How Technology Has Changed PCB Design

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Because printed circuit boards are as versatile as they are, even tiny changes in consumer trends and emerging technologies can have a noticeable impact on the PCB market and this includes how they are designed, manufactured and used. The following are just a few examples of this, although there are many more that could be highlighted to demonstrate this.

Miniaturization

It actually wasn’t all that long ago when computers would occupy whole walls. Today, even a humble calculator watch, although a rarity now, has more computing power than these huge machines.

When you factor in even the cheapest smartphone on the market, then you can see just how far technology has come – in terms of sheer power and relatively miniature size.

Since the printed circuit board is a technological foundation in consumer level goods (almost everything has a ‘computer’ in it today), the PCB has to purse miniaturisation relentlessly. This means high-density interconnect technology. Refinements in HDI technology will serve to further reduce the size of PCBs, changing forever the way that they are designed and how PCB design programs operate.

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Advanced materials

Printed circuit boards, like most other products, are susceptible to real influence form social, climatic and political pressures. To put it in simple terms, the printed circuit board design and manufacturing process needs to keep up with the mad dash towards more sustainable and cleaner production methods.

Lead-free solder, for example, is much more energy-intensive in the manufacturing process and so the PCB manufacturing industry has been forced to find alternatives. PCBs are ahead of the curve in other ways though. Fibreglass has been traditionally used to form the substrate, which has been seen as an environmentally friendly material. That being said, this may well give way to other materials that are better suited to much higher rates of data transfer. Such materials could be liquid crystal polymer or resin-coated copper.

Health Care Technology

Modern digital technology integration within the medical sector has been one of the greatest developments to date. Technology now means that patient data can be stored securely in the cloud and so healthcare can be administered via smartphone and mobile applications. Development of medical technologies has increased dramatically, and this naturally influences the design of printed circuit boards.

Board cameras are a relatively new development that allows hi-fidelity cameras to be fitted to the actual printed circuit board. The implications of this in medicine are huge; where a camera needs to be introduced to the human body the smaller, they are the better, and when you consider that some are small enough to be swallowed then the possibilities continue to widen.

Wearables

The consumer electronics industry has been a large driver in the world of PCB design and manufacturing over the last few decades. Wearables have been around for a relatively short period of time, but their impact has been noticeable. Wearable tech requires the use of PCBs as smartphones do but they emphasise the efficiency of PCB design to such a degree that was simply impossible a short while ago.

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