Ever since Paul Eisler patented the PCB in 1943, these once undivided boards have now evolved into something that might even confuse Eisler himself. Today’s PCBs have undergone a lot of changes incomparable to their starting points. Their sizes are much smaller, instead of one layer there are 36 Layer PCBs, … due so such technological advancements in the PCB industry, making complex devices that power everything such as your smartphones to the space shuttles have been made possible.
Due to fast technological progress in PCB technology, nowadays PCB manufacturing has become an extremely sophisticated process. The days that HDIs and FPGAs could be found only in the most elusive electronic devices have passed and today they are readily available to almost any designer. This, in turn, has sparked further technological innovations within the PCB industry. Regardless of their color, today’s PCB technology has made it possible to make smaller electronic devices, and they’re also a big reason that Moore’s law is still relevant and hanging around.
1. 3D Printed Electronics
Every PCB engineer wishes that he can design his PCB, and then have it printed by a 3D printer by just pressing Ctrl+P on his computer! While printing an entire PCB to the smallest possible size needs several more years, 3D printing has been at the forefront of making the most radical innovations in today’s PCBs–3D PE or 3D printed electronics. 3D Printed Electronics is considered as a revolution in the future electronic designs. These systems can create 3D circuits by printing a substrate layer by layer and then adding liquid ink to the substrate containing electronic functionality. The SMT technology can then be added to produce a final system. The result is a circuit that based on its given requirements can take any imaginable shape. 3D PE can result in huge benefits to both circuit manufacturing companies and their customers compared to the existing traditional 2D circuits.
2. Board Cameras
PCB cameras or PCB board cameras refers to cameras that are directly mounted on the PCB itself. This technology has made portable photography possible. Today’s board cameras are so sophisticated that they can produce photos and videos with the quality of those taken by a professional camera. The other advantage of these cameras is that you can carry them with you wherever you want.
Since their introduction, board cameras have undergone rapid improvements. These improvements basically cover photo and video imagery plus durability. With these small cameras, it is possible to easily capture high-resolution images and video. It is expected that within the next few years, board cameras will continue their rapid development and provide powerful solutions for both consumers as well as industrial electronics.
3. High-Density Interconnect and Miniaturization
The current trend across the electronics industry is to make better-performing products even in a smaller footprint. Not only has the production of PCBs facilitated this trend, but innovations in the assembly line will have to keep up with the demands of the production of PCBs that are considerably smaller than the ones we are relying on today. PCBs must also continue to pursue miniaturization relentlessly, i.e., the introduction of high-density interconnecting technology in the PCB market. Additional refinements in HDI technology will further reduce the PCB size to 0.4 mm soon and will affect a dizzying number of surrounding industries and goods in the process.
Most PCB manufacturers see Autoplacers as a viable alternative to auto routers. The reason Autoplacers have caught PCB manufacturers imagine that they not only make the automation process much faster by integrating mechanical and CAD systems, but also because they do not require as much time and labor as the autorouters. This makes it a win-win in components for manufacturers. The constraints on the operation of autoplacers do not necessarily have anything to do with the design of the board, but rather with the design of the product. This can mean a lot of overhead for designers, as they must account for a lot more than the PCB design. While autoplacers can significantly speed up manufacturing processes over autorouters, this will depend primarily on optimizing the management of the autoplacer constraint.
5. Biodegradable PCBs
More and more manufacturers are looking to produce biodegradable PCBs that can decompose just like any other natural substance to make way for a more sustainable future. Specifically, when it comes to PCBs, some scientists suggest that we address the pollution problem by changing the PCB manufacturing processes. This would mean replacing traditional substrates with more environmentally friendly alternatives. Biodegradable substrates are currently under close examination, as are alternatives that do not require harmful etching chemicals to complete the assembly process.
What Does the Future Behold?
The above-mentioned developments in the production of PCBs portraits a promising future for the PCB technology. However, there are still some innovations in PCBs that are already well beyond the current technological development capabilities. One of the most important ideas is to make PCBs an active and living component of an electronic device. As of now, the PCB is just a board on which several electronic components are mounted. Several engineers are currently working on making a PCB an active part of the system where it could have its functionality. That way, we would need far fewer electronic components, and Moore’s Law would be able to prevail for a much longer period.