A PCB or Printed Circuit Board is used to electrically connect electronic components. This is done so by etching traces of copper from the board so as to create conductive pathways for circuit connections.
A printed circuit board is composed of a conducting layer which is made of thin foils of copper. The insulating layer is laminated with resin (epoxy) prepeg onto a non-conducting surface. The board itself is usually coated with a green solder mask. The mask can also be colored red or blue. You can choose from a number of dielectrics, depending upon your circuit requirements. Manufacturers of electronic products can either do the process of PCB fabrication in-house or contract a third party specialist. PCB is also called Printed Wiring Board or PWB.
Types of Boards
This is used in making temporary circuits, usually when trying out a new idea. This board type does not require soldering and all the components may be used again afterwards. It is quite simple to replace the components and change the connections.
Stripboard is a permanent type of board. It is soldered and has parallel bands of copper tracks on either side. Stripboards can be cut using a hacksaw or can be simply snapped along the hole lines by placing it on top of the edge of a table and pushing it down hard.
3. Printed Circuit Board
PCBs have copper tracks that connect the holes where the electronic components are placed. These boards are specially designed for each circuit. Since the process of PCB fabrication and assembly requires first-rate equipment, it is not recommended for beginners unless the board is already provided.
The Etching Process
Most printed circuit boards are made by putting together layers of copper on the entire substrate, occasionally on both sides. The unwanted copper is then removed by means of mask application and only the required copper traces are left. The etching process is typically done with chemical solutions such as ammonium persulphate, ferric chloride, or hydrochloric acid.
There are different ways to prepare the board prior to the etching process:
1. Direct Draw
You can place a pattern on the board by manually drawing it, an approach called direct draw. You can use a resist pen in drawing your circuit or you can also draw with specialty tapes. Layout the traces of your circuit directly onto the board’s copper surface.
This method produces high-quality PCBs quickly, consistently, and efficiently, especially in producing professional board prototypes. In this method, use a resist material to cover the board when exposed to UV light. Create a positive UV-translucent film of your pattern that is opaque where the circuit trace is to be placed, and clear where there is no trace. After making the photo film from your art work, place it on the photo-synthesized board. The light transfers through the clear sections of the film and treats the photo-resist. After that, soak the board in a developer bath where the photo-resist will be removed. The resist that remains will be in the shape of your circuit drawing. The main advantage of this method is its accuracy and neatness of the traces. You can re-use the same film to create additional boards.
For the development of PCBs for mass production, it is a must to send the data to a board house. This method is slow and costly but the result is topnotch. The PCBs will have a solder mask, fine traces, plated-through holes, and all other amenities.
When sending the files which contain the actual data that will be used to manufacture the boards, it is necessary to comply with the requirements of the board house you are sending it to. The data typically include the drawings for the PCB fabrication and assembly, layout file, and the drill file.
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