Much of the technology we rely upon today can be traced back printed circuit boards. Printed circuit boards, otherwise known as PCBs, are the mechanical support systems that electrically connect components using conductive tracks, pads, and other features. These are etched onto copper laminate attached to substrate, ultimately forming the printed circuit board. Yet a printed circuit board cannot be created without first acting as a prototype. Prototype printed circuit boards don’t need to be made by a machine. Prototype PCB manufacturing can be done by hand. Below, we’ll look into a few techniques and materials used during the creation of prototype printed circuit boards.
1. Substrate and Copper
First, let’s look at the materials necessary to produce prototype printed circuit boards. Usually, rigid PCBs are made with a particular type of substrate. This is called FR-4 glass epoxy, and acts as an insulating substrate for rigid PCBs. Usually, a thin layer of copper will be laminated onto FR-4 panels. Laminating the copper often involves curing under certain pressure or temperature layers. After it’s been laminated, circuitory connections will be etched into the copper, producing the final product. More complicated prototype printed circuit boards are made with multiple layers.
2. Printed Legends
A printed legend is an important part of a PCB. It contains component designators, switch settings, test points, and other indications that are helpful in assembling, testing, and servicing the circuit board. Three techniques are involved in creating printed legends. These include silk screen printing, liquid photo imaging, and ink jet printing.
3. Soldering Techniques
There are several different techniques involved in soldering components to PCBs, just as there are different techniques involved in printing legends. Now, these soldering techniques depend on what kind of PCB you’re making — one for mass production, or one that needs to be made with a precise hand. High volume productions are usually soldered with SMT placement machines and bulk wave soldering or reflow ovens. When done with a practiced hand, very tiny parts can be soldered. These include 0201 packages, which are .02 inches or .01 inches.
Figure out what kind of PCB you plan on making — the technique that is right for you could be listed above.
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