Technology

A Guide to the Different Types of PCBs

The reality is, we rely on technology a lot more than we think – and you will most likely encounter more circuit boards than you realise on a daily basis. This can be anything from your alarm going off in the morning to getting that caffeine fix with a coffee machine.  PCB’s are now heavily integrated into modern life – and here we discuss the different types of PCB’s and what they might be used for.

Single Sided PCB’s

A single sided PCB has a single layer of base material.  One side of it is covered with a thin metal layer (normally copper).  There is also typically a protective mask on top of the layer, and then a final coat.  On this type of PCB – you will find only one side has electronics – and tends to be used for more simple electronics.  There are some great PCB design software’s such as Altium that can simplify the design process.

Double Sided PCB’s

These tend to be more common than single sided PCB’s and used for more electronics.  Here you will find that there are electrical components.  There are holes in the circuits that will allow one side of circuits to connect to the other.  There are 2 technologies that allow you to do this.  Through the hole is wireless, and small leads will be soldered directly into the PCB.  Then there is surface mount, where circuits will use a smaller space on the board.

Multilayer PCB’s

These are a more sophisticated version of double sided PCB’s.  There are several layers, and each layer is separated by insulating materials.  Just like with double sided PCB’s, both sides are connected using holes or via’s.  They also save more space and you will usually find between 4 and 10 layers on the standard multilayer PCB.  You will find these in computers, hand-held devices and alike.

Rigid or Flexible PCB’s

Rigid PCB’s come are made of hard, inflexible materials.  This could be something like fibre glass – and will prevent the board from bending.  Flexible PCB’s are typically made of some kind of flexible plastic.  This allows the board to fit in to all kinds of different shapes without damaging anything.  They tend to cost a bit more to design – and can come in all kinds of formats to suit most designs.  You might find them used in some more complex equipment such as satellites.  If space is a major factor – this tends to be the one that designers go for.

Rigid-Flex Hybrids

This is where the technology for both rigid and flexible PCB’s are combined. Here you will normally find that a rigid board is attached to a flexible board allowing for more sophisticated designs than with any of the other options.

As time goes on, there are many more developments in the world of PCB designs and as technology advances – there will be no doubt more capabilities that haven’t already been uncovered.

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