Printed circuit boards (PCBs) are small boards that are essential in the operation of various electronic equipment and technology. There are several types of printed circuit boards, including rigid PCBs.
In this article, you will learn about what rigid PCBs are, how they are made, and why and when you should use them.
WHAT IS A RIGID PCB?
A rigid PCB differs from some other forms of PCB because they are nearly completely inflexible, hence the name “rigid.” These boards can be single or double-sided and are typically made of multiple layers.
Due to their manufacturing process, rigid PCB boards are unable to be molded to fit into different spaces when the process is complete. That can be a benefit of using rigid PCBs, but you will learn more about that later.
Next, let’s talk about the process of making a rigid PCB.
HOW ARE RIGID PCBS MADE?
Rigid PCB boards start off with a base layer of fiberglass. This is a sturdy material, making it great for rigid PCB construction. Before it is etched, the fiberglass is cleaned to assure that future layers adhere well to the surface.
After that, the layout of the board is etched onto the fiberglass. This process is usually done with chemicals or laser equipment. Following this process, holes are drilled into the board for circuit patterns. This process has to be very precise or the board could become ineffective.
Next comes a layer of copper foil that is heated so that it sticks to the base layer. In most cases, both sides of the board will be laminated, but some manufacturers will choose to laminate the copper onto one side in order to save some money.
After the copper layer, a layer of solder is added to keep the board insulated and protected in case conductive material were to touch the copper layer. That layer is then covered by a silkscreen layer, which contains different characters to help a manufacturer understand how the board should be installed.
In some instances, manufacturers will use a stiffening process to assure that the laminated layers stay in place. The stiffening process includes adding components to the board using heat in order to keep everything together.
Next comes the mounting of various components onto the board. These components work in different ways to help the board facilitate energy redirections for various electronic processes to occur. This may include heat dispersion components that are there to keep the board cool.
Finally, the board is tested before it is put into its electronic device. This step is important because it can help identify potential issues before they are put into the products. Some common manufacturing-related issues include overheating of the board as well as noise or faulty components.
WHY AND WHEN TO USE RIGID PCBs
Now that you know what a rigid PCB is and how they are made, you probably want to know when you should use them. But first, here are some of the reasons why rigid PCBs are popular:
Firstly, rigid PCBs are much more cost-effective and affordable than more flexible options. That’s because fiberglass is more affordable, which makes it great for those looking to stay on a tight budget.
Additionally, rigid printed circuit boards are not easily moved or bent. This can be beneficial in a number of uses, which you will learn in just a bit. Their design ensures that the board will stay in its place, which will keep components attached and reduce the risk of damage to the board in certain cases.
Since you’re learning about risks of damage, rigid PCBs are also great because it is easy to locate and repair issues on the board. Everything is visible, and the board is stiff, so you will be able to fix issues, even with limited knowledge of PCBs. This is helpful for customers who will be purchasing products containing these types of circuit boards. Now, with a simple Google search, they will be able to learn how to fix issues related to their electronic equipment.
Lastly, rigid printed circuit boards are designed to reduce electronic noise. These compact boards are designed with components arranged to reduce this issue. Electronic noise happens when too much energy is pushed through the narrow pathways. The electricity spills over the pathways or sends strong currents to components, which can result in overheating the board. This is less of an issue on a rigid printed circuit board. Pathways are not flexible, so energy can easily pass from component to component.
There are a number of applications for rigid printed circuit boards in several sectors of business.
Rigid PCBs are used in the automotive industry in medium and larger vehicles. They are coated with copper and aluminum and heavily laminated to protect against high heat caused by the engine as well as contaminants from the environment. Specifically, these types of PCBs are used in ECUs, transmission sensors, power converters, and power distribution boxes.
In the medical industry, rigid PCBs are used in life-saving equipment like MRI machines, EMG machines, and tomography equipment. Without these PCBs, many of these medical machines wouldn’t be around. These machines are crucial in detecting issues within the body.
In the aerospace industry, rigid PCBs are super important. Space and air travel put a variety of stress, varying temperatures, and different environmental factors onto equipment. Rigid PCBs are used for airplane cockpit instruments, power converters, control tower systems, APUs, and temperature sensors.
Lastly, rigid PCBs are used in industrial settings where high voltage and frequencies are used. This can include the field of robotics, surge protection, gas and pressure controllers, and much more.
In conclusion, rigid PCBs are not only popular, but they are also affordable and lower the risk of damage. They are used in a variety of applications, from aerospace to industrial uses. Now that you know more about them and how they are made, you’re ready to order some!