The Future of Technology Depends on This One Important Industry

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There is no doubt about it, we are in the midst of a technological revolution. Connected technologies are being integrated into nearly every part of our lives. Our cars, our homes, and even our toasters can now be controlled from the palm of our hand.

We’re so focused on the advanced technologies that are now available to us, we often forget about what’s going on inside these devices. Inside of every piece of technology we own is a PCB that facilitates communication between the thousands of tiny components that make our technology work.

What is a PCB?

PCB stands for printed circuit board. Its a thin, wafer like board that has hundreds or even thousands of tiny electrical pathways that allow data to be transmitted from one chip to another. Historically, our devices would be composed of several different PCBs. But as we need our technology to be smaller and more efficient, incredibly advanced PCBs need to be developed to keep our devices compact.

How are PCBs Made?

40 years ago, these boards were etched by hand. The electrical paths would be physically drawn by hand, and then a special acid would be used to strip the copper from the board so only the pathways remained. This was, however, incredibly inefficient and not sustainable for the mass production used in modern times. Today, these boards are printed using specialized hardware and software that allow engineers to create incredibly intricate and advanced PCBs.

What are The Challenges Designing PCBs?

All of us are familiar with modern smartphones. The latest iPhone, for example, has 22 different chips inside of it. Each of these chips have hundreds of little pins on it that need to be connected to other components of the phone. In addition to the chips, there are also hundreds of little components that modify the electrical signals. All of these pins and components need to be connected to each other. The connections cannot touch each other, or a short will occur. That means that there are thousands and thousands of tiny little pathways routed within a PCB that fits in the palm of your hand, and is no thicker than a few sheets of paper. Each of these pathways are almost microscopic. It takes a very intelligent engineer using advanced PCB engineering tools to create an efficient board.

Why are PCBs So Important Now?

Just a few short years ago, our devices were much larger. Manufacturers could take four or five PCBs from several different manufacturers and assemble them together. In a smartphone, the transmitter would have its own board, as would the keypad and charging circuit. Today, all of these need to be combined into a single board.

This means that multiple manufacturers need to coordinate to fit all of their individual components onto a single board. If we weren’t able to do so, our devices would be much larger and much less efficient.

What Does This Mean for The Business World?

Why is it that some of the world’s most powerful nations produce oil? It’s because oil is one of the most valuable products in our economy. Oil is used in virtually every product we consume. PCBs are a similar product. All of the other components come and go. We’ll be using different processors next year, better displays and new cameras. But all of these devices need to be connected to a PCB. No matter what happens with our technology, this industry is here to stay.

We are now reaching a point where our PCB creation technology is nearly at capacity. If a company can invent or produce a new, more advanced method of creating PCBs, they stand to make billions of dollars.

Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, revealing interesting things we didn’t know before. She is a freelance USA Today producer, and a Technorati contributor.