It's an exciting time for PCB designers and electrical engineers all over the world. Let’s play a simple game： think of one device that you use on a daily basis that wasn’t developed with a PCB.
In this article, you will learn some insane facts about PCB that will leave you amazed. Do you know the inventor of the PCB? Do you know why the color is green? What are those lines called? Do you know the laws that govern the operation of the PCB?
Also, we leave you with tips on how to go about your PCB prototype project. How do you know the best company for your project? There’s a lot for you to learn; sit back and enjoy.
1、 Top 6 PCB Industry Trends and the Manufacturing Challenges They Present
Overview of PCB Prototype Industry Trends
PCB prototypes are slowly becoming pervasive in our daily lives, and this popularity will surely continue in the future. We can all agree that the increase in adoption is as a result of an increase in consumer demand for products that are both smart and functional. It is what you can observe in almost industry; aerospace, medical devices, health, retail, and even the military. Here are trends we expect to see in the coming year.
High Power Boards
Low-power PCB boards are already very common, and their applications are numerous. But research tells us that there's going to be a thrust towards PCBs with higher power specifications. Do you know the reason for this? The increased usage of solar energy and anticipated emergence of electric vehicles! Remember that the boards operate at 24V or 48V. PCB prototypes with high power specification will come to the rescue when we are mounting components like batteries and panels.
High-Density Interconnect (HDI)
We came up with this technology when the demand for compact products grew. With HDI, we have fewer layers in the PCB stack, and the signals are transmitted at a higher speed. The challenge we can expect in this area is the ability to deal with noise and interference.
PCB Prototypes and Internet of Things
IoT is what enables wireless and swift sharing of data between different components in an ecosystem. IoT is what assures us that our smart home technology and smart cities will come to fruition. One challenge, however, is adhering to the several standards and regulations, especially to enforce security.
You know that flex PCBs are slowly taking over, right? Have you read the report that says that in a couple of years, 33% of the PCBs that are produced will all be equipped with flex abilities? Flex boards have an advanced capability, small size, and they are reliable.
Commercial-Off-The-Shelf Components (COTS)
COTS components are inevitable if we are serious about bringing standardization to PCB prototypes used in systems with strict requirements. One area where this application is simply inevitable is in space manufacturing; the components are under immense scrutiny, and the fact that the industry is leaning towards commercialization even brings up the need for COTS components.
Component Supply Chain Control
At the beginning of this chapter, we mentioned how the demand has risen. Well, this has also increased the need for advanced security features. We are currently seeing how virtual reality and augmented reality can aid PCB prototypes and the future is simply exciting.
2、12 Cool Facts about PCBS That You Probably Didn’t Know!
1、Why Are PCBs Green?
You’ve probably taken a moment to ponder why most PCBs you see have that trademark dark green color. Well, even if you haven’t, it is a very interesting fact that would stimulate your curiosity buds. All right, here’s it.
The green color that is visible to us is the color of the solder mask showing from the glass. There are speculations that green was the regulation standard at a time when the American military used PCBs and then it just spread naturally. Other theories postulate that green is the color of the original solder mask resin. So, even though the material isn’t being used anymore, we’re simply following convention by sticking to the color green although you should know that in circuits nowadays, the solder mask can take on any color.
One last reason why we haven't changed from green: so far, green works. The color is one reason why engineers can easily see any fault in the traces.
Image 1: PCB Prototypes
2、Who Invented PCBs?
It is a million-dollar question. We're giving you the answer for free. Paul Eisler is credited with being the father of PCBs. Paul Eisler is an inventor of Austrian descent, and he is the one who developed the first PCB. He did this in 1936 while he was working on a radio set at the time, although we can trace the development that led to the invention back to 1890s. After Paul developed the first PCB, it became widely accepted in the 1950s, and this marked the beginning of its growth.
Image 2: PCB Prototypes
3、Look Around You, PCBs are Everywhere
It is a fact that you might not have paid attention to in the past, but we shall open your eyes to this reality. You will see that printed circuit boards are in use almost everywhere you go. You are reading this paragraph from a device that we made using a PCB. If you're not, then you printed it out using a device that contains a PCB. You cannot take five steps without seeing a device that is underpinned by the PCB technology.
Do you know the most exciting fact? This technology has come to stay! There’s a very high chance that you're within touching distance of a computer system (not necessarily a PC) and this uses a PCB. The development of PCBs also leads us to believe that they will not easily surpass them. Research and development are heavily devoted to IoT capabilities, flex PCBs and other features that make the PCB technology futuristic.
4、We Design PCB Using Computer Aided Software (CAD)
If you’ve ever sat to wonder how a printed circuit board is designed, this paragraph is all you need. Both the schematic and the layout of a PCB are done via the CAD program. And this is what allows the board design to be tested and checked for functionality. Several tools are used for this purpose, but they all achieve the same basic aim.
5、The Surface Mount Technology
Have you heard about the surface mount technology? Probably not. Nowadays, the term is no longer as popular as it used to be in the 1980s. At that time, it was the most common technique used to manufacture a PCB, and it gained prominence during the period. Before the surface mount technology came along, we had the through-hole technique.
The through-hole technique worked like this; the components were attached to the board by inserting the ‘lead’ of a component into certain holes. As expected, this was slow, and many flaws and defects arose as a result. But with the surface mount technology, the leads were glued onto pads on the surface of the PCB.
Image 3: PCB Prototypes
6、What You See Are Traces Not Wires
What do you call those lines that run along the surface of the PCB? Well, here’s what they are not wires. Maybe you are thinking,
"Most electronic devices transmit energy via wires unless it is a wireless device." Yes, this is correct. However, the PCB is not like most devices/pieces of technology that you’re used to.
PCBs stand out in this regard. They use copper traces instead of copper wires to facilitate the flow of electrons. The major advantage of using a trace rather than the wire is that the PCB ends up being much smaller. It is because the traces are flat and they do not take up much space. Also, at the time, it was beneficial because the use of traces meant that through-hole technology could be used to transfer a hole in the circuit board.
7、The Number of Potential Components of PCBs
It is a fun fact that will come in handy; how many components have you imagined in a PCB? Well, unless you thought of a high number (which you didn't), the actual number of components will exceed what you proposed. Surprisingly, every one of these components has their special properties and features.
Here are some possible components;
• Diodes, etc.
There are many more components that can be added; truly, the potential is enormous.
The definition of a silkscreen is in itself an amazing fact to know. Can you remember those white etchings that you notice on the PCB solder mask? Yes, that’s what we refer to as a silkscreen. It is used to identify which particular component we have, and it also contains some other PCB information. Texts and associated information are printed using the silkscreen print, and this is the reason for the name. However, in recent times, we have seen printing done using digital ink-jet printers. Cool, right?
Image 4: PCB Prototypes
9、You Can Personalize Your PCB Completely
Some companies give you the option of making a PCB that is specially customized to your taste. It means that they suit the specific specifications that you have in mind. Here's good news though, it is not a must to make every single PCB suit a unique specification. Why shouldn’t you do this? Well, because it will prove very costly.
But as far as personalization goes, there’s also what we call quasi-personalization. What this means is that some of these companies have standard services available from which you can order a ‘personalized’ PCB. In doing this, it is not as expensive as you would have thought it would be.
10、The PCB Technology is Constantly Evolving
It is a fun fact you already know. Wrong! The evolution is unprecedented. Do you remember the story of Paul Eisler? When you compare the PCBs, we had in his time and those that we have now, you will appreciate how far we have come regarding technological advancement.
Do you want a peek into future evolutions? You’ve heard about flex PCBs with IoT capabilities, but what you might not know is that research is ongoing to develop the next generation of biodegradable PCB. It will contribute to our goal of a sustainable future.
Another important innovation is the development of graphene. Once this technology becomes commercially mature, the operation of solid-state electronics will change forever.
11、PCBs and Size
The future is small and compact, why shouldn’t our PCBs be? Well, it’s just a matter of time before we have extremely small PCBs. Since the inception, you can observe that the PCB has also been shrinking in size. This trend is set to continue, and now, the pressure is even heightened. Developers see the need to make smaller and smaller PCBs for a wide number of applications.
Here's an example of the technology driving the reduced size; using the surface mount technology that we discussed earlier, we can design PCBs that are up to a tenth of the size of the ones we design using through-hole technology. You can confidently predict that in a few years, the PCB would be as small as you can imagine.
12、The Law Governing PCBs
Do you think these little devices are autonomous? What governs their actions? How do we even know how to utilize them properly? There are so many questions that pop up as regards this topic, but there’s just one answer. Ohm’s Law. It is the most famous law among electrical engineers and PCB prototype designers, and we shall explore it shortly.
Ohm’s law is responsible for establishing the relationship between current, resistance, and voltage. Putting it in words, we can say that Ohm’s law states that electrical current is directly proportional to voltage and it is inversely proportional to resistance. This simply law tells designers and engineers how to develop PCBs and PCB prototypes, telling them the design implications of their choices.
3、Ways to Identify the Best PCB Prototype Manufacturer
Why Do You Even Need the Best PCB Prototype?
It is not unusual to see people questioning the importance of getting only the best when it comes to PCB prototypes. It seems to be the motivation behind the many PCB prototype companies we have had in recent years.
But you need to only work with the best, not just because it will help you maintain your credibility in the future, but because of other benefits which we shall mention in the paragraphs that follow.
Use of High-Quality PCB Material
It is not uncommon to see manufacturers using low-quality adhesive and conductive materials. But this is not a norm when you’re dealing with a quality company. Different raw materials can cause a significant gap in the quality of the produced material. Features like the copper thickness and flame resistance are equally important.
PCB Production Progress Should be Trackable
Do you have conversations with your PCB prototyping expert to know how you can track the project? Well, you should have a schedule to work with, and you should also be able to affect the predefined objectives when it is not going as planned. The support service that you receive while the project is ongoing is one factor that makes a manufacturer outstanding or mediocre.
A Rich Community with Vibrant PCB Enthusiasts
The manufacturing team should be diverse, comprising professionals who are eager to get work done and share insight with you based on the project. It is what drives growth, and it will also contribute to a very intuitive PCB prototyping experience.
Does the agreement end after you get your delivery? What if you have questions? What if it doesn’t meet your specified requirements? Will you get the attention of the professionals if you have concerns? If the answer to any of these questions is no, then consider your choice and do what is best for you.
Trusted Reviews and Referrals
It is not always available, but when it is, you will find it to be very helpful. If you have a friend who cannot stop raving about the PCB prototyping service rendered at a particular company, there’s a very good chance that that company is top-notch. You can also view the testimonials of the company, or better yet, request for one.
From all that we have stated so far, there’s no doubt that you have learned many facts that will help you in your PCB prototyping quest. We tick all the checkboxes, and we are even poised to go the extra mile in helping you achieve your goals.
We understand the importance of safety in PCB prototyping, and this is one factor that will help you build your brand, maintain your integrity, and make profits.
Our team of engineers devotes care and attention to every design and implementation, and we would love to help you with your next PCB prototyping project. Just give us a trial today, and you will be glad you did.