The Evolution of PCBs

Evolution of PCBsSpeaking design wise, Printed Circuits Boards (PCBs) have come a long way since their inception in the early 1850s. Since then, they have evolved to fit and facilitate the rapid progress of technological achievements. The PCBs that used to be and the PCBs that exist today are as different from each other as you can imagine. To show you the exact difference, today we are going to tell you about the evolution of PCBs through some very important milestones in its history.

1850s – Origin

The origin of the PCBs can be traced back to the electrical connection systems in the early 1850s. It might be hard to imagine it now, but back then a wooden board was used as a base with electrical components, which were connected with metal rods and strips. Later, to make it more efficient and serviceable, the metal frames replaced the wooden board and thin wiring was used instead of metal rods and strips.

1900s – Advancements in Concept

‘Printed Wires’ was a concept which was patented in the early 1900s by Arthur Berry from Britain. At the time it was also called the print and etch method. But it wasn’t until 1925, when an American developer named Charles Ducas filed a patent of his version of the board which required the creation of electrical paths straight on the insulated surfaces, that something truly revolutionary in the history of PCBs happened because this concept had the potential to produce results by eliminating complex wiring systems.

1940s to 1970s – Advancements in Development

Despite that, the actual development did not proceed till Dr. Paul Eisler came into the picture. Dr. Eisler (originally from Austria but working in United Kingdom at the time) in 1943, filed his own patent for a method, which involved a non-electricity conducting hard base covered with a layer of copper foil and on which conductive patterns were etched. This method proved to be so successful that even the United States military took notice of it. Though they originally planned to use this method to develop weapons during World War II, the research led to the creation of sleeker, smaller, and more efficient transistors in 1950s, which was further aided by the production of doubled sided PCBs that had plated through holes.

The Institute of Printed Circuits (IPC) was established in 1957 in Chicago, Illinois. Since then it has morphed into IPC- Association Connecting Electronics Industries. The main purpose of this trade association is to regulate the assembly process and the electronic equipment production requirements.

A United States firm named Hazeltine, patented the technology plated through hole and it role in multi layer PCBs in 1961. This technology allowed developers to work on much more complex boards with components that could be placed more compactly. The manufacturing of PCBs with four and more layers started in 1960s and today, PCBs can have up to fifty layers. But it mostly depends on the application.

The Surface Mount technology was also developed in the late 1960s, but it wasn’t till the 80s that is saw great advancements.

1970s saw the introduction of integrated circuit chips. This again proved to be an important milestone because the components of integrated circuit chips were incorporated seamlessly with PCBs at that time and more advance PCB fabrication techniques came to the fore. The circuitry, the components and the boards themselves kept getting smaller and smaller and the method of hot air soldering became very popular for manufacturing. However the industry standard was created by Japanese developers with their process of using multiple aqueous developed Liquid Photo Imagebales (LPIs) masks.

1980s to 1990s – Breakout

The surface mount technology, developed during 1960s was brought to the fore in the early 1980s. The technology correlates to PCBs in a way that it uses electronics that are specifically made to either stamped or placed directly on one side of the printed boards. The devices that used the surface mount technology include integrated circuits, capacitors, resistors, and LEDs. This technology also replaced the through-hole components, the end result of which was that the size of the boards got even smaller without affecting its functionality.

In 1990s, multi layering allowed developers to create even more complex circuits boards. As the number of layers grew, the size of the board got smaller and the components along with all other types of material required to make the board began to go down in cost. This allowed developers to combine rigid and flexible PCBs in a myriad of devices. After that the focus was shifted towards efficiency, effectiveness, and speed. The lower cost of the components and materials boosted the production of PCBs in 1995, so much so that it reached over 7 billion dollars. 1995 was also the year when the era of High Density Interconnect (HDI) PCBs started.

2000s to Present

The fabrication of PCBs in United States alone reached more than 10 billion dollars in the year 2000. Today, both rigid and flexible PCBs are a highly affordable option for just about everyone.

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Different Types of PCBs

PCBsIf you open up any device in your house whether it’s the computer, the phone or even a complex toy, you are sure to find a printed circuit board (PCB) inside. And though some of them might look similar, they hardly ever are. There are probably as many types of PCBs as the devices they are used in. Here is a list that contains some of the types of PCBs you might have heard of and some that you might not have.

Rigid PCBs

  • Single Side Rigid PCBs

Single sided PCBs are probably the simplest, the least complex, and the cheapest printed circuit boards available. They are used in devices that require low complexity. What makes the single sided circuit board so simple and easy to manufacture is that it only has a single layer of copper on a rigid base material. Later on in the manufacturing process, indents and solder resists could be added, as per the requirement of the application. The single sided PCBs can be used with both surface mount components and through hole.

  • Double Sided Rigid PCBs

Whereas single sided PCBs are regarded as the simplest to manufacture, the double sided PCBs are the most commonly used. This is because both sides of the PCB are used to attach components and parts. This type of PCB consists of two copper layers on a rigid base material; however, both copper layers are not connected. Platted through holes of the double sided PCBs have two copper layers. Just like single sided PCB, the indents and solder resists could be also be added afterwards and these type of PCBs can be used with both surface mount components and through hole.

  • Multi Layer Rigid PCBs

Multi layer PCBs are boards that have more than three copper layers separated by insulations. The multi layered PCBs are created by layering double sided PCBs (also called inner layers) together, and securing them through the bonding process that requires specialized glue. This is done until the required number is achieved and the board is made complete. Commonly, the multi layered PCBs consist of 4, 6, 8, or 10 layers. Up till now, the maximum number of layers that have been for a multilayered PCB is fifty. But there are certain prerequisites for the manufacturing of these boards and they are only made for very complex devices.

Flexible PCBs

  • Single Sided Flexible PCBs

Just like their rigid counterpart, the single sided flexible PCBs are the simplest – not so complex – and cheapest to manufacture. This type of PCB consists of a solitary conductor layer on top of a flexible dielectric film. With singles sided flexible PCBs, you have the option of a semi flexible LPI (Liquid Photo Imagable) solder resist or a coverlay. To make some parts of this PCB slightly rigid, additional stiffeners are used.

  • Double Sided Flexible PCBs

Double sided flexible circuits have two copper layers. Both layers consist of dielectric layer between them. This type of PCB also gives you the option of a semi flexible LPI (Liquid Photo Imagable) solder resist or a coverlay, but is normally connected with plated through holes. And just like its single sided counterpart, some part of this PCB can also be made more rigid with the use of additional stiffeners.

  • Multi Layer Flexible PCBs

Multilayer flexible PCBs consist of three or more copper layers.  All copper layers have a dielectric layer in between them and are usually connected through plated through holes. But just like all other flexible PCBs, you have the option of semi flexible LPI (Liquid Photo Imagable) solder resist or a coverlay and parts of it can be made more rigid with stiffeners.

Flexi-Rigid PCBs

The flexi-rigid PCBs are manufactured by permanently combining parts of a rigid and flexible board together. This type of PCB is used for limited space conditions.

Super PCB is the leading manufacturer of both rigid and flexible PCBs. Through us, you can avail custom printed circuit boards and PCB prototypes. To get a PCB quote, contact us at your earliest convenience.