Printed circuit boards, or PCBs, are an important part of any electronic device that requires computing power. There is no doubt that computers of all types are quite common in today’s wired world, and they appear in places where some Americans might not even expect them. A laptop of a desktop PC is certainly a computer, but computers can also be found in calculators, video game consoles, and even in car parts, and more. These powerful computers require printed circuit boards to operate, and thus, there is a massive demand for PCB assembly and supply. PCB manufacturing today in the developed world is robust, and a PCB assembly plant may get a lot of orders. Circuit board assembly is tricky work, but with the assistance of automated lines and specialized software, PCB design and PCB assembly is very much possible to keep up with demand. How3 are these wondrous devices created, and what sort of variety might they come in?
Designs and PCB Assembly
Creating a computer, car, or game console is not done all at once place. A manufacturing plant may receive supplies of ready-made parts from specialized workshops, and that includes PCBs. Rarely, if ever, will the manufacturer of a PC or a video game console actually make PCBs themselves, but rather, outsource PCB assembly to specialized firms. These manufacturers may make robust orders for printed circuit boards, and specify how they should be made and how much computing power they can offer.
Meanwhile, at a PCB assembly firm, the process begins with actually designing them. These powerful devices are not “one size fits all.” Rather, trained engineers will create new patterns and layouts for newer models of PCBs, and do this with the aid of specialized, advanced software to create effective designs. And even when a new design is approved, it must be made into prototypes before anything is mass produced. Aberdeen Group has launched some surveys to study this whole process, and the results found that even simple PCBs will require (on average) 11.6 physical prototypes first. Meanwhile, more advanced prototypes may require an average of 16.1 prototypes to be made.
Once the prototype stage is cleared, it is time to mass produce PCBs and prepare them for shipment to wholesale buyers who need them. How is this done? PCBs are certainly as delicate as they are important, and the space in between their electrical conducting paths may be just one millimeter, or even less. While it is possible to build these delicate items by hand, most often they are made with automated lines. Studies show that using such automated lines allows any PCB assembly firm to create more PCBs, and boards with more consistent quality, than those made by a team of people. In fact, just one automated line can place and solder more parts than 50 human workers, and do this faster and with more consistent results. With machine assembly, a shop can assemble PCBs in just a fraction of the time than if people were making them. In particular, some PCB PCB assembly lines have a standard turn-time of just five days or under, and that is 75% faster than the industry’s average.
This allows nearly any PCB firm to keep up with demand, and there is plenty of demand. After all, Aberdeen Group has found that printed circuit boards represent 31% of any electrical device’s cost, and this means minimal room, if any, for any errors or delays. Meanwhile, many PCB assembly plants report that they want to produce even more of these devices, and faster. In total, 53% of respondents said that their top PCB design problem to address is the need to improve product complexity. These PCBs may vary in their exact printed materials, and some boards have many layers. Multi-layer boards may have two, four, eight, or even 10 different layers for more power, and the most advanced models have as many as 42.
These boards are nearly everywhere, as their host electronics are, too. Within living memory, computers were large, slow, and expensive machines that only dedicated engineers even saw. Now, a typical household may have a dozen computers (of all types) in the home, all with PCBs in them.