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This page will go through the basics of what a PCB actually is, along with definitions and examples of many of the terms used with PCBs. Design is looked at on our “PCB Design” page.

What is a PCB?
A PCB (printed circuit board, or just a “board”), is a physical method by which circuit designers can mount components with connections between them to replace a breadboard circuit or wire-wrapping.

This is a PCB

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.

«Image of a PCB» «Labeled image of a PCB> «Stack up of a 2 layer board»

How do I make a PCB?
Making a PCB is done in three overarching steps: design, fabrication, and assembly.

  1. Design: 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.
  1. Fabrication: There are 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. Soldermask and silkscreen can be applied after the board has been fabricated. See our “How to make a PCB at The Hive” page for details.
  1. Assembly: the process of actually adding the components to the fabricated PCB. At The Hive, we have soldering stations to facilitate this, as well as solder paste and a reflow oven if you'd prefer. We can also make solder paste stencils.

Route (cut vs route traces)

  • pcb-basics.1585661876.txt.gz
  • Last modified: 2020/03/31 09:37
  • by benh