Is it “Just a Board”?

I was out with friends one night, a table full of people holding many different conversations at one time. I clearly hear the words, “but it is just a board”.   The background noise dimmed and I suddenly became laser focused on that particular conversation.   I felt an adrenaline rush and the unstoppable need to defend the product I have chosen as my area of expertise.   I took a deep breath and calmly asked, “Why do you say that?” The result was a lively discussion about the function of the PCB in today’s electronics.

In fairness, this person’s background is in the component design side of the industry and his limited experience with PCB’s involved 2 and 4 layer, standard technology designs. So, yes, I get where he was coming from. You can buy a simple PCB at most shops and have good quality product. BUT, today’s electronics require the PCB to be so much more!

We are in a time of amazing developments in our electronics products. Electronics are required to be increasingly smaller, faster, lower power, lighter weight and feature rich. As consumers we can all appreciate this. The primary function of the PCB, other than being a solid base for components is to provide the interconnect between the components that are accomplishing these things.

Electronics today push PCB designs well past “standard technology”: specialty materials, finer lines and traces, microvias, both stacked and staggered, multiple lamination cycles, heat transfer, impedance matching, electromagnetic shielding, embedded components, etc. The phrase, “it is just a board”, just doesn’t apply.

PCB fabricators are continually developing new processes, pushing their technology limits and tightening process controls to meet these requirements. PCB designers need to understand the new materials, manufacturability constraints and cost drivers. The electrical, mechanical and fab people working together can create amazing things.

We rarely use this format to “get on our soap box”, but we are really curious……what does everyone think?

Is the PCB, “just a board”, or is it a critical aspect in the electronic assembly?

Send me a note and let me know you thoughts!   tarad@omnipcb.com

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