PCBs, or printed circuit boards, are integral to a number of products – including components for gaming. This is an interesting process, as many of these are churned out each and every day. So where does it all begin?
Designing the Circuit Board
The design of the PCB is integral to its success, as it will be printed exactly as the designer creates it. While the manufacturing process reduces the human error at play, there can still be issues with the design that cause the board to fail. This is why software plays such a huge role in the creation of a successful product.
The designer begins with the floorplan of the circuitry, basically a blank board that they can build upon. This allows them to plan out the pathways of the board, to account for the function that the board will serve. They can use libraries of components to act as a template for the board, combining the elements that they need for the board to be effective.
There are many software systems that can be used for such a task. Some assist in simulations to show the finished product as it will exist. For those that want to learn how to design PCBs this can be a faster route to doing so, as the software is able to assist in the process. Some of these design packages can offer just the bare bones, which means there’s more manpower involved in the process.
Assembly and Integration
With the completed design in hand, the PCB can then be moved onto the manufacture stage. The number of layers that the circuitry uses can change this process, as more layers means a more in depth process. The circuit board must be etched, and a substrate used to seal the circuitry to keep it protected.
While this was once a manual process, the use of printing machinery makes this much more reliable. Some components and integration tasks can be handled by humans, but in most cases this is a purely mechanical process. There may be a human element to the quality control, but rarely are they involved in the assembly these days.
The manufacturing process can also vary due to the number of PCBs required. Different materials and processes tend to be used on smaller batches than on larger ones. PCBs can be made at a hobbyist level and this varies greatly from the process used by larger companies.
For PCBs that fail quality testing, the materials will be recycled and reworked into another part of the process. This reduces the amount of waste to account for and allows the factory to recoup costs. Any faulty components will be stripped away and tested, with the functional ones returning to the assembly line. Quality testers will usually mark their circuit boards to ensure accountability for faulty PCB’s.
PCBs power most of our household items, from games consoles to microwaves. The process of creation is interesting and the market is ever growing with the introduction of new tech.