The Evolution of Printed Circuit Boards

Printed circuit boards have changed in various ways since its inception. There were many noticeable developments that happened over the course of its lifespan which has made circuit boards so useful in the modern day, where technology has a significant impact on our lives.

Essentially, a printed circuit board is a base for physically supporting the connections between electronic and electrical components. These circuit boards are used in almost everything electrical, such as computers, mobile devices, radios, and much more.

To learn more about printed circuit boards and how far this technology has come, we’ll be exploring how PCBs have evolved over time.


Early Years of PCBs

One of the very first iterations of the circuit board originated in the 1920s and the circuit board itself could have used almost anything as the base material, even wood. Holes would be drilled into the material and flat wires would be placed onto the board. At the time, nuts and bolts would be used instead of rivets.  Although it looked nothing like it does nowadays, the concept started there and it was functional. At the time, PCBs didn’t see much use and weren’t very popular. The main uses for this concept were mainly in gramophones and radios.


The Development of Circuit Boards

It wasn’t until the 1950s to 1960s before the types of materials used for the PCB began shifting towards various resins and other suitable materials. At the time, most circuit boards were single-sided with the components on one side of the board and the circuitry on the other side. This was a great improvement over the bulky wiring that was previously used. The “Process of Assembling Electrical Circuits” was then introduced by the US which improved the ways PCBs were made. The process involved drawing the wiring pattern and then photographing it onto a zinc plate, which could then be used as a printing plate. This was a significant breakthrough and circuit boards began seeing a wider adoption.

In 1960, printed circuit boards began being designed with more advanced techniques and methods which helped to protect the traces and components from corrosion. This was also the time when multilayer PCBs began its production. In the 1970s, the circuitry and the overall size of the circuit boards began to reduce and became a lot smaller, which was when hot air soldering methods were starting to be used.


Complexity & Miniaturisation

In the 1980s, further size reductions of the circuit board were made possible due to surface mount components. This quickly became the preferred method over through-hole components as it retains the same level of functionality, but requires less space.

Later on, in the 1990s, Computer Aided Manufacturing quickly become the conventional way for PCBs to be developed. This also meant that the complexity of circuit board designs greatly increased. This gradual development of technology allowed boards to be more efficient and opened up more possibilities for different uses and applications. Whilst the complexity of circuit boards continues to increase, the costs are still able to be kept low.

Around 1995, this is when High-Density Interconnector PCBs were beginning to be used. These boards feature smaller lines, pads, and provide various benefits, such as reduced weight and size. Onwards from this point, the older boards became outdated. Flex and rigid PCBs became more common as they were more affordable. The miniaturisation of electronic devices and equipment continued to drive PCB manufacturing technology to push for more efficient and densely-packed designs.

All of these advancements help keep the printed circuit board industry dynamic and constantly developing to meet the needs of modern technology.


Contact Clarydon for PCB Manufacturing

Clarydon Electronic Services has a wealth of expertise in manufacturing and assembling PCBs. If you require printed circuit board manufacturing or assembly, then please get in touch with one of our PCB specialists and we would be happy to help.

Call us on 01902 606 000 or you can email us at [email protected].