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The first printed circuit board was developed in the early 1900s, but it was a very simple creation. In essence, it was “printed wire” that created an electrical path directly on an insulated surface. The beautify of it, however, was that it could eliminate complex wiring and deliver electricity consistently.

Since that early development, PCBs have changed dramatically with many milestones, including double-sided, multi-layer versions with surface mount parts. Then came micro-via technology, markedly reduced trace and space, and flex PCBs.

Today, the evolution continues as demand drives innovation for exciting new possibilities. What’s next for PCBs? We asked industry experts to weigh in. Here’s what they said:

Rohit Dewani

Rohit Dewani

Rohit Dewani is an entrepreneur from Mumbai, India who is interested in big data, embedded electronics and machine learning. See his works here: anandcontrol.com

Inbuilt Passives: Right now, companies have to buy lots of passives such as capacitors, resistors and inductors. The passives [constitute] the highest number of components in a typical Bill of Material (BOM).

With the technology improving exponentially, we will be able to highly control the dielectric layers and copper tracks within extremely tight tolerances. Hence, within 10 years we might see passives built into the circuit board. This will drastically reduce the cost.

Aluminium PCBs: Aluminium PCBs will be easy to manufacture. This will lead to a paradigm shift in PCB manufacturing as aluminum is cheaper and has better heat sinking capabilities than copper.

In-house flexible PCB: With PCBs becoming thinner every passing year, in the future, we well have PCB sheets as thin as paper. We will have a PCB printer, which will print out PCBs in our offices within no time.

Convenience is one of the major drivers of technological advancement. A device may make something easier, or it may be easier to make a device. Usually, the motivation for incremental change or disruptive change finds its roots here.

Additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, has been a growing technological advancement. Now government agencies such as NASA and the Department of Defense are investing heavily in the utilization of 3D printing to produce electronic circuitry. Why? Besides the notion of convenience, there are notions such as adaptability and resource management. Suppose you could design and fabricate any circuit you needed on-demand from only a base set of raw materials, and even recycle it once done? Suppose active devices could be created in space or on a mission? How powerful of a concept would that be?

The majority of electronic circuitry is produced by the intelligent combination of materials connected together. These materials are (1) conductive, (2) insulating, (3) resistive, (4) capacitive, (5) N-type semi-conductive, and (6) P-type semi-conductive. Individual elements are produced by calculated geometries from these materials. While there has been [progress toward] 3D print circuit boards, and even other 2-dimensional planar circuitry, fully 3-dimensional electronics devices have not been successfully developed. Until now.

The Electronic Alchemy eForge is a fused deposition modeling-based 3D printer. It utilizes up to eight different extruders that deposit the material from proprietary filaments that have the electrical properties of the six stated above. EA was funded by NASA to develop this technology for their use and for commercialization. Its developers are collaborating with Autodesk for the use of their CAD packages such as Tinkercad and Fusion 360 for layout and design. Currently, Electronic Alchemy is in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign, preparing for product release in the third quarter of 2020.

Chance Glenn & Jason Burr

Chance Glenn & Jason Burr

Chance Glenn is an engineer, inventor, and researcher as well as a full professor. While Jason Burr is the Executive Advisor to the CEO of Electronic Alchemy and Founder of RedZed Group: www.redzedgroup.com

Shayne Sherman

Shayne Sherman is the CEO of techloris.com, based in Brookline, Massachusetts. With over 11 years of experience in the industry, Shayne founded the company with the goal of providing unbiased reporting on the tech world. When he is not running TechLoris, Shayne spends time with his family and is a passionate practitioner of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
Printed circuit boards are designed to relay transmissions for an electronic system, acting as instructions to complete tasks. But the necessity of technology may encourage these boards to change.

Perhaps they will evolve so that they aren’t the middle-man of electronics, but the active component of tech systems. The circuit would be transmitting information and instructions for itself, instead of an outside system.

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