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PWB VS PCB: Which Term is Standard Usage for Circuit Boards

pcbonline PCBONLINE Team Fri, Aug 06, 2021

Many people see and use "PCB" in daily work, and some people prefer to use "PWB" to mean circuit boards in their projects. Is PWB a regional thing? What's the difference between PCB and PWB? In this blog, you will see the explanation of these terms one by one.

What is PWB


PWB is the short form for the printed wiring board. Back in 1903, when the early circuit board was invented, the patent was named "Printed Wire". These early circuit boards had only a point-to-point connection without any components on the insulated surface.

Printed wiring board or PWB was the term initially used when circuit boards started being used.

Later in 1947, the modern circuit board was invented, and the patent was named "Printed Circuit". The circuit board used a flat piece of insulated material with conductive paths printed on it.

Since then, more and more people started using the term printed circuit board or PCB rather than PWB to refer to circuit boards.

Nowadays, PWB is still being used to refer to the circuit board that has an insulated substrate and conductive wires and connects and supports electronic components.

Difference between PWB and PCB


PCB is the abbreviation for printed circuit board, and PWB is the short form for printed wiring board.

Nowadays, PCB and PWB refer to the same thing in most of the world, and PCB is the more widely used term.

Both PCB and PWB refer to an electrical board made of one or more layers of copper laminated onto a non-conductive plastic panel that supports and connects components with conductive tracks.

But in some countries like Japan, people prefer to call PWB than PCB because PCB is the name of a common poison - polychlorinated biphenyls.

However, in the development history of the electronic manufacturing industry, PWB was used earlier in the industry's early stages, when the circuit had only a point-to-point connection. Later, conductors run from one side of the board to another or from one layer to another, and the circuit board is designed to have a specific effect other than just a point-to-point connection.

PCBs gradually replaced point-to-point wired boards. In 1999, the IPC Committee decided to use only the term PCB.

So we can say that in most of the world, PWB is an archaic term for PCB, and PCB is a universal term for bare circuit boards without components.

Other Terms Related to PWB and PCB

Besides PCB and PWB, you may still want to know about PCBA, CCA, PCA, and PWA. These terms are also used for printed circuit boards.


PCBA is the abbreviation for printed circuit board assembly. When the PCB is assembled, it is called PCBA or PCB assembly. Since the 1999 change, PCBA has been the term used for all assembled circuit boards. From users to technical committees, PCBA is also a preferred term for assembled boards.

PWA is the abbreviation for printed wire assembly. It is an archaic term for PCB assembly or PCBA.

CCA is the abbreviation for circuit card assembly. CCA is the same thing as PCBA, but CCA is a less-used term.

PCA is the abbreviation for printed circuit assembly. PCA is also the same thing as PCBA and is not seen much anymore.

From the above, we can conclude that PWB, PCB, and circuit cards are the same thing and refer to bare printed circuit boards, and PCA, CCA, PWA, and PCBA are the same thing and refer to assembled circuit boards. Among these terms, PCB and PCBA are the terms most widely used.

Is "PCB" or "PWB" the Standard Usage for Circuit Boards?

Some people are arguing about which term is a more "professional" usage for circuit boards. But in fact, we do not say which term is "standard" or "professional", as it is all about the practice. Just as someone put it, let's "ignore and move on".

Let's Move on - Circuit Board Manufacturing and Assembly for Middle and High-End Projects

PCBONLINE, a one-stop circuit board manufacturer, provides PCB fabrication and assembly for aerospace, defense, medical, automotive, industrial, and consumer electronics. Founded in 1999, it has two large advanced PCB manufacturing bases and one PCB assembly factory and completes all the EMS fabrication processes independently.

PCB manufacturer

Whether you call a circuit board "PCB" or "PWB", you will get benefited from PCBONLINE if you choose it as your circuit board manufacturer because:

  • PWB/PCB manufacturing is without a minimum order limit and follows IPC-A-600 standards.
  • Any PWBs or PCBs can be manufactured from PCBONLINE, such as FR4, aluminum, ceramic, PTFE, polyimide, polyester, and copper-base PCBs.
  • PCBONLINE offers free one-on-one engineering support (DFM, DFT, DFA, and DFX) to any PCB/PWB project.
  • PCBONLINE has strong manufacturing capabilities for advanced circuits and realizes ceramic 3D designs, embedded antennas, HDI, etc.
  • Affordable printed wiring boards or printed circuit boards due to source factory manufacturing.

If you are looking for PWB assembly or PCB assembly, please also choose PCBONLINE for these reasons:

  • PWB assembly or PCB assembly at PCBONLINE follows IPC-A-610 Class 2/3 standards.
  • The minimum SMD package for our PWB assembly is 01005, and the finest pitch is 0.035mm.
  • PWB assembly from PCBONLINE includes all PCB assembly tests, and you don't need to ask test companies to test the boards.
  • You can also order conformal coating for your PWB assembly.
  • Our PWB assembly is fast. If you order today, we can complete the PCB assembly tomorrow.


PWB was used initially when there was only a point-to-point connection. Later, circuit boards were developed more and more modern, and PCB started being used universally. Nowadays, PCB, PWB, and circuit cards are all used to refer to printed circuit boards, and the only difference is that more people use PCB.


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