A printed circuit board or PCB as its popularly known is an electronic board that connects circuit components. The unit is loved by many people as it’s rugged, reliable and inexpensive. PCBs are made from different materials. The conducting layers are made from thin copper foil while the board is coated with solder mask that is usually green in color. Although rare, you can find boards that are blue or red.
Parts of a PCB
A printed circuit board has many parts. The main parts are:
Components: These are the actual devices used in the circuit. They include: Microchips, resisters, switches, and diodes. The components do the work of the circuit while the PCB provides the connections. For the components to work they must be linked together.
Pads: Pads are simply the locations that the components connect to. For the components to connect to the pads they have to be soldered. Pads have different inner and out diameters; therefore, when installing the components be cautious of the diameters.
Traces: These are the wiring of the PCB and connect pads together. In some cases traces connect to vias. The sizes of the traces differ depending of the current that they are passing. As you might have guessed, high current traces are wider.
Vias: They have plated holes that connect traces from one layer of the board to another. According to professionals, you should minimize using vias in your PCBs when designing them. This is to avoid making the board too complex and messy. Whenever possible, use component leads as vias.
Top metal layer: This is where most of the components reside. For the components to be in place they are soldered to the pads. The top metal layer is characterized by its ability to take higher circuit densities.
Bottom metal layer: While there are a few components on this layer, most of the soldering is done here. Unlike the top layer that has only a few traces, this layer has plenty of traces.
How to create a PCB
Unlike before when PCBs were handmade, nowadays majority of electronic circuits are designed on a computer. This allows you to create a perfect arrangement of parts before you make the design permanent. After you have ensured everything is okay, you only need to click on print and the PCB will be literally printed. If you don’t have the skills to design PCBs simply buy them from a reputable store.