Why PCBs Have Replaced Older Technologies & How Hobbyists Can Get Involved Too

Printed circuit boards have largely replaced older boards. Many devices now have PCBs inside them, from basic PCs to set-top boxes to laser printers. What’s interesting is that the creation of PCBs is done entirely on CAD software now, which has changed the design process. For hobbyists, they too can design their own PCBs as well.

In this article, we highlight some of the advantages of PCBs and how you can get involved.

Why Did Older Circuit Board Get Phased Out?

Older circuit boards used larger components including mini vacuum tubes and had wires that connected the components together, which supplied power. They were bigger, a little clumsy and difficult to design. If an attached wire became dislodged when a product got nudged accidentally, the board would lose power. They were also out of the reach of most hobbyists to try their hands at designing one.

Are PCBs Superior to Older Boards?

Printed circuit boards (PCBs) are significantly better in many regards.

PCBs have boards where each component is soldered into position rather than being attached, which tends to make it more resilient to knocks and bumps. The physical wires have been replaced with traces. Traces are copper wires that get etched directly in the board to connect the power supply to each soldered component in turn. This avoids wires getting dislodged and is far more reliable from a manufacturing standpoint too.

How Are PCBs Designed?

Due to the fact that PCBs now fully embrace digital technologies, their design is also high-tech too.

Computer-aided design (CAD) software is now used to design printed circuit boards. Using CAD tools, PCB designers can plan and execute a design that will provide the intended functionality whether the board will go inside a calculator, a games controller or a TV.

The nature of the design of PCBs for commercial manufacturer is that they can run through several iterations until getting the board design exactly right. This ensures that the board will provide the functionality required of it. Fortunately, with CAD design, any changes, additions, and corrections can be easily applied in no time at all and the manufacturing facility updated accordingly.

Can a Hobbyist Design a PCB?

There’s nothing to stop you from trying out designing a PCB for yourself.

The easiest way is to use cloud CAD software like the one from Upverter. It’s cloud-based, so it works right from the web browser. It has cool 3D features to take a 2D printed board design and transform it into a 3D visual to provide a good idea how the final product will look.

Manufacturing is required separately. Producers are set up to create a final physical PCB board based on a digital CAD file. It’s not really viable to produce a PCB at home but designing one and handing the design off to a production facility is the next best thing.

With the advent of PCBs, not only has it made boards more reliable and easier to produce, but hobbyists can give them a try now too. Great news for geeks everywhere!

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I'm an eternal optimist, follow a Buddhist philosophy, geek of many areas, entrepreneur, learning the Chinese language, a die-hard sports fan, love politics and nuclear submarines.

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