Printed Circuit Boards – What are They and How are They Used?

Printed circuit boards are the basis for many types of electronic and computer components and devices. PCB’s for short, printed circuit boards are typically composed of anywhere between 1 to 2 dozen conductive layers. Each layer is separated by a substrate, or an insulating layer, and then laminated together to form a printed circuit board. Conductive layers are usually made of copper. Drilled holes are included on the boards, which are called “vias”. These “vias” are electroplated or riveted to make the connection electrical.

Manufacturing Of Printed Circuit Boards

To manufacture printed circuit boards, they start with a substrate and then lay a copper layer over it. Then they “etch” the layer to remove the copper that is not needed, leaving the proper amount of copper area needed for the application. Then the appropriate amount of vias, or holes, are drilled into the layers with either a tungsten carbide drill or a laser, depending on the size of the vias needed. Any areas of the board where components will be placed are plated. Then any texts are printed on the board with a screen printing process. The boards are then ready for testing. After the board is tested, the board is ready for components for the desired application to be attached, this process is called “populating”.

History Of Printed Circuit Boards

The inventor of printed circuit boards was an Austrian engineer named Paul Eisler. He made the first printed circuit board as part of a radio in the year 1936. A graduate of Vienna University in 1930, Eisler developed the radio while living in Hempstead, England. During World War II, Eisler was interned in England for being an illegal alien. When he was released in 1941, he sought out investors for his printed circuits invention. The Camberwell lithography company became interested and offered Eisler a contract, which he did not read before signing. The contract gave the rights to his idea away to the company. After this, he was still able to get a patent for a printed circuit for many other applications in 1943. His invention was finally noticed by the US military, which integrated the technology into bomb detonators to counter German advancements in the field. When the war ended, the US government allowed access to the technology for commercial use.

Uses and Applications

When printed circuit boards first came out, they were mainly used in military and industrial applications, but today, they are used as the basis for millions of components, hardware and devices, including computers, cell phones, radios, televisions and related devices. If you have a device that is electronic in any way, chances are a printed circuit board, large or small, will be found inside. If you open up just about any electronic gadget, computer or device, and you find that familiar green (or sometimes red or blue) board with copper colored lines and dots, you are using a printed circuit board.

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