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PCB Applications in the Aerospace, Defense and Medical Markets

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Sun, Aug 02, 2020

All modern electronic devices contain one or more  PCBs  as an inherent component. From the simplest of domestic applications such as LED lights and kitchen and bathroom appliances to the sophisticated and complex military, medical, and aerospace markets, the use of PCBs is increasing day by day. Gone are the days when these PCBs come in simple, single-layer forms, as with the leaps in technology, these components now come in a wide array of designs, configurations, and layer patterns to meet the needs and requirements of smart and multi-functional electronic products. With time, the developers have embraced the challenge of manufacturing PCBs that can withstand tough working conditions without compromising the efficiency and working performance of the end product. 

In this article, we will discuss the applications of PCBs in Aerospace, Defense, and Medical Markets.

PCB Applications in Medical Industry

Electronic devices play a key role in the medical industry with their applications in monitoring, diagnosing, and treating patients. And with technological advancements, the use of smaller, more precise, denser, and reliable electronics in the health-care sector has significantly enhanced its efficiency. All this has been possible because of PCBs. The use of PCBs in the medical market is growing exponentially – exploring new capabilities and methods to treat patients better. 

Needless to say, utmost care is required while producing medical PCBs - along with fulfilling medical regulations - as they are very critical to patients’ lives. At present, medical PCBs are used in: 

Lightning Devices: Lightning tools play a major role in the medical market – especially in emergency and surgical applications, enhancing the visibility of physicians. LED lights – containing PCBs – are ideal choices for medical applications owing to their small size and high power. In these LED lights, Aluminum PCBs are generally used that provide better heat-transfer properties and tend to last longer. Putting it differently, PCB LED lights are long-lasting and can be used in a myriad of medical settings.

Medical Monitors: Personal and healthcare monitors use PCB based electronic components to determine blood glucose, blood pressure, and heart rate accurately.  

Medical Scanning Systems: PCBs are used in ultrasonic technology, CAT, and CT scanners as well as the computers that analyze and compile these images. 

Infusion pumps: PCB-based technology is present in medical infusion pumps such as patient-controlled analgesia pumps and insulin pumps to ensure efficiency and reliability. These pumps deliver the required amount of fluids to patients. 

Medical Control Systems: The devices that regulate and control dispensation, infusion, and flow of fluids in patients are electronically controlled. 

Scientific Equipment: Medical researchers use many scientific instruments to study diseases and conduct testing on patients. These instruments include, but not limited to, photometers, electronic microscopes, and control systems for generators and compressors, etc. All these electronic devices contain premium quality, high-speed PCBs. 

Internal devices: Smaller devices such as heart peacemakers that go inside the patient’s body to save life contain minuscule PCBs as an inherent component. 

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PCBs Applications in Aerospace Industry

In the aerospace industry, PCBs are used in space shuttles, jets and rockets, airplanes, radio communications systems, and satellites, among other things.

PCBs used in the aerospace industry are designed to withstand tough conditions such as higher temperatures, pressure, and vibrations. Rockets and jets produce huge turbulence during their atmospheric journeys, making it too tough for normal PCBs to ensure such a huge amount of stress. That is why mostly flexible and rigid-flex PCBs made from lightweight material such as Aluminum are used in the aerospace industry. To resist oxidation, Aerospace engineers use anodized Aluminum in PCBs.

Other than that, aerospace PCBs have to be extremely precise, accurate, and high-functioning during harsh conditions to ensure optimal functioning of the devices and avoid any technical fault.  

The most common applications of aerospace PCBs include:

Communication Equipment: The sensitive and critical systems of a communication network for communicating with ground control – and ensuring safe air travel - depend on PCBs 

Controlling and Monitoring Equipment: Monitoring devices such as pressure sensors, microphones, accelerometers, and force sensors all rely on PCB-based technology. These instruments are used in cockpits and engines of rockets and airplanes – both to communicate with ground control as well as monitor the function of the vehicle

Testing Equipment: In addition to controlling the functions of aircraft, PCBs are extensively used for testing and developing air vehicles.  Testing instruments that collect and store data during structural and flight-testing processes use PCBs as key components. This data is then analyzed to develop more effective and safer aircraft. 

Power Supplies: Equipment that supplies power to satellites, aircraft, jets, and rockets contain PCBs as its core. 

PCBs Applications in Defense and Military Sector

Military-grade PCBs are used in a myriad of defense applications including naval operations, firearms, communication devices, military vehicles, computers, and even space equipment. 

The military requires cutting-edge and the most sophisticated technology, so high-functioning and advanced PCBs are used in Defense and Military applications. Military-grade PCBs are the most reliable, durable, accurate, efficient, and toughest PCBs and are held to a high standard than other PCBs for their key role in national security. They are required to withstand the harshest of conditions and that is why materials like copper and aluminum are used for military-grade PCBs.

The applications of military PCBs are:

Communications equipment: Critical communication equipment used by the military such as radio systems contains PCBs as a key component.

Control systems: Control systems such as missile detection systems, radars, jamming systems, and command and control tower systems use PCBs to function.

Military Instrumentation: PCBs help in a variety of military applications like Underwater navigation systems electronic countermeasures, firearms and explosives testing equipment, power supplies for the AWACS-Airborne Warning and Control System — the "Eye in the Sky", jet instrumentation, and many more.  

These instruments enable the military to conduct military operations, monitor threats, and operate sophisticated equipment.

To conclude, the use of PCBs in the military and defense, medical, and aerospace industries has been increasing and the developers are manufacturing innovative and high-functioning PCBs to meet the specifications and requirements of these critical industries.