Those who aren’t familiar with electronics or circuit boards in particular will often see a circuit board and all their complexities and think they’re something magical… something too erratic and disorganized to understand. However, the opposite is actually true. 

 

     Think of a circuit board as a flat board that small wires (or copper “traces”) lay on that connect electronic components together in the most direct and efficient way possible. Components must be connected together in order for the entire circuit as a whole to work properly. The small, thin copper traces seen on circuit boards replace large, round wires that were used to connect components together before circuit boards were invented.

 

     The benefits to using circuit boards are many. First, they eliminate physical wires which are susceptible to vibration, chemicals, the environment, and poor (or “cold”) solder joints during assembly. They’re also very large and can be accidentally cut, bent, or pulled on. Wires also have a coating around them (or “jacket”, “insulation”, etc.) that protects the copper wires from touching each other and that coating can be rubbed or cut off which can cause electrical “shorts” when two wires touch that aren’t supposed to.

 

     Circuit boards eliminate all of the inherent problems with wires. The copper traces that replace wires are covered by an epoxy resin which is a strong, solid, clear substance that protects the traces from the environment or any other outside interference. In addition, the components themselves are so small they can be coated with a product called Parylene that protects them against chemicals, gasses, and water. This is what makes circuit boards that use Parylene coating waterproof. In fact, the military and commercial airline industries require a “coffee spill” test where actual coffee is poured onto Parylene coated circuit boards to test whether a circuit board still functions properly after a pilot accidentally spills their coffee on a display, bezel, switch or keypad. The coffee spill test even specifies how much sugar and creamer is introduced into the test coffee sample! 

What Exactly IS a Circuit Board?

     The other obvious advantage to using circuit boards instead of wires is the reduction in size. Wires are many times larger than thin copper traces on a circuit board. As a result, this enables components to be made smaller, thereby reducing the size of the entire assembly. For example, something as common as a cell phone would be about the size of a sedan if it was made up of wires and larger components since it requires thousands of individual connections and components.

 

     Circuit boards are designed using very specialized software where PCB Designers can connect (or “route”) components together virtually. The copper traces can be designed with varying widths depending on how much current the traces need to conduct. Large copper areas (or “pours”) connected to ground can be designed to surround traces and components in order to protect them against EMI (Electromagnetic Interference).

 

     When looking at a circuit board, we can only see the top and bottom surfaces. However, a circuit board can be made up of many inner layers sandwiched together that can’t be seen. These inner layers add even more room to route traces and connect even more components. Components on the top and bottom layers of a circuit board are connected to traces on the inner layers by using small plated holes that connect the layers called “vias”. If you look closely at any circuit board, you will see many vias that don’t seem to have a purpose, but they are connecting something from an outside layer to an inside layer.

 

     As you can see, circuit boards provide a very organized, efficient way to create circuits for the electronics we use on a daily basis. There are circuit boards in every electronic device we use including hearing aids, toys, LED light bulbs, and even shoes. And now, thanks to Signature Circuitry, circuit boards can be used as plaques and signs too! 

What Exactly IS a Circuit Board?
What Exactly IS a Circuit Board?

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What Exactly IS a Circuit Board?

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