The printed circuit board has turned out to be the most important piece of technology ever invented. Without it, there won’t be any high-end home appliances like flat-screen LED TVs and mobile phones that are so thin yet feature so many capabilities. The list goes on. However, people who are not familiar with the term might start asking ‘what exactly is a printed circuit board?’
Also known as the PCB, this tiny piece of equipment connects the different pathways through which electricity runs in a certain piece of technology. It helps keep an electronic device from short-circuiting due to sudden bursts of electrical energy. It can almost be likened to the heart in the human body that regulates blood flow through all the major blood vessels and into smaller nerves. Aside from acting as the input-output mediator for electricity, the PCB also has other functions, such as:
- Being a conduit for heat transfer
- Being a shield for the electromagnetic field of the device
Given its widespread use, it’s no wonder that a lot of people have added assembling a printed circuit board into their list of hobbies. It is easier to become a PCB hobbyist now as compared to when the PCB first came in the late 1900’s. This is because the different parts and components that make up a PCB can now be bought from just about any electronics shop in the country.
These are often sold at affordable prices due to the fact that PCB technology changes almost by the minute or whenever a technology firm decides to introduce newer and more multi-functional versions. The tools need for attaching the different components onto the PCB can also be purchased from the same stores.
The printed circuit board also contains a blueprint on its surface. The blueprint matches the drawings on a schematic diagram that is often provided along with the PCB. This makes the process of attaching the components onto the PCB quite easy to do. The hobbyist would only have to look for the right component that fits the shape on the diagram, look for its corresponding place on the blueprint, and then attach it accordingly onto the PCB.
There are two ways of attaching the components:
- By soldering the metal caps of each component onto the solder pads located on the surface of the PCB. This is known as SMT or Surface Mount Technology.
- By sticking pins onto various holes on the components straight through to the upper portion of the PCB. The tips of the pins are then soldered onto lead or gold-plated solder pads on the other side of the PCB. This is referred to as PTH or Plated Through Hole technology.
Some hobbyists also use a combination of these two processes when attaching various big and small components onto a PCB. This is a common practice even with full-time gadget manufacturers because the components are more secure and aren’t at risk of coming loose at any time. This is referred to as the mixed SMT-PTH technology.
After all the components are soldered onto the printed circuit board, it should then be placed onto a soldering machine to ensure that all have been securely attached. Once this is done, the hobbyist would then have to test his fully-assembled PCB under meticulous processes that would determine if there are any defects that could cause the PCB not to function well.
This is usually determined through the use of a volt tester that determines the PCB’s resistance level. The tests also involve checking to see if any of the components have been soldered in way too tight or too loose. All in all, while the processes seem complicated, they’re actually rather straightforward – that’s why PCBs have become a very important part of modern technology.