Have you ever noticed that most of the technology and electronics we use today would not be possible without the use of printed circuit boards (PCBs)? Whether it's a medical device that monitors vitals or a smartphone, all of these devices contain PCBs at their core. PCBs help reduce the size of electronic products, making them cost-effective as well. Over time, PCB manufacturers have also improved to keep up with the increased demand for the latest, fastest and most complex electronic circuits. With the increasing use of applications such as robotics, Internet of Things and artificial intelligence in our daily lives, the demand for electronic devices has also increased. Indicating that the future of PCBs is very bright and that Printed Circuit Board technology will continue to strengthen in the future.
Yes, according toFuture Market Insightreport, the global PCB design market was valued at approximately US$3 billion in 2022, growing by 12.7%. By 2029, the market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 14.9% and reach USD 7.92 billion in valuation.
Before the advent of PCBs, circuits were built using point-to-point wiring, which was laborious and difficult. PCBs are sometimes referred to by other names, such as "printed wiring boards" or "printed wiring cards." Wire junctions and short circuits often failed due to aging and cracking of the wire insulation.
A major breakthrough came with the development of wire wrapping, which creates an extremely durable and easy-to-change gas-tight connection by wrapping a small gauge wire around posts. It was only because of this innovation that electronic components became smaller and cheaper as vacuum tubes and relays were replaced by silicon and integrated circuits. As electronic products became more prevalent in consumer goods, manufacturers looked for better solutions to reduce their size and manufacturing costs. Thus, the PCB was born.
Modern PCB design best practices
· Use a uniform polygon and mesh system
To avoid failed PCB designs, it is important to use a consistent polygon and mesh system. While it may be tempting to work with multiple meshes or polygon shapes, doing so can increase complexity and cause polygon fill problems. By following spacing guidelines and keeping trace lengths short and direct, you can prevent issues such as shorts, electromagnetic interference (EMI), heat dissipation, and ground faults. It's also important to keep your components grouped in your grid and avoid 90° bends in traces, which can easily lead to shorts. Instead, stick to direct and short routes and opt for gentle 45° turns on tracks. Keeping the loops small will also reduce inductance and HF voltage spikes.
· Silk protection on PCB design
When it comes to PCB design, silk screening is a critical factor to consider, even though it is not directly related to board operation. The correct application of screen printing can improve the manufacturing, testing, maintenance and overall usability of the board. Even if the annotations on the screen printing layer are hidden under components, they still serve their purpose. In fact, the marking process on the screen printing layer can even reveal previously overlooked design flaws. Using screen printing on both sides of the board can help streamline the production process and improve the overall quality of life for both the designer and the end user. Essentially, silk screening is a quality-of-life decision that can benefit everyone involved in the board lifecycle.
· Effective power and grounding in PCB design
To effectively power and ground a PCB design, the copper planes connected to the power and ground connections respectively, are crucial. These planes, known as power planes and ground planes, provide many benefits to the overall design. However, it is important to note that only PCBs with four or more layers can accommodate power planes.
Using power planes can provide significant returns on your investment, including shorter runs, improved circuit decoupling, and increased current carrying capacity. In contrast, traces have limited current transfer and heat capacity, meaning heat will build up faster and result in more resistance in a smaller area. Electric airplanes also help reduce temperature, reduce electrical energy waste, and improve overall operation.
Another convenient feature of power levels is their ability to act as decoupling capacitors when vias are used to connect them to the signal layer. This helps reduce unwanted noise and interference from propagating throughout the PCB design. Overall, the use of power and ground planes can greatly improve the performance and reliability of a PCB design.
· Choosing the right PCB design software for successful projects
When it comes to PCB design, the software you use can play a key role in the success of your project. While free software versions may be available for beginners, industry standard software is essential for professional work. Some of the top PCB design software used by professionals include Altium Designer, Solidworks PCB, and Autodesk Eagle. Although these are not the only options available, they are widely used in the PCB design field. Additionally, Autodesk Eagle offers free licensing for personal use.
Whichever software you choose, it is important to ensure that it has the ability to generate all the necessary PCB layout files, including Gerber or ODB++ files. Other key files include Centroid or "Pick and Place", Bill of Materials (BOM), special requirements (ReadMe text or PDF) and Assembly Drawings (PDF file type). These files are usually the minimum requirement, but additional files may be needed depending on product and customer specifications. Ultimately, choosing the right software is crucial to creating a successful PCB design.
Application and Uses of PCB (Printed Circuit Boards)
Today, electronic components are connected via circuits on a PCB, which serves as the main functional center for most electronics. PCBs are used in a wide range of industries and new applications are being discovered every day. With a variety of configurations and types available, PCBs offer flexibility and can be used in a variety of applications and capacities.
Let's explore these apps in more detail.
A wide variety of electronic devices are used in the healthcare industry for diagnosis, monitoring and treatment. Medical applications of electronic devices continue to expand as the technology becomes more efficient and denser.
A PCB is at the heart of it allmedical devices. Due to the unique limitations of medical devices, PCBs used in the medical industry require specialized design. An emergency monitor or surgical implant usually requires a small package, which is why medical PCBs tend to be high-density interconnect PCBs, commonly known as HDI PCBs. There is a wide variety of flexible base materials that can be used in medical PCBs. The health effects of medical PCBs make them subject to higher standards and suppliers of medical PCBs must adhere to strict medical regulations while achieving repeatability and reliability.
Common applications of medical printed circuit boards:
- Monitors: These measure blood glucose, heart rate, blood pressure and other vital signs for personal use and healthcare.
- Scanning technology: Electronic PCBs are commonly used in CT scanners and ultrasound devices.
- Control Systems: Electronic systems control fluid flow rate, injection rate and dispensing.
- Internal devices: Medical devices inside a patient monitor their health using tiny circuit boards.
- Scientific instruments: To study diseases and evaluate patient outcomes, medical research uses a variety of scientific instruments. In addition to these, other systems control generators, compressors and photometers.
Smartphones and computers, for example, areconsumer electronicsAppliances. Even new refrigerator models include electronic components.
The number of PCBs manufactured to control these consumer electronics must be equal due to their high manufacturing volume. Since these high-volume PCBs have a low cost per unit, they keep the finished product affordable. The PCB industry must adhere to strict quality control and industry standards such as IPC to guarantee the quality and uniformity of all consumer electronics. PCBs are widely used in consumer electronics. Here are some common applications:
- Mobile Devices: We use mobile devices as alarm clocks, GPS devices and anything else we need in our daily lives.
- Computer Electronics: PCBs are at the core of desktop and laptop computers, as are monitors and peripherals.
- Recording Devices: All recording devices require PCBs to function properly, including camcorders, digital cameras, and microphones.
- Entertainment Systems: Every element of your home entertainment system, from DVDs to video games to TVs and stereos.
- Home Appliances: Electronic components are used in everything in our daily life such as microwave oven, refrigerator and coffee maker
The high power of the PCBindustrial applicationsare also common. These electronic components are used to control machinery in factories and production facilities and must withstand harsh conditions. Any type of hazardous chemicals, vibrating machinery or rough handling can be included in this.
Industry standards must be rigorous in such a fast-paced, challenging environment. There are many other applications for thick copper PCBs (significantly thicker than standard ounce PCBs) now. Such PCBs are suitable for battery chargers and high current industrial applications.
- Industrial Equipment: PCB-controlled electronics are commonly used in power drills and presses in manufacturing.
- Measuring Equipment: Throughout manufacturing, measuring equipment is used to measure, control, and record pressure, temperature, and other variables.
- Power equipment: Power converters to convert DC to AC, solar panels and control equipment to control the power.
Today's cars incorporate many new applications on PCBs to take advantage of advanced electronic circuit technology. Most automotive sensor applications use high-frequency PCBs, such as radio frequency, microwave, or millimeter wave, to detect blind spots, maintain traffic conditions, and avoid collisions using radar technology.
Advanced driving systemsare becoming increasingly popular in vehicles as they enhance safety and the driving experience. Consequently, manufacturers of these systems must procure and use a greater volume of high-frequency printed circuit boards.
PCBs are commonly used in automobiles for the following purposes:
- Surround displays: Newer car models are equipped with full perimeter monitoring systems that use radar or cameras to measure distances and alert drivers to objects within a certain distance. PCBs are essential to the operation of these systems, allowing drivers to monitor blind spots and accurately judge distances.
- Control systems: PCB-based electronic systems monitor and manage resources to drive the car for the driver in certain situations. Some cars today offer automatic parallel parking, for example.
- Navigation devices: Modern vehicles have built-in navigation devices that help drivers find their way in an unfamiliar area or determine the fastest route.
- Audio and video devices: Advanced dashboards in today's cars allow passengers to connect their phones and music devices to the radio. Many family vehicles also have movie screens to entertain passengers on long journeys, all controlled by PCB-based electronics.
Inaerospace applications, PCBs are required to be accurate and durable, as they are in automotive applications. A rigid PCB can withstand enough stress to be damaged during the atmospheric journey of a jet or rocket due to the high level of turbulence experienced by the jet or rocket. This is why most aerospace manufacturers use flexible PCBs, which are light, compact and shock-resistant.
In addition to being highly durable, aerospace PCBs must be highly accurate and highly functional, and manufactured for optimal functionality to avoid technical problems. Aerospace electronics must perform perfectly as they play a critical role in the safety of vehicles and their crews.
The aerospace industry uses PCBs in a variety of applications, including:
- Monitoring Equipment: The primary function of all instruments is to monitor and communicate with ground control, including accelerometers, pressure sensors, microphones, torque sensors, and force sensors. Airplanes and rocket engines use these products to monitor their operation and communicate with ground control.
- Test Equipment: PCBs are used to develop and test aircraft and aerial vehicles. To develop more effective, efficient and safer aircraft, PCBs are used in structural, vibration and flight test equipment.
The printed circuit board provides a flexible platform for high performance LED applications. The low energy consumption, high efficiency and impressive light output of LED lighting solutions place them at the top of the list among various industries. The flexibility of this LED is further enhanced when it is integrated into a PCB. PCBs allow the implementation of LED lighting solutions in displays and indicators.
The lighting industry uses LED PCBs for various purposes, including:
- Telecom Industry: Lightweight and durable PCBs are preferred in the telecom industry for controlling LED indicators and displays in equipment due to the high concentration of machinery found in this industry. Aluminum substrate PCBs are often used in telecom lighting applications due to better heat transfer properties than the FR4 variants.
- Automotive: LED PCB displays are commonly used in dashboard indicators, brake lights and advanced panel displays in the automotive industry. Circuit boards for LED lights are particularly popular in the automotive industry due to their cost-effectiveness and durability, enhancing the value and longevity of vehicles.
- Computer technology industry: Aluminum-based PCBs are particularly popular for LED lighting in computers due to their heat-sensitive properties, which make them particularly suitable for use as displays and indicators.
- Medical industry: Medical applications, especially surgery and emergency procedures, require a high level of illumination, which can make it easier for doctors to see. PCB LEDs are the preferred lighting method in these applications due to the power and small size of the LEDs. These applications often rely on PCBs, especially aluminum PCBs, which are more durable and provide better heat transfer capabilities than other PCBs. Thus, LED PCBs are a long-term solution for medical equipment that can be used repeatedly in many different situations.
- Residential and Storefront Applications: PCB LED lights are also becoming increasingly popular for residential and storefront applications, in addition to being used as signs and displays in homes and businesses. Homeowners can illuminate their homes efficiently with LED lighting at a fraction of the cost, while businesses can use customizable LED displays to advertise their storefronts.
Wherever electronics are used in the modern world, PCBs of all kinds will find applications. As broad and diverse as the market itself is, PCBs have a wide range of applications.
eInfochips also helped its customers who wanted to re-engineer their existing power meter system. eInfochips took full responsibility for the redesign and development of the product, leveraging Arrow's market knowledge and supply chain to extend the lifecycle by five years. To continue reading about the case study,Click here.
Latest printed circuit board industry trends
Between 2022 and 2030, the PCB market is expectedincrease more than 5%. It will reach $75 billion in 2021. Printed circuit boards (PCBs) have evolved significantly since their invention in the early 20th century. In 2023, various trends define the future of PCB design. PCB design is at the heart of all electronic devices and technologies, including smartphones, medical equipment and more. Let's jump in.
- The widespread adoption of 5G technology will likely revolutionize the way we communicate and interact with devices in the future. Point: PCBs must be able to handle higher frequencies and transmit data faster with 5G technology, as it requires faster internet speeds and increased bandwidth. As a result, PCB designers must design boards that minimize signal loss when handling high frequency signals.
- In addition to wearables and other small devices, smaller, more compact devices continue to grow in popularity. Point: To meet this demand, PCB designers are developing smaller, more compact PCBs with a higher component density. Multilayer PCBs and surface mount technology (SMT) are becoming increasingly popular to achieve this.
- With energy costs increasing, it is becoming increasingly important to design PCBs that are energy efficient. Point: To increase efficiency and reduce device power consumption, designers can use DC-DC converters, which reduce power consumption. These inverters are designed to use energy saving components and minimize energy consumption whenever possible.
- It is becoming increasingly popular to design PCBs with advanced materials such as high-speed laminations and flexible substrates. Point: Thermal and mechanical stability is improved, signal integrity is improved and frequency capability is increased with these materials. A flexible substrate also allows for greater design flexibility, which allows PCBs to be bent and shaped to fit specific devices more easily.
- Artificial Intelligence (AI) will be incorporated more often into PCB design. Point: By incorporating artificial intelligence, designers will be able to create better PCB layouts, predict potential design problems, and optimize manufacturing processes. In this way, PCBs can be designed to perform optimally and save time and money.
To help you make decisions during the PCB design phase, material type, layout complexity, and forecasting challenges that can affect product pricing and time to market, you can read more aboutblog here.
In terms of product functionality and device capabilities, the PCB industry has a bright future. The PCB manufacturing industry must continue to evolve its processes, techniques and equipment to achieve these aspirations. The end-to-end product engineering services we offer through eInfochips have led to the design and development of 500+ products. In addition to offering best-in-class hardware engineering services to clients across industries, eInfochips has a strong partner ecosystem. To learn more aboutour core offers and services, contact our team of experts today.