It's a pretty safe bet that if you're reading this you're using something containing a printed circuit board. It's also fair to say, however, that the average person does not really know what they are.
Basically, a printed circuit board or PCB is thin piece of board built from fiberglass or a similar substance, often a green color.
My first experience of them, and that of most inquisitive youngsters, was when I ripped them out of discarded appliances in order to, rather optimistically, build a robot. That seems an age ago but, incredibly, this modern marvel started out in the 1940s. Many revisions have passed since that time and PCBs have improved substantively since that time. Of course, the biggest improvements have been to ensure that they are probably smaller than they used to be, and this is most evident in that most ubiquitous exponent of printed circuit technology, the mobile phone.
More recent developments are less obvious though, one being to veer away from the traditional flat and rigid construction; recent technological advances mean that some new devices actually contain 'bendy' boards made from a broad range of flexible materials.
Printed circuit boards have a starring role in the very common electronic devices like computers and digital cameras but they are evident in a lot of more serious applications and specialist products like medical equipment and aircraft instrumentation. Its vital that the PCB manufacturers have very exacting standards as the PCBs are fundamental to the safe and reliable operation of this equipment. Printed circuit boards carry the lifeblood of the instrument within its circuitry and connectivity, including the product works in a similar way to how electricity in a home requires circuitry, wiring and fuses etc to keep it running smoothly.
There is a noticeable difference, however, with PCBs in that the board's circuits are made of conductive ink. Reputable printed circuit board manufacturers are specialists in all stages, from the design and prototyping to the mass production of printed circuit boards. And as shown above, it's of great importance that they are carefully made, with a keen eye including they come off the production line error-free and manufactured to function perfectly for many years. Because of this, the PCB designers and engineers' jobs contain a big responsibility and it's proof of their skill and aptitude that such inticate and elaborate circuits continue to function efficiently. Besides to the designer's skill, it's just as important that machinery of the highest quality is employed in the printing of the circuit board or the engineers work and diligence is wasted. Printed circuit boards ' are not just manufactured as single boards, although this is often how I remember them as a child. They can be produced with multiple layers from two to ten. Generally speaking, copper is the usual material for the circuit, seeing as it's such an efficient electrical conductor.
The key function of these printed circuits is to ensure the main processor connects to the various components within the device. A good example is the printed circuit boards manufactured for use in computers. The main circuit board, or motherboard, connects to the various smaller ones within that carry out the other related functions within the computer.
With so much vital equipment in our lives relying on the printed circuitry inside, PCB manufacturers must use the latest technology and ensure the products are strictly engineered to ensure they continuously manufacture the highest quality printed circuit boards. But without using the best raw materials, they would be able to meet the required high standards and using decent materials will ensure the circuits stay free from corrosion over the working life of the product.
Without high standards from our PCB manufacturers, the vital systems we depend on daily could easily stop working correctly.
Anyone seen "Wargames"?