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

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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 post, you will see the explanation of these terms one by one.

Difference between PWB and PCB

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 the 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

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 is 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 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.

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

Some people are arguing 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 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. Either you call a circuit board "PCB" or "PWB", you will get benefited from PCBONLINE if you choose it as your circuit board manufacturer because:

PCBONLINE

  • Printed circuit board manufacturing is without a minimum order limit and follows IPC-A-610 standards.
  • Printed circuit board assembly is without minimum order limit and follows IPC-A-600 Class 3 standards.
  • Printed circuit board assembly is without minimum order limit and follows IPC-A-600 Class 3 standards.
  • PCBONLINE offers free one-on-one engineering support (DFX) to any PCB project.
  • PCBONLINE has strong manufacturing capabilities for advanced circuits and realizes ceramic 3D designs, embedded antennas, HDI, etc.

Conclusion

PWB was used initially when there was only the 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.