Printed Circuit Boards or PCBs are the life and blood of every electronic device that runs in our homes. From the many remote controls that run the TVs and ACs in our homes, to the all essential calculators that help us in keeping our spending in check, PCBs are an integral part of the electronic world that surrounds our lives today.
For people who are not very electronic savvy, a PCB is primarily a blueprint of the flow of electrical signals through the circuitry of an electronic device, which would run the electrical and mechanical functions according to requirements. In other words, a printed circuit board directs the flow of the electric current in an electronic device, so that it can function the way it is supposed to. The routes that determine the flow of current are a network of copper pathways, which ultimately determine the unique role every piece of PCB circuit board would play in an electronic device.
The design of a PCB begins at the PC board shop where circuit designers come face to face with the fabricators to explain their requirements regarding the desired PCB design. Once both parties are satisfied that every detail has been taken into consideration, PCB manufacturing process is carried out according to the invoice requirements. However, the manufacturing of PCBs itself involves a tedious 16 step process, where each step needs to be executed with precision to arrive at the end result that meets the client’s requirements.
The 1st step in PCB manufacturing involves the complete designing and output of the board on a digital file. The 2nd step involves putting the design from the file onto a film. The 3rd step involves printing the inner layers, so that it can be determined where the copper layers would go on the board. In the 4th step, removal of copper is carried out from places where it is not needed. The 5th step involves aligning the layers after a thorough optical inspection. The 6th step involves layering up and bonding of the copper layer followed by drilling holes in the board in the 7th. In the 8th step, plating is done to cover the copper deposition, which is followed by Outer Layer Imaging in step 9. The 10th step again involves more plating, which is followed by Final Etching in step 11. Step 12 involves Solder Mask Application, which is followed by Surface Finish in step 13 and silkscreen in Step 14. Step 15 involves conducting a final electrical test on the PCB and based on that profiling and V-scoring is carried out in the 16th and final step.
For a finished product that involves carrying a 16 step manufacturing process to complete, PCB is indeed a smart piece of engineering that we should be thankful for running our electronic equipment without any glitch.
However, if you are a buyer of PCBs, you would need to be extra vigilant to ensure that the PCB manufacturer you are sourcing from knows how to design and produce these wonder machines accurately.