From computers and mobile devices to TVs and remote controls, printed circuit boards (PCBs) are used in countless electronics. As shown in the adjacent image, they contain the “circuitry” that’s responsible for powering an electronic device. Without a PCB, most electronics wouldn’t function as intended. But what exactly is a PCB?
Overview of PCBs
A PCB is an electrical component that contains circuits and conductive tracks. With the exception of particularly small electronics, nearly all electronics contain one or more PCBs. The conductive tracks on the PCB guide electricity to where it’s needed.
Also known as a printed wiring board, PCBs eliminate the need for wires. Prior to their invention, electronics used wires to guide electricity to where it’s needed. While many electronics still contain wires, PCBs offer an easier and more effective solution. Rather than guiding electricity with wires, a PCB uses conductive tracks.
Some PCBs are manufactured using lamination. During this process, materials are cured using pressure and/or heat. Curing essentially causes the material to harden in place.
Single- vs Double-Sided PCBs
PCBs are often classified as either single or double sided, depending on the number of conductive layers they have. Single-sided PCBs, as you may have guessed, have a single conductive layer, whereas double-sided PCBs have two conductive layers. Double-sided PCBs are typically more expensive than their single-sided counterparts, but they offer higher component density.
Most PCBs contain layers of copper. Copper, of course, has excellent conductive properties. It’s able to transmit electricity more effectively than other materials, which is why it’s used in the construction of PCBs. Regardless, some PCBs have one layer of copper, whereas others two layers of copper.
There are also flexible PCBs, which like standard PCBs, contain circuits and conductive tracks. What’s the difference between a standard PCB and a flexible PCB exactly? Well, they are called “flexible” PCBs because they are made of a flexible and elastic material. Traditional PCBs are typically stiff and rigid, meaning you can’t bend them — not without breaking them, at least. In comparison, flexible PCBs are made of a flexible material, such as polyimide, which allows them to bend without breaking.
PCBs are simply the circuitry found in electronics. They contain conductive tracks, among other components, they allows the respective electronic device to function as intended. Hopefully, this gives you a better understand of PCBs and how they work.