Printed circuit boards



A printed circuit board (PCB) is a laminated sandwich structure of conductive and insulating layers. PCBs have two complementary functions. The first is to affix electronic components in designated locations on the outer layers by means of soldering. The second is to provide reliable electrical connections (and also reliable open circuits) between the component's terminals in a controlled manner often referred to as PCB design. Each of the conductive layers is designed with an artwork pattern of conductors (similar to wires on a flat surface) that provides electrical connections on that conductive layer, while another manufacturing process adds vias - small and precisely located holes that are drilled through the laminate and then plated with copper. The vias are the electrical interconnection between layers that are otherwise insulated in the laminate structure and this allows a third dimension of connection between conductive layers in a controlled manner that is both reliable and cost-effective for mass production of electronic products.

PCBs mechanically support electronic components using conductive pads in the shape designed to accept the component's terminals, and also electrically connect them using traces, planes and other features etched from one or more sheet layers of copper laminated onto and/or between sheet layers of a non-conductive substrate. Components are generally soldered onto the PCB to both electrically connect and mechanically fasten them to it. Printed circuit boards are used in nearly all electronic products and in some electrical products, such as passive switch boxes.

Alternatives to PCBs include wire wrap and point-to-point construction, both once popular but now rarely used. PCBs require additional design effort to lay out the circuit, but manufacturing and assembly can be automated. Electronic computer-aided design software is available to do much of the work of layout. Mass-producing circuits with PCBs is cheaper and faster than with other wiring methods, as components are mounted and wired in one operation. Large numbers of PCBs can be fabricated at the same time, and the layout only has to be done once. PCBs can also be made manually in small quantities, with reduced benefits.


Ease of reuse

  • Connectors
  • firmware
  • mounting pattern
  • software stack




Fitness tests

  • combined length of traces
    • fewest vias
    • max via distance from edge
    • max distance between traces, vias