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Printed Circuit Boards

The fast growing aspect of technology in the modern times has made it possible for manufacturers to adopt the printed circuit board process, rather than sticking to the manual connection of electrical components on a wooden board, as used in the mid-1800s.

There are many different circuit boards and because of this reason, it can’t be said that there is one standard circuit board design. By understanding how the printed circuit board process works one can make an informed decision in choosing the one that is most suited for certain needs or goals.

Different types of printed circuit boards

As stated above there are different circuit boards available. Three main types can be identified: single-sided, double-sided, and multi-layered. Each of these circuit boards delivers a specific function. Single-sided boards only have components attached to one side. When the amount of components become too much on one side, a double-sided board is then used. Multi-layered boards consist out of numerous amounts of layers with components attached to them, and then they are stacked together. This makes for a more complex circuit charge.

Equipment used during the printed circuit board process

Printed circuit boards are commonly made up of a glass reinforced by fiber, or simply called fiberglass, with a copper bonded film attached to both sides. They may also be made up of a type of paper resin which will be cheaper than the fiberglass. The printed circuits are made up of copper which is then plated with tin-lead in order to prevent oxidation. Equipment that may be purchased will be things like resistors, capacitors, and diodes.

How printed circuit boards are made

Printed circuit boards are manufactured in extremely clean environments. The most common circuit board is the double-sided board which will be explained.

1. The Substrate: during this step the ‘base’ of the board is made. Woven glass fiber sheets are put through a process station where they are coated with a resinbefore being flattened by rollers to achieve the desired thickness. It is then passed through an oven where it is semicured and cut into large panels. Thereafter the panels are stacked and placed in a high pressure press in order to secure the copper foil bonds and to fully cure the resin.

2. Drilling: after this the stacked panels are placed in a CNC machine where holes are drilled in appropriate places on the base, as well as the inside conducting holes that are drilled onto the copper.

3. Circuit pattern: the circuit pattern is then created onto the board, either by additive of process where copper is plated onto the surface of the substrate in the desired pattern, or through subtractive process, where the entire are of the surface is plated and the areas that aren’t part of the circuit pattern are etched away.

4. Contact fingers: after this process contact fingers are attached to the edge of the board, and the surface is then coated with the tin-lead coating.

5. Sealing: the components are then sealed with epoxy for protection, and the panels are cut into individual boards before the edges are smoothed.

6. Mounting components: this is done by soldering the components onto the board – it can either be done robotically or with surface mount technology. The flux reside is then cleaned accordingly with water or solvents.
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