When designing a new electrical or electronic product, engineers typically debate whether to use a perfboard, breadboard or custom printed circuit board (PCB) to wire its circuits. Depending on the nature of the electrical work being done, it may be necessary to use intricate circuitry that is yet compact, for example, smartphones. PCBs are the perfect fit for this type of application because they are designed to be as compact as possible and can hold complex circuit boards that are not only organized but also use less space than other wiring methods.
Breadboards and perfboard construction are two more options, but PCBs are more common. This is because they are far more desirable than other options due to their various benefits. A PCB is a thin board made of plastic and other non-conductive material with conductive pathways printed on it that are used to connect electronic components within a device. The following are a few of PCBs' many benefits:
- Miniaturization and reduced wiring use. PCBs may accommodate several components, which might be extremely minute, making it hard to wire them together on breadboards. PCBs, not only aid in connecting all these components but also make use of copper tracks as opposed to wires, making it simpler to handle little components and reducing wire waste. It's possible to cram a surprising number of components onto a relatively tiny circuit board.
- Saving time. It takes a long time to make circuit boards the old-fashioned way. Alternatively, employing PCBs not only shortens the process but also makes it easier.
- Possibility of quick fixes. Repairing a malfunctioning PCB is a simple process. The silkscreen on the board indicates the component polarities, making it simple to test and fix any malfunctioning parts. That makes it easier to repair the structure and improve functionality.
- Each component is permanently attached. Each component is securely fastened to the circuit board by solder during the assembly process. This is achieved by using solder flux, which prevents any movement that may loosen the parts.
- Reliability. PCBs have been shown to be quite dependable. They undergo rigorous quality control inspections at all stages of construction and manufacturing. Because of how thoroughly automated the process is, one may have confidence in the final output.
- Fewer risks for short circuits. All the wires and circuits are connected by copper rails or other conducting materials. So, there is less likelihood of a board shorting out due to a loose connection.
- Reduced noise from the electronics. As a result of careful design, electrical noise is minimal or non-existent on these circuit boards. Any disturbance dissipates as heat or radiation. A smaller amount of EM waves and radiation is produced because the parts are arranged in a way that ensures the shortest possible route length.
- Custom PCBs also offer an ideal solution for intricate circuitry due to their ability to accommodate complex wiring without compromising the device's size and space.
The use of PCBs is not without its drawbacks. Here are some of the major ones:
- Single-use boards: PCBs are built with single usage in mind. The designer must start over if changes are to be made to the board after it's been printed. A new board will need to be made to replace the one that requires modifications, but the low manufacturing cost might work in the user's favor. However, multi-use boards are also available. Multi-use boards are designed to be reprogrammable, meaning that modifications can be implemented without having to go through the entire manufacturing process again.
- Using chemicals in the etching process can have a harmful impact on the environment, so it's not exactly eco-friendly. The etching technique benefits the board, but it has environmental drawbacks.
- Keep in mind that not all electronic devices are compatible with PCBs while creating one. Before beginning construction, determine what kind of gadget the board is intended to be used with.
- The preliminary investment in design and equipment. Putting the PCB in an enclosure to shield it from the workplace might complicate troubleshooting.
- Due to the quick pace of advancement in PCB technology, it is not uncommon for individual components included in a PCB design to become outdated and prohibitively costly to fix or replace within only two years.
- PCBs also have current limitations that need to be taken into consideration during the design and manufacturing process.
PCBs are more desirable than breadboards and perfboard construction because they are more versatile, reliable, cost-efficient, highly durable, resistant to wear and tear, and easier to modify. In addition, PCBs have the advantage of being able to integrate more components than any other board, making them more reliable in terms of product stability and their ability to handle more sophisticated circuitry. However, PCBs have environmental drawbacks of their own, such as the production of chemical by-products and toxins in the manufacturing process. Nevertheless, these drawbacks are more than outweighed by the advantages of PCBs, which has led to a growing preference for them in a wide variety of applications.