASL (Hot Air Solder Leveling) is one of the most common finishing used due to its superb solder-ability and excellent shelf life.
However, it is not environment-friendly. In the modern age, the environment always has to be considered when using a product, and this is why ENIG (Electroless Nickel Immersion Gold) has become more come as it has all the features of the HASL in addition to being environment-friendly.
2.1 3D technology influence on PCB cost
3D printed technology is one of the most exciting technological innovations of all time. 3D technology has touched many industries, including the movie industry, gaming industry, arts, printing, etc. The 3D technology also affects PCB and PCB costs as this technology boasts numerous manufacturing advantages compared to the traditional 2D PCB.
PCB cost has reduced with 3D PCB printing as the manufacturing process is now both cheaper and more accessible. Also, the 3D PCB printing method reduces human errors to the barest minimum, therefore enhancing the general efficiency and accuracy.
Image 2: PCB Cost
2.2 Influence of wearable technology on PCB cost
Wearables such as fitness bands, smartwatches, and smart glasses are a relatively new market. As time has gone by, PCBs their thickness, although with an increase in functionality, is what is needed in the market today.
The wearable technology utilizes PCBs just like smartphones do but in a much smaller capacity and a higher efficiency level. The use of wearable devices, which has risen in recent years, requires the use of thin PCBs, which cost less than the thicker counterparts, and this will reduce the PCB cost.
Image 3: PCB Cost
2.3 Healthcare technology and its influence on PCB cost
Health is one of the most important (if not the most important) sectors globally as it keeps humans alive. Advancement in technology has had an enormous impact on the medical industry and has led to the invention of several new technologies that have enabled it to run more efficiently.
Some of these new technologies include health care apps and, which efficiently stores patients' data. Micro cameras, which are used to view the internal organs of patients, is another great technology. These cameras produce high-quality pictures that are especially useful during operations.
The bigger the PCB, the higher the PCB cost and vice versa. More recent technologies in the health care sector, like the micro cameras used in the hospital, require the use of small PCBs, and this will result in an overall decrease in the PCB costs.
Image 4: PCB cost
3、The Future of PCB and it’s Costing
The future of PCB looks bright, the reason being that technologies such as consumer electronics, surveillance technology, and other varieties of technology have all noted the need for PCB in their development.
It is not then surprising that advancement in technology has coincided with the growth of PCBs and will further increase in the future with the increase in technologies like flexible displays, wearable electronics, and micro cameras in the healthcare sector.
Manufacturers are always looking for new ways to reduce PCB costs to boost their profit. Micro PCBs is an original design manufacturer look forward to; although it requires added functionality will result in less cost due to its decreased size.
Image 5: PCB cost
PCBs have come a long way since they were first introduced in 1936. Just like technology has advanced, so too has PCB; in fact, it can be said that PCB is one of the most significant determining factors in the advancement of technology over the years. With PCB ingrained in most consumer electronics like televisions, phones, and the likes, you can be sure they need for PCB would not decline but instead go in the opposite direction. With the ever-expanding need and the advancing technologies, the PCB will become even more affordable to meet the manufacturer's unquenchable need for PCB.