The field of advanced PCB manufacturing is in a state of constant flux, driven mainly by two factors—improvements in technology, and innovations in electronics. These are forcing complex PCB manufacturers to develop better manufacturing methods. The pace is so rapid it makes methods commonplace yesterday to become obsolete by today. Some improvements and innovations in technology and electronics that are leading to complex PCB board manufacturing are:
Reducing Thickness with Increasing Complexity
Electronics is becoming more powerful and much more complex. For instance, the latest generation of smartphones can perform feats that a few years ago would have been considered science fiction. As things get increasingly more sophisticated, manufacturers have to move towards advanced PCB technology and add more layers.
The physical size of devices is also reducing. For instance, we now have miniature wearables, the thickness of our tablets and smartphones is constantly going down, but their accessibility and functionality is rapidly increasing. All this means more complex PCB boards, not only highly condensed, but with thinner substrates as well, to allow them to accommodate increasingly complex computing systems into the ever-decreasing packages.
With the average thickness of complex boards decreasing, manufacturers are moving towards advanced technologies such as high density interconnect or HDI to make complex PCB boards. HDI PCBs help with 3-D integration, as this is the growing design trend. Not only does this allow better miniaturization for denser boards, it also allows fitting more technology into a smaller space. In the race for miniaturization, the possibility of embedding components into HDI PCB is proving to be a promising approach.
Across the consumer spectrum, smaller footprints are the becoming the order of the day. Advantages of miniaturization include more efficiency in homes, better climate control inside homes, automobiles with higher efficiency, and so on, the list being endless. With additional refinements in HDI PCB technology, the PCB thickness will reduce further, benefitting a number of industries and goods in the process.
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Green Manufacturing and Advanced Materials
Although PCBs are a product as other components are, they are susceptible to influences from climatic, social, and political pressures. That simply means advanced PCB manufacturing needs to keep up with the advances and innovations in the market, while striving towards a cleaner and more sustainable production.
For instance, we are now at the crossroads of industry and legislation standards, which is forcing complex PCB manufacturers to undertake green manufacturing methods such as discontinuing the use of lead and other hazardous substances at all stages of manufacturing.
Although the use of the traditional fiberglass as a substrate is a relatively environmentally friendly material, higher rates of data transfer requires advanced PCB manufacturing to move to more suitable materials such as resin-coated films, vacuum-laminated films, liquid crystal polymers, and resin-coated copper. Complex PCB manufacturers will likely settle for materials that meet both social needs as well as convenience of production and business.
Use of Embedded Components
Advanced PCB technology allows embedding a variety of components. These range from passive components such as resistors and capacitors, to active components such as chips and integrated circuits. Embedding components has several advantages, chiefly producing smaller boards with increased complexities. This not only improves the system performance, but also reduces the overall manufacturing costs.
System performance increases as embedded components allow better signal integrity, and hence, reductions in the Electromagnetic Interference or EMI. The reduction in the wiring and track length that comes from embedding components tends to minimize via inductance and parasitic capacitance.
Ubiquitous Computing and Emergence of Wearables
As computers and wearables get thinner and smaller, it requires the PCB inside them to follow suit as well. Advanced PCB technology is already allows greater complexity on thinner boards, and complex PCB manufacturers are putting the concept into practice, with reducing the PCB thicknesses and increasing their functionality.
So far, consumer electronics has been a significant driver of complex PCB board manufacturing. With the emergence of wearables, we are entering a field that merits credible consumer-level products, and advanced PCB manufacturing has to be right alongside them. Yesterday’s technologies will not be adequate to emphasize the efficiency of design required for implementing wearable technologies of the future.
Digital Technology for Medicare
Improvements in healthcare technology and digital technology for medicine include some of the greatest developments in the history of humankind. Although most of the developed world is still waiting on legislation to take advantage of the latest innovations, technology is sufficiently advanced to store patient records securely in the cloud, and perform healthcare administration by apps and smartphones.
Innovations in the medical field influence PCBs and the reverse is also true. For instance, one can affix high-definition cameras on to a complex PCB board, so much so, a patient can swallow the combination if needed. Additionally, there are other methods of introducing small cameras into different parts of the human body.
Advanced PCB manufacturing is making systems more rugged. For instance, we now have smaller PCBs that allow dash and vest cameras for various applications. Mobile accessory companies are providing ever-smaller and unobtrusive cameras for motorists, and offering connections to hubs or interfacing to smartphones to make them accessible more readily.
We are passing through a constantly evolving field of advanced PCB manufacturing. Improvements in technology, combined with innovations are helping to improve the manufacturing methods. Today, there are more complex PCB manufacturers than earlier, and the trends in PCB manufacturing are getting more and more sophisticated.