Impact of the Advent of Printed Circuit Boards

The printed circuit board is one of the most amazing creations in the world of electronics. Just imagine that many large machines today could be controlled by a very small integrated circuit. Before, electronic circuits fill spaces as large as one room. Due to the advances in technology, circuits shrunk to become as tall as a door, then became as small as a chair. With the advent of printed circuit boards, electronic circuits shrunk to being as small as 3-5 inches or even smaller.

Computer technology benefits the most from the advent of printed circuit boards. Because of integrated circuits, the logic, arithmetic, as well as memory of the computer can now be handled by a single chip called microprocessor. Modern microprocessors can be made to be no bigger than a finger. This is amazing, considering that computer memories before are stored in one room wherein the components are bigger than a human.

Reduction in size of integrated electronic circuits and machines has interconnected benefits.

One is the introduction of mobile machines such as laptops, mobile phones, and other smart gadgets. Data can also be stored in USB flash drives, which are no bigger than a finger. SD cards inserted into smartphones are as small as fingernails.

Increase of processing speed is also attributed to shrinkage of the circuit size. This is due to the decrease in the distance the electric current travels. The components of traditional electric circuits are connected via wirings. Each electric component is separated to other components by meters. That means, the currents reaches the other components slower, but not slower than most would think. In an integrated circuit, on the other hand, the current travels from one component to another by micrometers. Considering this distance, the speed in which signals are conveyed from component to component is greatly increased.

Lastly, the decrease in energy consumption is an important perk brought forth by developments in integrated circuits. The components of traditional circuitry are maintained by high voltages, while integrated circuits only require low voltages (not enough to shock a human).

To understand the efficiency of printed circuit boards against traditional wiring system, take a look at a simple electric circuit. A simple electric circuit is composed of a battery, wires, and a bulb. The negative charge flows from the one side of the battery. This charge flows through the wires and reaches the bulb. Once the charge reaches the filament (a thin wire) of the bulb, it heats up and glows. The charge continues to flow on the other wire until it reaches the other side of the battery. The same principle could be applied to a more complex circuitry, though the current may not flow in one way.

Printed Circuit BoardsIn traditional circuitry, components (not bulb but diodes, capacitors, resistors, transistors, etc) have distances from one another but are also connected by wires. On the other hand, in integrated circuits, the distance between components and wires are totally absent. Each component is connected mechanically and electronically by the printed circuit board.

The major part of a printed circuit board, called substrate, is composed of non-conducting materials such as cotton paper, plastic or fiber glass. Substrate can firmly hold the components, each in very close distance with one another. As a non-conducting material, the substrate doesn’t allow the current to flow freely within it.

Copper traces or tracks are etched on top of the substrate. These tracks serve as the conducting metal pathways through which electric current flows. This replaces the role of wires in an integrated circuit.

The components in an integrated circuit are very tiny. The redesigning and reduction of size of these components is again attributed to the advent of the printed circuit board. Each component has lead or metal tabs which are used to connect to the copper traces.

It is almost impossible today to think of a more efficient wiring system than printed circuit boards.

Electronic gadgets these days use printed circuit sheets, or Printed circuit board, in performing their assigned capacities.