Has anyone you know accidentally dropped something so badly that it breaks open? Just say someone dropped a calculator and it breaks open, what you would probably see are the gray display, the rubber keys, and some wires soldered to a green rectangular board. Have you ever wondered what that green board is?

That green board is called a PCB, or a Printed Circuit Board. Majority of the electronic devices produced has a printed circuit board in them. Electronic wirings that make the device work can be found in the printed circuit board. A PCB is used to route electronic signals between physical devices – for example, one can see digits on the calculator display real time as the rubber number pads are pressed. The PCB acts as a highway for those electronic signals to be transferred correctly. It also acts as the electronic device’s brain. Without it, the device will just be like a toy. It is usually green in color, but not all printed circuit boards backbone. PCBs come in all colors, but most manufacturers commonly use brownish yellow, purple, red, or white.

pcbA printed circuit board may seem to be just one piece of plastic, but in reality, it is made up of several layers. The green thing is called a solder mask. It is used to cover most of the copper layer from contact with any other metal. The white writings are often added through silkscreen printing. Those prints are for assemblers to recognize parts of the board when soldering electronic components. Underneath the solder mask is the copper plate laminated on the fiberglass base. There is no standard design for a printed circuit board.

Each manufactured board is uniquely designed to work for a specific purpose. However, most of the time, on the printed circuit board, one would usually find diodes, capacitors, resistors, and integrated circuits – all soldered in place and necessary for the device to work.

There are different types of printed circuit boards, but the three main types are single- sided, double-sided, and multi-layered. As the name implies, a single-sided printed circuit board has the electrical components on only one side. In most cases, when there is not much space, a double-sided board is used. It’s called double-sided because electronic components are soldered on both faces of the board. A multi-layered board is like a one-sided board but with another board on top of it. The two boards are usually screwed in place so that the wirings connecting the two will stay in place.

The printed circuit board has been around since the 1900’s, but it was commercially produced only in the 1940’s – that is after World War II. It was deemed a breakthrough as it could eliminate complex wirings and yet provide consistent results. Before the printed circuit boards, point-to-point construction was used. That meant bulky designs and complex, confusing wiring systems which caused issues most especially when the wire insulation cracks over time. (Does that now give anyone an idea as to why the first computers were that huge?) In time, several developments happened which also changed the overall design of the printed circuit board to what it is today.

Nowadays, printed circuit boards not only just decreased in size, but they also increased in power. There are still challenges faced by engineers when it comes to developing thinner, faster, and smarter printed circuit boards, yet new techniques are also being discovered continuously both to amaze consumers and to allow for more technological breakthroughs. As a result, devices are getting thinner, faster, and smarter than before, and consumers can expect more in the coming future.

A multi-layered board is like a one-sided board but with another board on top of it. The two boards are usually screwed in place so that the wirings connecting the two will stay in place.