PCB is an acronym which stands for ‘printed circuit board’.
It is a very common piece of hardware used in a variety of technologies today, and indeed, a very important one.
There is much that can be said about PCBs.
Of them all, one issue that stands out above all else, is with regard to the cost factor of the PCBs and the way in which different technologies affect it.
This is something very important to manufacturers as well as end users, as the cost savings on these advancements and changes can be immense.
There are many ways in which different technologies affect the cost of PCBs.
Some of the most important ones are listed in the points below:
1. The Rise of Automation
If there is one thing in the world of manufacturing that is transforming industry, it is automation.
To begin with, automation is the process by which human labor is replaced with the use of robots and other machinery. The reasons for this are many, ranging from simply cost-cutting initiatives to enhanced productivity and more.
One of the best examples of this can be seen in the case of robotics in factories, which are today almost entirely automated. The robotics used in the factories is advanced to the point, where there is almost no need for human labor. The manufacturing process is completely streamlined from the beginning to the end, to use almost no human inputs in almost all cases.
This process of automation has allowed for a higher degree of productivity in the case of PCB manufacture as well, allowing for the prices to fall considerably.
2. The Rise of A.I.
A.I. is an acronym for ‘artificial intelligence’.
There are many definitions to what A.I. is, but in simple terms, it can be thought of as a form of machine intelligence, which in many ways mimics the same human thought processes in a computerized form.
Although the use of A.I. has been limited to a large extent, it has started to make inroads into the world of PCB manufacturing, which has cut the need for human labor to a large extent.
This has once again started to play a major role in reducing the cost of manufacturing the final product.
3. General Productivity Improvements in Technology
If there is one thing that has become an industry standard in a way, is that of improved efficiency in the manufacturing processes.
The exact way, in which these efficiencies come about certainly vary, ranging from better utilization of energy and raw materials, to the speed at which they process the many inputs.
All of these things help to raise efficiency and thereby lower cost, which in turn helps to reduce the price of the average PCB in the marketplace.
4. The Choice of Material
The choice of the material will have a major impact on the final cost of the PCB. The material of choice for the average PCB has been that of FRA4 laminates, but there are newer materials coming into use in the industry, which are promising in terms of reducing the cost.
Of the many such materials that are under consideration, some of them include those which are in use in the aerospace and fuel industries, with others in the lineup as well.
5. Size of the PCBs
Advancements of the PCBs have resulted in the ‘shrinking’ of the size of the average chip, allowing for a higher degree of efficiency.
This is something that has to do with the way in which more circuitry and other assemblies can be integrated on the same surface, which allows for increased efficiency and productivity.
One of the best examples of this can be found in the ‘multi-layer’ PCBs, where several different layers of circuits are stacked on top of each other, for the purpose of creating a compact and efficient circuit.
6. Hole Sizes
To the average person, a hole in a PCB doesn’t mean much. But for those in the industry, it holds a very important position.
A hole in a PCB is exactly what it sounds like; a ‘hole’ in the board, which allows for the design of the PCB and its circuits.
When it comes to holes, their sizes can play a major role in the way that the PCB costs are influenced. Two different factors will play an influential role in the determining of PCB prices. For one thing, the size of the holes will determine the kind of technology that is required, with smaller holes requiring finer drills to do the job. Another important factor is the number of holes, as the greater the number of holes, the greater will be the cost of the final product.
It should be noted that the above two factors can be greatly nullified in terms of their effect on the final price, when the PCBs are manufactured in large numbers, i.e. mass produced.
7. Minimum Trace and Space
This might sound like a complex concept, but it isn’t.
In simple words, it is the distance that exists between the many different elements of the circuit. This is important because the distance affects other things like efficiency, the lifespan of the chip, susceptibility to overheating and more.
It is therefore an important factor with regard to the way in which the cost of the final PCB is affected and influenced.
8. Thickness and Aspect Ratio
This has everything to do with the physical size and dimensions of the PCB.
Several things which influence the prices here include the length, width, thickness, etc.
The term aspect ratio is related to the previous point, with reference to the ‘ratio’ in which the different attributes are selected to manufacture the finished product.
9. Custom Designs
It is not always that the standard PCB from the market shelf can be used for a given purpose.
In many cases, there will be the need for PCBs that are specifically designed to fulfill a certain criterion or goal, which will raise the cost of the final product.
In all, the cost of PCBs can vary drastically, on the basis of the kind of technology used, as well as a host of other factors.
But in general, it should be known that the means of production deployed for the manufacturing process, plays a key role in the way PCBs are produced, and something which will continue to vary well into the distant future.
If you want to learn more about PCB history, you can check it out here.