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What is a PCB?
A PCB (printed circuit board, or just a “board”), is a multi-layered substrate specially designed and fabricated for circuit designers to eliminate wiring and mechanically support their components. At their simplest, they are single layers of copper on a rigid, electrically isolated backing, onto which you can solder components and cut connections between them out of the copper. More complex stackups (that is, the layering of the PCB) can include multiple copper layers, different insulating layers, and more. Connections between components are called traces. Traces on different copper layers can be connected by adding vias, which are holes that are drilled into the board and electroplated to make a conductive pathway. Soldermask can be added to isolate traces beyond just etching. Text and images can be added with silkscreen.

How do I make a PCB?
Making a PCB is done in three overarching steps: design, fabrication, and assembly. Typically, one starts by developing a circuit, which may include simulations and/or prototyping on breadboard. The design of the board itself is then done on the computer using electronic computer-aided design (e-CAD) programs, such as KiCAD, EAGLE, or Altium, though there are many others.

Fabrication of the PCB is done in a number of different steps, depending on the complexity of your design, but a standard 2-layer board without vias begins by drilling any necessary holes, followed by etching/isolating the traces and components, and finally routing/cutting the board out. The PCB Fabrication Guide details how we do it at The Hive.

Soldermask and silkscreen can be applied after the board has been fabricated.

Route (cut vs route traces)

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