Printed circuit boards, or PCBs, are the foundation of modern electronics. They’re found in radios, pacemakers, and everything in between. The general idea is that you have wiring on a solid substrate that provides a stable electrical path between components on the board. The different components can then be connected through the harness of wires.
This application is extensive because PCBs can be used in aircraft to Mars rovers. Aircraft use them in several ways, including controlling flight systems and power supply. Mars rovers contain them to provide communications with Earth and serve as the main computer. They must be reliable in all of these uses, so aerospace engineers are very particular about their design.
Commercial aviation has a high demand for PCBs for various reasons. They make up part of the avionics system on planes and are used extensively by aircraft makers like Boeing and Airbus. The system that controls an aircraft’s movement is a large PCB installed in the cockpit, and it’s one of the most complex pieces of equipment on board. More than 516,000 of these boards were used in jets made by Boeing alone in 2007.
PCBs are also used to make computers work properly, even though they’re not technically electronic devices. Most processors (like the popular Intel Core i5) have a board designed for them that provides electricity and other support circuitry like memory and input/output ports. The PC industry uses PCBs in much the same way that avionics uses them.
PCBs are used in some medical equipment, but they don’t replace batteries as they are engineered to be much more reliable than AAs. For example, pacemakers contain PCBs so that doctors can continue to monitor their condition. In some cases, they’re even responsible for the entire system. The same is true of implantable defibrillators controlled by PCBs found in the heart itself. Many companies specialize in making these PCBs for medical use because of the cost of designing them and offering them commercially.
Peripheral devices, including keyboards, mice, and other components, are often made with PCBs. These devices are controlled by processors and need to receive power to operate. While this is less common than medical applications of PCBs, it’s still quite widespread. Some companies, such as Advanced Circuits, know that the same goes for small devices made to be implanted inside the body. In these cases, the PCB is designed to be as small as possible to remain inside permanently without causing any problems or complications for the patient.
Industrial electronics use PCBs just as commercial aviation because of their durability and adaptability to extreme environments. Everything from injection molding machines to machine tools uses PCBs, and, in many cases, the industry serves as a big customer for the specialized PCBs made just for industrial purposes.
PCBs are essential inventions because they’re so versatile. They can be used for anything from adding memory to a computer chip to controlling the movements of an aircraft. Their uses are as widespread as the technology they enable, which is a testament to their value in today’s world.