What is a PCB?
PCB is an acronym for ‘printed circuit board’. They enable engineers to arrange components into a connected circuit, without having to individually wire them all to one another. Instead, the components are soldered to a board covered with conductive copper ‘traces’, which carry an electrical current around the circuit.
Early forerunners of today’s printed circuit boards were first developed in the late 1800s. However, PCB design and production techniques weren’t refined for practical use until the 1930s, and didn’t start to become popular until the 1950s and 1960s. Today, they’re found in almost every type of device or appliance that relies on complex internal circuitry.
Thanks to modern semi-automated PCB manufacturing processes, they’re now significantly less labour-intensive (and less prone to failures) than traditional point-to-point wiring. Indeed, PCB boards have risen to near-universal dominance as a convenient, economical, reliable and space-saving improvement over almost any other circuit-building method for mass production.
How is a PCB made?
When people ask ‘what is a PCB?’, they’re normally asking what one looks like, and/or what a PCB is made of. In truth, it’s a fairly complex process involving numerous technical stages and cutting-edge manufacturing systems, but to summarise very briefly:
- A PCB is a circuit board made from multiple layers of materials, arranged somewhat like a sandwich. The number of layers can be increased for more complex circuit boards.
- PCB circuit boards generally consist of at least one rigid (or, in some cases, flexible) substrate layer – typically fibreglass – overlaid with a sheet of copper foil, a dielectric (insulating layer), and a solder mask. The solder mask is also the main reason most PCBs are green in colour.
- The early stages of PCB design involve drawing out the circuit you want the board to support, and testing it for basic function. The circuit design is then transferred to a manufactured blank PCB in a process similar to etching.
- This etching process creates tracks on the board – called traces – where the conductive copper layer is exposed. These take the place of wires in a traditional point-to-point circuit.
- The components needed for the board to perform its intended function are then solder-mounted to conductive pads, via either surface-mount technology (SMT) or through-hole technology (THT).
- Other key stages in batch-producing printed circuit boards include:
PCB prototyping: board design, circuit and components are rigorously tested for proper function.
PCB assembly: components are sourced and physically mounted to the finished board.
PCBs can be made to a huge range of specifications in terms of size, function and complexity. The finished board design and layout will be dictated by, among other things:
- The type of device they’ll be used in, and the function(s) they’ll perform
- Where they’ll need to fit in a given product or appliance
- The client’s specifications for performance, cost per unit, component selection, and so on
What other PCB services might you need to use?
Among the full range of PCB services that ABL Circuits can provide, some of the key disciplines we specialise in include:
- Blank PCBs – one-off prototypes, small batches, or large-volume PCB orders in a range of material thicknesses, copper weights, resist colours and surface finishes.
- PCB design – our in-house CAD design team uses the latest technology to turn your circuit diagrams and specifications into accurate PCB units.
- PCB prototyping – we’re one of the UK’s fastest and most reliable PCB manufacturers, able to build, quality check and return your prototype boards in the shortest possible time.
- PCB manufacture – we offer a flawlessly professional PCB manufacturing and production control service, with total commitment to quality and precision
- PCB assembly – we can source, procure and accurately mount suitable components for you at industry-leading prices, or we can work with your own materials.
- PCB reverse engineering (also known as PCB copy) – expert technical knowledge means we can identify how to rework or recreate an existing circuit design for improved economy and efficiency.
- Flexible PCBs – for specialised devices or applications, we can create powerful and fully-featured PCBs on a flexible plastic substrate, rather than standard fibreglass
ABL: Almost 40 years’ mastery of complete PCB solutions
Here at ABL Circuits, we’re able to offer a complete end-to-end PCB service for all types of designs and performance requirements. Alternatively, we can step in to handle any individual stage(s) of the overall PCB design, prototyping, manufacture and assembly process.
With almost four decades’ experience at the cutting edge of printed circuit board engineering, we’ve developed a leading UK reputation for both flawlessly accurate technical work, and some of the fastest lead times in the industry. We’re always happy to work under strict NDA protocols where requested, and have built a roster of clients who regularly entrust us with developing proprietary circuits under these conditions.
Moreover, we pride ourselves on getting the job done right the first time, every time. Our unique client satisfaction guarantee is testament to our confidence in the accuracy of our work, and our technicians’ meticulous attention to detail.
If you’d like to discuss any aspect of an upcoming PCB production project with a member of our team, please feel free to contact us by phone or email today.
Our reputation as one of the country’s most reliable and trustworthy blank PCB manufacturers has been built up through decades of dedication to our customers and the promise that your circuit boards will be delivered “on time, every time”. Whether you are ordering our bare boards or choosing our total PCB solution, we pride ourselves on offering some of the best lead times in the industry, without compromising our quality and service.
Take a look at our online quotation page and see just how competitive our prices are for your blank PCB service needs.
You will benefit from the fastest leadtimes in the UK. Your ABL Circuits PCB’s will be delivered within 5 working days as standard.
Your order will be dealt with promptly by a friendly and conscientious team, committed to providing a high level of service.
You will also benefit from our exceptional 8 hour same day express service for your urgent prototypes.
The knowledge gained from 30 years of experience eliminates your risk in dealing with ABL Circuits.
Your deadlines are critical to you and us, that’s why we guarantee you will receive your boards on time, every time in perfect condition.
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Excellent service, fast and efficient with excellent help during the development of the circuit design. Great pricing structure and very professional.
Very nice company to work with as they are always happy to help solve any of my problems fast and good quality work. They are my number one PCB supplier.
One of our top suppliers, they always offer value for money and a fast reliable PCB service.