How printed circuit boards work

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Our life is connected to electricity in so many ways. The reason for that is because we rely on electric power to recharge our phones, our laptops, and almost all of our home appliances need electric power to run. All electronic devices that we use have a fundamental piece in them that is called a printed circuit board or PCB. It is something on which basic electrical wiring is done. In the past, people used to do point to point wiring which resulted in frequent failures and caused a short circuit when wires were aged, messy, and cracked. But then there were advancements in the field of electronics and came wire wrappings which led to printed circuit boards (PCB). Wire wrapping involved a small gauge wire that was wrapped around a post at each connection point by creating a gas-tight connection. This type of wire wrapping was durable and easily changeable. Most of the electronic devices reduced their components by using silicon and integrated circuits instead of relays and vacuum tubes. Eventually, it led to small-sized electronic devices and ultimately it reduced the manufacturing cost of electronic goods as well. Around that time, the Printed Circuit Board was invented. Here, we are going to discuss how does a printed circuit board works. Let’s have a detailed look:


Printed circuit board formation

The printed circuit board has basically 3 or 4 layers. The bottom layer is usually non-conductive and the middle layer is made with copper metal. This layer is laminated on the non-conductive layer with heat and adhesive. The top layer is called a solder mask. This layer gives the PCB its green color. This layer protects and insulates the copper traces and made it possible for the connections to be visible. Then silkscreen is used to mention the letter and number on it.  Now a day electric circuits are designed on computers and then printed in factories. They use etch-resistant ink lines along the metal design to cover the conductive path. Once the various points connect together through soldering, they make a path between components to run power in a proper circuit. After testing, thousands of electronic circuits are manufactured in a factory. The printed circuit boards are relatively small so they can be fitted in any electronic device. Also, each device could have a different design of PCB, but the basic formation is the same.

Basic components of printed circuit board and their functions

To function properly, different components on printed circuit board work together so that the electrical device would run on electrical power.

The major components on any printed circuit board include the following:

· IC (Integrated Circuit): A special and considerably big sized chip is called an integrated circuit (IC). This one contains many mini circuits and components that help perform a specific function. It is like the head office of the whole PCB where the important stuff happens.

· Traces: On any PCB, you will notice that a few lines are connecting various components. These are copper metal lines which are called traces and the whole PCB chip is like a base for the entire electronic function that runs in an electrical device.

· LED (Light Emitting Diode): It is a small light on a circuit board that provides a visual signal that electricity is passing through here.

· Vias: There are silver holes on every PCB, these holes managed to create a three-dimensional electronic circuit from one side of PCB to another side.

· Resistor: Resistors manage the flow of electrical current by providing necessary resistance when the device is powered with electricity.

· Capacitor: These are battery-like components that store electricity and when in need it can quickly release or hold an electrical charge.

· Diode: They control electricity flow by forcing it to flow in one direction.

· Transistor: It is a kind of switch that is controlled by electrical signals.

· Silkscreens: If you look closely at any PCB, you will notice some kind of letters and numbers printed on it. These are called silkscreens. They help electrical engineers to navigate the pattern and its location.

Each of these components helps the PCB to function properly.

How does a printed circuit board work?

An electrical circuit on a PCB is a loop of copper material in which electricity can run along. When this loop is closed, electricity can flow uninterrupted from any power source such as a battery or direct electric power. It will keep flowing and let the device run its function. At that time, the flow of electricity will be controlled by the components on PCB.

It is not just the electrical current that is routed through the PCB, but there are a variety of tasks like computing, communications and data transfer all happening in a PCB through the interconnections of several components on a PCB. It insulates the safe amount of power within the electronic device and integrates the device in a compact space. The PCBs can be made with less expensive materials and are prone to last longer that is why they tend to be the engineer’s top choice while creating any new machinery.

Smart functions of printed circuit board

Today, we could see PCB in every device. It can be found in nearly every type of electronic device in our home that we use on a daily basis. Let it be your shaving machine, your blender, your vacuum cleaner, or your smart home security system, there is some sort of PCB in every one of them. But this is not where it ends. Its functions have gone above and beyond just the electronic devices. The PCBs have been now used in various smart devices like watches, mobile phones, laptops, delivery drones, hearing implants, and prosthetic limbs. The modern engineers have modified the uses of PCB to their needs. The PCB circuit connections provide a complex yet miniature structure to route electricity in a more effective and small way in every one of these smart devices. This is not the end, but a mere possibility of more technical and mechanical advancement in the mechanical and electronic field.

You may also be interested in the history and development of pcb, you can click to view.


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