How are PCBs Used in Different Industries?

PCBs or printed circuit boards are electronic components that are found across most modern technology. They play an integral role in creating the everyday technologies that we are accustomed to seeing today. Most commonly, PCBs are the green chips you would find in almost all electronic devices. They are typically made from a non-conductive material and have features that are etched from copper sheets to interconnect electronic components of a device. Other components that are found in PCBs are capacitors and resistors which are soldered onto them.

What is the purpose of PCBs?

In a device, you will find many electronic components which all work in tandem to allow it to perform as intended. The application of PCBs offers a convenient way for manufacturers to electrically connect electronic components to a product, as well as having a platform that fixes everything together in place. Without PCBs, it would be challenging for manufacturers to interconnect the hundreds of electronic components which make up a single electronic device, and even a bigger challenge to replicate this process many times over.

Types of PCBs

Today, the application of PCBs in electronic devices is becoming mainstream, with the addition of various types of PCBs available. They can be single-sided, double-sided, or multi-layered. Also, they can be rigid, flexible, or even contain both rigid and flexible parts. Each serves its own unique purpose depending on the type of devices it is being used for.

How are PCBs used in assembly?

There are two common methods used to assemble PCBs:
Thru-Hole Mounting
This is the traditional method of assembling PCBs. This assembly process involves placing component leads into holes drilled into a bare PCB. This technology enables a stronger connection than other methods, which is ideal for applications that require higher reliability. The reasoning behind this is because the leads go all the way through the board, as opposed to simply being attached to the surface of the board with soldering. This form of assembling is also effective for testing and prototyping which requires multiple manual adjustments of components.
Surface Mounting
This is the most common way of mounting components onto a PCB. This process involves mounting components directly to the surface of the PCB through soldering. The components used for this process are generally smaller known as SMDs, which are different from thru-hole components, and are connected to various layers of the PCB.
This process allows the assembler to attach components to both sides of the PCB. Since the components are smaller, this allows for more parts to be attached to a single board. This not only reduces costs but also allows devices to be smaller while increasing their performance.

How are PCBs used in different industries?

Today, you can find PCBs used in various industries from small consumer electronics to industrial machinery. Some of the most common applications of PCBs can be found in the following ten industries:
Consumer Electronics
Everyday technologies such as smartphones, computers, and smartwatches all require PCBs to function the way they do. You may have noticed that each year, devices become smaller but the features are constantly increasing such as better cameras, more processing power, higher pixel density, etc. These advanced capabilities are made possible thanks to the utilization of small PCBs with a high volume of connections. Another important aspect is that PCBs allow manufacturers to keep costs down during production, which makes devices more affordable for everyday consumers. As more and more devices start to gain advanced electronic functions (i.e., smart fridges, microwaves, etc.), the use of PCBs will continue to grow with it.
Automotive

If you compare today’s cars to when it was first invented, the difference in the number of electronic components cars have now is drastically different. Back when cars were first invented, PCBs were only found in windshield wipers and headlight switches, but now, cars have become more advanced with enhanced safety features, as well as entertainment systems allowing for a safer and more pleasurable driving experience. Not to mention, the emerging trend of autonomous vehicles where the application of many PCBs is a must.

Depending on the part where PCBs are needed, it may require to perform reliably while withstanding extreme temperatures or constant vibrations. To tackle these challenges, manufacturers may use high-temperature laminates, copper substrates, or thru-hole components to enhance the reliability of the PCBs. Flex-rigid PCBs are also commonly used to enhance the resistance against vibrations.
Medical Devices
Health technology is another industry that has benefited from the applications of PCBs. PCBs in healthcare are mainly found in diagnostic, monitoring, and treatment equipment. To ensure patients are getting quality and effective healthcare, medical PCBs need to be reliable at all times. To go a step even further, PCBs used in health care may also require to meet strict standards for sanitation for devices that are used for implants. Examples of such technologies are pacemakers, which are implanted into a patient’s chest through surgery and helps prevent a patient’s heart from beating too slowly. As medical technologies continue to advance, the role of PCBs will be integral in healthcare.
Wireless Communication

PCBs are an important part of the wireless communication industry. PCBs are what enable our smartphones and other wireless communication devices to function the way it’s intended. Wireless communication requires many different types of PCBs because of the different types of equipment used in the industry. Types of wireless communication equipment may include telecom towers, office communication equipment, as well as LED displays and indicators. The PCBs used in these types of equipment depends on the environment where it is being used, such as a stable indoor environment or do they need to withstand an unpredictable outdoor environment. As PCBs become more powerful, so will our ability to communicate wirelessly.

Green Energy
As more businesses start to become more environmentally conscious, the demand for environmentally sustainable solutions has increased substantially in recent years. The advancement of PCBs has helped the development of green technology which is not only more environmentally sustainable but also more reliable and flexible.
Aerospace and Defense
The application of PCBs in aerospace technology shares a number of similarities to the ones in the automotive sector. However, PCBs used in the aerospace sector may require further durability against even harsher environments such as extreme heat/cold, vibrations, and other harsh environments. Examples of such aerospace equipment include airplanes, rockets, and satellites.
Light-Emitting Diodes (LEDs)
Light-emitting diodes commonly referred to as LEDs are one of the most popular light technologies found in residential and commercial industries such as automotive, medical, and consumer electronic sectors. The benefit of LEDs is that it is more energy-efficient, lasts longer, and it’s compact. PCBs used in LEDs are typically made with aluminum. This allows for better heat management and increases the overall life span of the LEDs.
Industrial Equipment
In the industrial sector, you will find various types of PCBs being used. The PCBs used in the industrial sector often require more power and need to be able to withstand the harsh environment of the manufacturing plant. Examples of such harsh environments may include rough handling, extreme temperatures, vibrations, or harsh chemicals. To enhance the durability of PCBs, industrial PCBs are typically made from more durable metals and are usually thicker than most kinds of PCBs. Thru-hole assembly is often used to increase the durability of PCBs.
Maritime
Many technologies found on marine vessels rely on PCBs to function properly. This can be from smaller vessels to large cargo ships and submarines which are equipped with advanced communications and navigational systems. Since marine vessels are designed to operate on or in the water, this will require PCBs that can withstand harsh conditions such as heavy currents or storms in order to facilitate the safety of the people on board.
Safety and Security Equipment
Most of today’s security systems are equipped with advanced features to protect the safety of your home or business. These advanced features were only made possible thanks to PCBs. The type of PCBs used in security systems depends on their application, but they all must be reliable. Some security systems operate outdoors such as security cameras, so it will require it to be able to withstand potential harsh weather conditions. Whereas, indoor security systems such as smoke detectors may have as high durability requirements.
PCBs have become an integral part of today’s modern technological advancements. Most of the electronic devices you interact with such as your smartphone, computer, car, plane, or even your front door may have some form of PCBs inside it. As PCBs continue to evolve, the advancement of technology will grow with it.
If you are looking for a company that can help you manufacture PCBs for your industry, we have the solution for you! At ECI Technology, we have professionals with extensive experience in electronic assembly to provide high-quality and reliable products to meet the needs of your business.
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