How Has Prototype PCB Assembly Changed Over The Years?

Circuit board prototyping

How did we get from clunky computers that take a lifetime to start up to quality prototype PCB assembly? Look no further than a demanding populace and the passion of countless engineers, programmers and designers. Circuit board prototyping has only gotten better as the years have gotten longer, providing manufacturers with the ability to test their products and explore a variety of different methods without sacrificing time, quality or money. From the slow yet skilled handcrafted results of technicians in the 1950’s and 1960’s to the elaborate manufacturing processing plants of today, printed circuit boards have gone through unprecedented growth.

How Long Has PCB Fabrication Been Around?

Short for ‘printed circuit boards’, this method of assembly has been around for decades. Multiple organizations have taken it upon themselves to provide standards of quality for the construction of printed circuit boards, offering both resources and oversight to manufacturers attempting to satisfy a broad audience. The earliest printed circuit board was thought to have been created all the way back in the 1930’s.

How Were Printed Circuit Boards Made?

Prototype PCB assembly looks incredibly different today than it did just a few decades ago. Boards designed in the 1960’s were originally assembled with designs by hand, bolstered by the addition of adhesives, masks and diagrams not unlike an artist’s painting. While these could still be reasonably designed with a careful touch, handmade products limited the speed and reliability needed to maintain a larger business. Although a human touch will never go out of style (indeed, it’s necessary for test stages), the creation of production machinery has sped up the process exponentially.

How Does Prototype PCB Assembly Look Today?

Thanks to the advent of technology, methods we never thought possible are as mundane as a post-it note. There are two general types of circuit assemblies related to the printed circuit board — an integrated circuit, also known as a microchip, and a hybrid circuit. These are then rounded out with the most common three methods used to print the legend, using everything from component designators, switch settings and test joints to obtain the most accurate result possible. To continue the artist analogy, there are a few highly useful methods for crafting circuit board templates, such as silk screen printing, liquid photo imaging and your average ink jet printer.

How Are Prototype Printed Circuit Boards Made?

There are a wealth of different soldering techniques used to attach various components to a printed circuit board. Thanks to high volume production SMT placement machines and reflow ovens, these can be mass produced without sacrificing quality. Nonetheless, skilled technicians are able to solder incredibly tiny parts — these can range from .02 inches by .01 inches. Laminates, manufactured by curing under both pressure and temperature layers of cloth or paper, are used to establish a dependable, uniform thickness. This can be as large as four to eight feet in width and length. Last, but not least, glass epoxy is the substrate in which the vast majority of PCBs are produced, creating the base to attach thin layers of copper foil.

How Is The Future Of Prototype PCB Assembly Looking?

The demand for prototype printed circuit boards is not expected to dip anytime soon. These are used in nearly everything electronic, from phones to computers, and technology only continues to get faster faster. As such, companies across the country are always searching for more efficient ways of designing, printing and shipping quality printed circuit boards. Whether it’s producing more reliable prototypes through accurate design sheets or using the finest quality materials, the future of prototype PCB assembly is a bright one, indeed.

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