PCB Design and the Trend Toward More Functions on Chips than Circuit Boards

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Printed circuit boards (PCBs) and Integrated Circuit chips are the foundation of our modern world. As technology advances and innovations are introduced, the PCB industry continues to grow. Printed circuit boards are so standard in today's world that many people don't understand their purpose and design. There is a lot of mystery surrounding the PCB and its function in connecting components within electronic items.

There is a difference between a chip and a PCB

A PCB is a plate of fiberglass with copper traces that connect components. A chip is an electronic circuit made of a small, flat piece of semiconductor material (usually silicon). The chip is placed in a housing. This is usually a small black box with pin connectors. The chip is generally smaller than a PCB but more complex with a particular function. As part of a multi-function device, chips might be placed on a single PCB. Apple, for example, has a more advanced chip manufacturing process and is putting more functions into its chips as they move away from Intel.

What are your thoughts on the subject of PCBs? PCB design can be pretty complicated, but it is not too difficult if you are interested. You might not believe many myths surrounding these complex circuit boards unless you are a designer or an assembler. We've compiled a list of common misconceptions regarding PCB design to help you distinguish fact from fiction.

  • Myth 1 - All boards have the same design rules

Printed circuit boards may not be the same design. The components and composition of PCBs are very similar. A typical board will have between two and four layers, each with a different thickness and copper weight. The foundational layers are a substrate, copper, and solder mask. Silkscreen printing PCBs is done for both informational and functional purposes.

Board's primary functions are the basis of the fabrication process and assembly. The design of PCBs is unique. You can think of it as a technical art form involving various pieces. All designs will not be successful if they are assembled according to the same rules and settings.

  • Myth 2: Component Placement Doesn't Matter Much

Component placement is another common misconception about PCB design. While not all design rules apply to particular PCBs, carefully considering component placement is crucial to circuit performance. PCB designers cannot place components anywhere on a board and can't group like parts together to save space. Designers must also consider heat and potential overload. Chips have become more sophisticated and have more functions. This means that there is less room for customization and repair. Chips will be reliable and durable, hopefully.

For clarity, consider a printed circuit board as a three-dimensional model. Designers should consider both the physical height and their dimensions when designing components. Each PCB component must be placed in a particular location for quality assembly. This is necessary to ensure a functional electrical system that doesn't overheat and reduces power consumption. Without this, technology today would continue to fail.

  • Myth 3 - Printed Circuit Boards are Not Eco-Friendly

While there is some truth to the Eco-Friendly problem, there are ways to reduce the environmental impact. You may have heard that PCB manufacturing, design, assembly, and manufacture are not sustainable. The EPA states that the five processes responsible for printing circuit board manufacturing wastes are: surface preparation, cleaning, catalyst application, electroless plating, pattern printing, and masking and electroplating and etching. These include airborne particulates and spent plating baths. Most electronic devices are not designed to last forever, so reducing or recycling waste is vital. It is possible to be tech-savvy and still use products made by careless companies. Electronic sustainability is about using non-toxic materials for fabrication and materials that recycling companies can recycle.

The EPA's working definition of waste minimization dates back to at least 1990. It consists of source reduction, which prevents waste creation at its origin, and recycling. From an environmental perspective, source reduction is preferred to recycling. According to the EPA, treating hazardous waste can be considered an approach to waste minimization in some states but not in others.

Engineers will continue to work toward biodegradable boards as a future goal. A greener manufacturing process is also possible.

Apple claims that they are working towards sourcing all the resources necessary to create an iPhone from renewable and recyclable sources. Apple uses only 100% recycled rare earth elements for all magnets, 100% recycled Tungsten in the Taptic Engine, and 100% recycled Tin in the solder for the central logic board/battery management unit. Apple reports that the company recently switched to using 100% recycled gold for plating the main logic board and the wire in the rear and front cameras.

The ubiquitous and more popular PCB design is still an integral part of our tech industry, from key fobs to electric blanket controllers. It doesn't matter if you are a designer or a user; it is wise to have more information about the topic before choosing a device that runs faster from your computer.

911EDA provides PCB design services using Altium, Allegro, PADs, and OrCAD.