4 Common Misconceptions About Printed Circuit Boards (Part 2)

December 26, 2023
4 common misconceptions about printed circuit boards (Part 2)

Even though printed circuit boards (PCBs) are an integral part of most electronics, since the technology involved in their design and manufacturing is often quite complex, many people fail to understand their intricacies, which can result in the spread of oversimplified or inaccurate information about them. 

It does not help that PCBs are generally buried deep within the electronic devices used, leading to guesses made about them that develop into myths or misconceptions over time. The fact that the field of electronics is constantly evolving, with new technologies and manufacturing techniques emerging daily, does not help with this matter either, as misinformation can often stem from outdated knowledge or a lack of awareness about the latest developments in the world of PCB manufacturing. 

Whether you plan to work on designing and manufacturing your PCBs or are interested in outsourcing this work as you develop a new electronic device, it is important to dispel any myths you may have heard so that your understanding of them is accurate and complete. Maintaining an ongoing awareness of the latest trends and shifts within the industry is the best way to stay on top of this. 

What are some of the most common misconceptions about printed circuit boards?

There are plenty of myths out there that surround PCBs, relating to their function, their design and manufacturing process, and their general relevance and importance. Some of these myths are more common than others and have risen and circulated for various reasons. Still, nonetheless, it is necessary to identify fact versus fiction when it comes to PCBs. The following are some of the most common misconceptions out there about PCBs:

1. PCBs Are Essentially Just “Carriers” for the ICs Mounted on Them

This myth is more complicated than most because, for a long time, it may have had some truth to it, as PCBs were not a significant area of concern. There used to be considerable “wiggle room” in terms of the roles that different aspects of a PCB’s materials and technologies played in its overall end-product design, which made it acceptable to merely get the design somewhat correct. 

However, as the speed curve began to increase (starting at roughly 2.5 Gb/s), the margin for error in PCB designs shrunk and eventually disappeared, and precision in PCB design has become increasingly important. 

Today, especially in PCBs with high-frequency and high-data-rate designs, there is zero room for missteps in the PCB design process, and modern fine-pitch components make do-overs impossible. You lose all its components if a board fails, leading to considerable costs. 

2. PCBs Do Not Contribute to the Overall Operation of the End Products in Which They Function

Another common myth is that PCBs do not contribute to the operation and performance level of the end products they are incorporated into or that their role is minimal in this regard. However, when it comes to PCBs with complex designs, this could not be further from the truth, as their structure and the characteristics of the constituent laminate material play a significant role in the performance of the end products in which they are used. 

The primary laminate characteristics that affect a product’s design, manufacturability, reliability, and lifespan are impedances, losses, and skew.

At least ten different material characteristics can impact products containing PCBs with high-frequency, high-rate designs. Ignoring any of these characteristics could have detrimental effects on the performance of the product at hand. 

3. The Layouts for Production and Prototyping Do Not Differ

While there tends to be a common misconception that the layouts for PCB production and prototyping can be the same, this is not true. Depending on the goal of your design, you may decide to incorporate various types of components in your PCB’s layout. 

When creating a PCB prototype, you may decide to go with as many through-hole parts as possible due to their affordability and because they are easy to solder to the board; however, when it comes to your production design, you may need to choose surface mount parts. 

Through-hole parts are expensive to source and assemble in value, leading to significant overall expenses stemming from issues such as availability delays and large board size. You can reduce production costs by downsizing unique parts on the bill of materials.

4. It Is a Good Idea to Group Similar Parts Together When Designing a PCB

Even though, on paper, it is a good idea to group similar PCB parts in a common area to maximize use of that area, in practice, this theory does not exactly hold up. It is essential to place parts relative to their space in the schematic, as this helps limit the distance the signal travels while eliminating unwanted routing on the board.

This same logic can also be applied to microcontrollers and the accompanying caps, as cutting down the trace lengths between the controller and the cap decouples the power supply’s noise, leading to an improved outcome. A logical approach to placing PCB parts during design is always essential. 

Why You Can Count on Circuits Central to Manufacture Reliable PCBs

Unfortunately, the many misconceptions and myths that are out there about PCBs can occasionally lead to improper approaches to PCB design and manufacturing; however, when you are dealing with world-class experts in electronics manufacturing and PCB assembly, like those at Circuits Central, you never have to worry about such matters. 

With a perfect track record of customer satisfaction that extends over 25 years, we can handle the production of PCBs for use in various applications that stretch across different industries. Our team of seasoned experts and our flexible-by-design production facility allow us to offer reliable PCB manufacturing regardless of your demands in terms of design complexity or production volume. 

We are constantly coming up with new and creative ways to tackle PCB assembly challenges to produce cutting-edge electronics, and we employ the latest and most innovative approaches and technologies to assist us throughout this process. No matter what stage of the process you are currently in, you can leverage our services to enhance the outcomes of your PCBs, and we would be happy to work with you to meet your every requirement. We do everything from PCB designs and layouts to assembly, product testing, and upgrades in-house, so you can trust us to handle your PCB-related needs.

​​For more information about our approach to the PCB assembly process or to learn more about our expensive PCB-related services, call Circuits Central at 1 (888) 602-7264 or contact us here.

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