Even people who confess to knowing nothing about printed circuit board assembly know more than they think. Why? Because they use PCBs every day—whether they are aware of it or not. PCBs are a critical element in nearly every digital and electronic device. They come in various configurations, which enables them to perform various functions and serve different purposes. There is a vast proportion of PCB applications, but we’ll be covering the most common applications of printed circuit boards in this article.
Most common applications of PCB
As electronics usage grows and expands across a variety of sectors, PCB applications are expected to extend and adapt to new requirements with even more compact and powerful capabilities. Below are some of the common areas where PCBs are being applied:
1. Automotive Components
Commonly, circuit boards are placed in media devices, control systems, proximity monitors, and vehicle navigation systems. In each case, they perform a unique and critical function. For example, advanced vehicle control systems like engine management and fuel regulators rely on PCBs to track and monitor these aspects of the automobile. Whereas in the past, PCBs were mostly used for windshield wipers and headlight switches, they’re now powering many innovative features that make driving better and easier.
Today’s PCBs can resist extreme temperatures or vibrations. They have also become much more consistent, which allows them to be used reliably in safety features. Manufacturers can use high-temperature laminates, aluminum or copper adhesives, or thru-hole installed components, to create PCBs that will live up to the high demands placed on them. And when it comes to heavy vibrations, flex-rigid PCBs are the answer for durability.
2. Consumer electronics
PCBs are necessary for fueling smartphones, computers, and the many other consumer goods that people use every day. PCBs are becoming a more significant part of our everyday lives as we add circuitry to more of our goods.
To keep the finished product price down, PCBs used for consumer electronics often need to be relatively low-cost. Manufacturing companies also want more secure boards, since we are relying on PCBs to do more.
Examples of PCB use in consumer electronics include:
- PCs: Windows laptops, Apple MacBooks, and home PCs all have printed circuit boards at the heart of their system. Peripheral devices and gadgets with screens also contain PCBs.
- Home appliances: Electronic components are there in almost every modern home appliance. Your coffee maker has one. Your refrigerator has one. Heck, even your alarm clock has one in it.
- Entertainment systems: Whether it’s your PlayStation 4 console or your stereo set, the device has a PCB at its core, which serves as the foundation for the system.
The use of PCBs in consumer goods is showing no signs of a decline. Interestingly, many non-electronic devices are now also becoming part of the Internet of Things (IoT) and acquiring advanced electronic functionality.
3. Medical Devices
As medical devices advance, the healthcare industry is using rising numbers of PCBs, unveiling new capabilities. In devices used for diagnostics, tracking, treatment, and more, PCBs play a key role.
When developing medical PCBs, careful attention must be paid to ensure reliability, since proper functioning can be crucial for patient health. In many instances, these PCBs are designed to follow strict sanitation requirements, especially those used for implants. Boards used for implants, probing devices and other applications can be amazingly small. Most health PCBs are high-density interconnects, or HDI, because of this.
More applications for electronics are continually coming up in the medical field. PCBs will play an increasingly crucial role in healthcare as technology advances and smaller, denser, more stable boards become feasible.
Light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, are a ubiquitous lighting technology used for the automotive, medical, and computer technology sectors. The movement of heat away from the bulb is one function that PCBs play in LED applications.
Extreme temperatures minimize LEDs’ average life. Usually, PCBs used for LEDs are made of aluminum, which can transfer heat more rapidly than other metals. This removes the need for a design with an external heat sink and ensures that it can be more lightweight. PCB designers also use CEM3 or copper alloy instead of the FR4 substrate material because of their high heat dissipation property.
In a broad range of applications, LEDs are becoming increasingly popular, meaning PCBs will likely start to play a more significant role in lighting. Embedded LEDs yield flexibility in design, even when building complicated switch assemblies.
5. Industrial Equipment
The use of printed circuit boards varies widely in the industrial sector. Most of the machinery at production and distribution centers and other kinds of manufacturing facilities is powered by electronic equipment.
In the industrial sector, PCBs also need to be extraordinarily high-powered and sufficiently robust to withstand the harsh conditions in industrial installations. Rough handling, vibrating equipment, high temperatures, or harsh chemicals can all wreck PCBs if they are not sturdy enough. Industrial PCBs can be made of robust metals or thermal-resistant materials and be thicker than other forms of PCBs to satisfy this need for durability. To improve durability, industrial PCB assembly services can include thru-hole technology.
New uses for PCBs are increasing in the industrial sector as robotics, industrial IoT tech, and other forms of advanced technology have become more popular.
These are some of the most prevalent PCB applications, but they also play a role in many other industries. In fact, any industry using electrical equipment requires PCBs to perform various functions. It is essential that these boards are stable, reliable, and customizable.