Most of us cannot imagine life without our devices. We take them everywhere. What we do not always realize is the role printed circuit boards (PCB) play in our lives. None of our current electronics would be possible. These are so important that the global market for them was $60 billion in 2012. That marked a 1.7% increase from 2011. All of it begins with the prototype PBC assembly. Engineers create a prototype for a PCB and work out any kinks before they design the rest of the electronic device.
What exactly is a PCB and why should I care?
Most of the main electronics that people rely on and use every day would not be possible without prototype printed circuit boards. That includes the devices we carry with us everywhere we go but their use goes far beyond that. They can be found in dishwashers, radios, televisions, vacuum cleaners, etc. Anywhere electricity is needed, so are PCBs. All of that started with a prototype PCB assembly.
Traditional electrical wiring is replaced in a PCB by conducting material that has been laid down in strips by a printing process. This makes the prototype PCB manufacturing process a lot less labor intensive. The process also is a lot less vulnerable to human error so when the engineer evaluates prototype PCBs, they are looking at what was intended to be there, flaws will be due to the design and not a problem when it was made. This makes fixing those problems a little easier as there is no guesswork about what the PCB is supposed to look like and do.
When were PCBs invented?
Work to develop printed circuit boards began in the 1900s when inventors started working on the concept. These engineers were working on concepts and ideas that would revolutionize the electronics industry. At the time, any electronic product had bulky internal workings that made them hard to transport and made the idea that everyone would own the products seem far fetched. Early attempts at prototype PCB assembly had the goal of getting rid of the complicated wiring that was required in electronic products while getting consistent results.
While the work on printed circuit boards began in the 1900s, the first PCB was not developed until World War II. That is when inventors were able to create the first PCB that could be put to use in an electronic product.
Paul Eisler may not be someone you have heard of but his contribution to the development of PCBs cannot be overstates. He was born in Austria in 1907. Because he was Jewish, he was unable to find work. After he graduated from Technische University Wien (Vienna University of Technology) in 1930. Because of the hostile political environment, e went to work in Yugoslavia where he designed radio electronic systems that would be then used on trains.
Eisler was offered a job back in his native Austria. He started working in journalism. He wrote for a newspaper and began a radio journal. He spent his spare time learning the printing industry. He saw that all of the components in printing had to be soldered by hand. He thought that there had to be a better way. In 1936, he was offered a job in England and fled persecution in his homeland.
In 1941, Eisler got someone to look at his idea for prototype PCB assembly. He had started work for a music printing company and was able to convince them to invest in the idea. He had been working on this since his time in Austria. Support for his idea grew more enthusiastic when people saw it in action. His radios with PCBs were well received by the American military (the British military turned him down). The United States military personnel used the PCBs in anti-aircraft shells that they used to defend London.
Eisler went on to win a number of awards and other honors in Britain, Italy and France for his revolutionary work on PCBs. Not long before his death, he received the 1992 Nuffield Silver Medal from the Institution of Electrical Engineers.
We want everything smaller these days. None of that would be possible without Paul Eisler’s contribution to electronics. The prototype PCB assembly process would not exist without him.