Characteristics of Printed Circuit Boards

Printed circuit boards or PCBs are thin copper plates where chips and other electronic components are located.  They offer mechanical and electronic support and interconnection of various devices.

PCB assemblyThe number of copper layers that can be found on a circuit board can range from one layer, two layers, and even multiple copper layers. Conductors and resistors are embedded in the different layers on advanced PCBs. These conductive tracks are then connected with plated-through wholes commonly referred to as vias. The finished circuit board is composed of one printed side and the opposite component side.  Component leads are affixed to the component side of the plate using the molten solder from a wave-soldering machine.

Alternative methods of producing circuit boards include wire wrap, turret, boards, and point-to-point construction. However, the ease of large scale manufacture and assembly has made PCBs the preferred method for cheap and fast circuit board production. This is despite the fact that they are more tedious to design and layout.  In addition, automated assembly lessens the chances of wiring errors that could be committed from manual construction.

Although it is no longer commonly used, the correct term for a PCB that is only composed of copper wiring or connections is printed wiring board or etched wiring board. On the other hand, a circuit board occupied by a number of electronic components is called printed circuit assembly or PCB assembly, are also more generally known simply as cards or adapters although the term PCB is used unofficially for both unfinished and assembled boards. Aside from these different names, it should also be noted that many computers often consist of one or more cards that fall into one of several categories.

The first and most recognized type of printed circuit board in computers and other expandable systems is known as the motherboard. As the name suggests, motherboards are the mother of many of the major electronic components of the computer such as the CPU and RAM as well as other minor controllers. They are referred to as main boards or system boards when no additional expansion capability is offered by the single board such as in the case with washing machines. In addition, they provide connectors for the attachment of peripheral devices.

The second type of printed circuit boards is the expansion board –

Expansion boards facilitate the flow of information between the motherboard and other devices attached to a computer system. These devices include controller boards, LAN cards and video adapters.

Controller boards are a special type of expansion board that literally allows you to control any device attached to a motherboard. On the other hand, Network Interface Cards enable your computer to connect to a local-area network or LAN.  Finally, video adapters allow you to control graphics monitors attached to your PC.
The third type of printed circuit boards is called daughter board or daughter card.

pcb boardThese circuit boards are meant to be an extension or daughter mainly of the motherboard, but they also occasionally attach to other boards. Compared to the expansion board however, they can provide direct access to the internal hardware without the use of a computer bus. They can also save manufacturers the hassle of overhauling an outdated model by simply accommodating innovations added to a new model. Daughter cards can also be called riser cards when they are used to maintain a computer’s slim form by allowing expansion cards to fit parallel to the motherboard.

Printed circuit boards can look relatively similar to those with untrained eyes and those unfamiliar with their different types and functions. However regardless of these technical limitations, it is undeniable that all of the various forms of circuit board serve vital functions that provide us with great convenience in using our electronic devices. Even though these boards are hidden deep within the confines of your gadgets, it is still important to recognize their contributions in your day-to-day activities.


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