A Beginner’s Guide to Prototype PCBs

Prototyping manufacturing

If you are looking to dabble in the world of electronics production, it is important that you understand the ins and outs of printed circuit boards. These PCB prototypes should not be confused with electronic circuits, instead these connect electronic components using conductive tracks. They can be exceptionally versatile but, this versatility can lead to complexity. In order to prevent confusion, here is a beginner’s guide to everything you must know about PCB prototypes.

What exactly do they do?

Printed circuit boards route signals and power through electronic devices, and provide mechanical connections in technical objects. PCB assembly manufacturers formulate circuit boards for anything from electronic readers, child toys, telephones, lap tops and much more.

What is their structure?

PCBs can range from a simple, one-sided board to multiple interconnecting layers. The best way to explain the structure of a circuit board is to picture lasagna, where there are many different layers incorporated into one component. The general structure includes:

FR4 : this is the base material and is made from fiberglass. It is this that gives the circuit board its rigidity.

Copper: Laminated to the board via heat and an adhesive, copper is the basis for double-sided boards. Each board will have a specific weight, but typically engineers will use the standard two ounces of copper per board.

Soldermask: This important layer insulates the copper traces from coming apart from the board and from coming in contact with other metal during the soldering process.

Silkscreen: This is the top layer, and adds numbers and letters to the PCB which helps with better assembly and understanding of the board.

How are these boards manufactured?

There are two popular methods used for PCB fabrication. They are through the hole technology and surface mount technology.

Through the hole technology mounts the electronic circuits through the holes on one side of the board, then soldered to the other copper side.

Surface mount technology is a relatively new technique that uses a machine to solder directly onto the board without having to use leads. This allows for the PCB fabrication to go by quicker, and for engineers to assemble smaller PCBs with high circuit densities.

This is only scraping the surface of PCBs, so contact a manufacturer for any more questions.

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Sarah Todd

Sarah Todd

Sarah Todd, an investment banker, is a reporter and researcher for one of London’s leading media outlets. Formerly a trader and market maker at FTSE, she turned to media during the global recession. This website features some of her best and favourite articles, from all parts of the business world. Please let her guide you and your enterprise along the path to prosperity.