Now you are probably sitting in front of a machine called a personal computer. You certainly know how to operate this machine and make it perform a variety of functions. If you break down, you may even be able to solve the problem and do some basic repairs. But what else do you know about your computer? Do you know how this works?
If you’re like most people, you have no idea how the machine you spend a lot of time working with works. The same goes for your cell phone or television. Did you know that printed circuit boards (PCBs) are the technological bricks and mortars that bring together much of the technology we rely on every day?
PCBs are those flat and green pieces with many metal lines found inside a computer or telephone. Generally constructed from fiberglass or ceramic, they are used to provide a base and conductive pathways through an electronic product.
In layman’s terms, every component of your cell phone needs to be physically and electronically connected to each other. These metal lines on the green plate are conductive paths, usually copper, that are placed on the plate by a process very similar to that of screen printing.
Because electronic components can not simply be placed on the phone, they need a solid foundation on which to sit, and that’s where the PCB comes in. The PCB is a strong base for all the parts and conducting paths that connect them.
Although the first PCBs were used on radios in the late 1930s, they actually matured during World War II, when they were used in the fuse of anti-aircraft missiles. After the war, this technology was released back into the civilian world, where its low cost and high resistance made them very attractive for use in consumer electronics.
PCB manufacturing is a constantly evolving process, but the latest innovations have come from the way components are placed on the boards themselves. New surface mount techniques allow the circuits to be placed in the plates, rather than being placed in holes in the plates. The elimination of drilling allows huge savings in the manufacturing process. Of course these are just the bare facts about PCBs, but now you know a little more about the technology that makes up the fabric of modern life.