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History of the development of printed circuit boards

The article tells about the history of appearance and development of printed circuit boards in electronics. The main stages of evolution of printed circuit boards, their types, manufacturing principles and drawings. The material is useful for amateurs and professionals in the field of electronics.

Modern printed circuit boards (PCBs) are a symbiosis of technological advances and innovations in electronics. At the beginning of the 20th century, the first PCB concepts were formed. From simple copper tracks on bakelite boards to today's multilayer and flexible PCBs, each stage of development reflects the desire to improve the performance, reliability, and efficiency of electronic components.

What is a printed circuit board

The printed circuit board in electronics is a key element of many digital devices. It provides mechanical support and creates electronic pathways to connect various components: chips, resistors and capacitors.

What the PCB is made of

It consists of layers of conductive as well as insulating materials. Conductive layers are often made of copper. They are applied in a pattern of tracks, pads, and other elements that function as wires on a flat surface.

Components may be attached to the conductive areas on the outer layers by soldering. In addition, through-holes coated with metal are used to connect the layers. PCBs can be single-sided, double-sided, or multilayer. Multilayer boards allow more components to be placed in a smaller space.

The PCB design and manufacturing process involves creating a schematic drawing, arranging the components, and connecting them with tracks according to specified design rules. This is followed by design verification, after which the data is transferred to production, where the tracks are etched on the metal layers and the board is assembled.

Where PCBs are used

PCBs are used in almost all electronic devices. The main devices whose operation is supported by the PCBs include: cell phones, tablets, computer equipment, household appliances (microwave ovens, hair dryers, refrigerators, washing machines, food processors, etc.).

Stages in the development of printed circuit boards

Let's explore the evolution of PCB design by breaking it down into the key periods described below:
Initial stage (1900s-1920s)
In 1903, German inventor Albert Hanson laid the groundwork for modern PCBs by proposing the use of wire for telephone systems, metal foil to create conductors and paraffin paper for insulation. This method, different from current technology, did not involve phenolic resin and chemical etching, but was the starting point for further developments.
Development period (1920s-1940s)
In 1925, Charles Duca of the United States proposed printing circuits on insulating materials, which simplified electronics manufacturing. In 1936, Dr. Paul Eisler of Austria, known as the "father of printed circuit boards," used foil film to create the first PCB, a method that resembled the modern process. In 1943, his inventions began to be used extensively by the U.S. military industry.
The Decisive Year (1948)
The year 1948 was a pivotal year in the history of PP, as the US officially recognized the invention for commercial use, facilitating its widespread adoption.
Period of rapid development (1950s-1990s)
From the 1950s through the 1990s, PCBs developed rapidly, becoming a mainstay of the electronics industry. In 1953, Motorola developed double-sided boards with electroplated transition holes, and Toshiba contributed with copper oxide technology. In the 1960s, multilayer boards became widely used, increasing space efficiency.
Mature phase (1990s)
With the development of compact electronic devices in the 1990s, printed circuit boards became smaller and more complex. Computerized design simplified development, and component suppliers began to reduce power consumption and costs.
The beginning of the 21st century
With the advent of smartphones, HDI PCB technology has received a new impetus. The use of stacked transition holes and "any layer" technology allowed for greater compactness and functionality. In 2017, HDI moved to a new stage of development, overcoming the limitations of the subtractive process.

Current trends affecting the development of the industry

In today's electronics world, a variety of PCB shapes such as standard rigid, combining flexibility and rigidity, complex multilayer and high-density interconnect (HDI) systems are leading the market. These technologies are continuously improving to meet the increasing needs of consumers.

Given the current trends in PCB technology, the following areas could have a significant impact on their future development:
1. Integration with the Internet of Things (IoT). IoT devices require more compact and efficient PCB designs to meet new functional requirements.
2. Increased use of flexible PCBs. Such boards are becoming increasingly popular in various sectors, including electronics, telecommunications, and aerospace and automotive.
3. Development of HDI PCBs. HDI boards are in demand in aerospace and medical diagnostics due to their high performance and compactness.
4. Increasing demand for high power PCBs. Such boards are required for electric vehicles and solar-powered devices due to their ability to manage high voltage.
5. Use of commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) solutions. These are standardized components that are actively used in the aerospace industry to optimize costs and speed up the development process.

The trends tracked more fully address the question of what PCBs are for, emphasizing the continued development in PCB technology, the drive for smaller size and increased functionality, and adaptation to different industries.