We use printed circuit board every day through electronic devices such as smartphones, LED televisions, digital clocks, HVAC systems, and computers. All devices, powered by electricity or any source of electrical current, require PCB to work properly and efficiently. People invented the board as early as the 1920s but the look of the PCB we know today came out during the 1940s. Since then, manufacturers, scientists, and engineers introduced many developments that make today’s PCBs more efficient and durable.
In the 1920s, Charles Ducas filed a patent on the use of insulators to bolt wirings and generate the flow of current on the devices. He developed the concept of using conductive inks and printing the circuitry on the wiring board. Most often, the application of early PCBs was on radio devices, and military equipment.
The materials used for manufacturing the earliest PCB were Masonite, layered paperboard and thin wood planks. Back then, people drilled holes and pinned flat wires on the board. The material component of wires was brass. As long as a person could attach wirings on the holes of a board, it could pass as such, a circuit board. However, the materials used required constant replacement, bulky sockets and were prone to error.
During those times, a PCB looked bulky, heavy and most of the time failed to perform its functions, that is to direct the flow of the current to the appropriate parts. Many scientists and engineers attempted to apply the concept of Ducas but the outcome was not reliable until Eisler. The year 1943 marked the start of the PCB that we recognize today. Dr. Paul Eisler received the credits for being the first person to make a printed circuit board work. After the success of Eisler, many engineers and scientists adopted his concept and developed other materials for fabricating PCBs.
We now use different materials in manufacturing the PCBs. These materials range from the cheapest types to the most expensive ones. These can be resins, modified epoxy, phenolic, polyimide or fiberglass. These materials have dielectric properties and we use these because of their poor conductivity. The most popular type of the laminate board is the FR4. The most efficient one is the laminates made from fiberglass or glass due to its high resistance to heat and very poor electric conductivity. However, these materials are also the most expensive ones.
Due to the constant demand for smaller and more sophisticated PCB, many manufacturers are still in the pursuit of making this a possibility. Many of them spend thousands and even millions of dollars on research and development for finding the best kinds of printed circuit board. Despite the current technology in fabrication, the PCB is still prone to electrical breakdowns, two to three years from its production.
We are not certain if the future of the PCB is a flexible type, which allows manufacturers to create the smallest PCB ever made. For the meantime, the PCBs are still the green one (sometimes red or golden yellow) you see on your electronic device. They are made from modified epoxy or glass.
Many issues have arisen since people discovered the convenience of using PCB. One of the issues that manufacturers often encounter is the use of chemicals. The manufacturing process of the PCBs requires the use of hazardous chemicals, which puts people to certain health risks such as cancer. Although the probability of developing cancer has not yet been established, many community groups often batter these manufacturers to find a safer method than the current ones of fabricating the printed circuit board.
Despite the issues, we know that the PCB industry will remain the highest contributor to the economy. As the technology advances, a lot of people will demand faster, more efficient home and commercial grade electronic devices. We will continue to deliver excellent printed circuit boards to our consumers.