Broadly speaking, there are two methods we use when putting together printed circuit boards. The first construction method is known as Surface Mount Assembly, and the second is known as Through Hole Construction. These two methods are the backbone of prototype printed circuit boards, and they give us virtually all of our boards.
The standard board is six by four inches and has six routing layers. This is called the EAGLE Standard — and it can accommodate many, if not all, leading open source designs in use commercially today. The EAGLE standard can also accommodate most designs currently popular for personal use. Thanks to rigorous standardization across the industry, engineers, hobbyists, and others are essentially “speaking the same language” whenever it comes to discussing board specifications.
As far as working with our favorite board designs go, there are a wide array of soldering techniques used to attach components to prototype printed circuit boards. When you’re looking to produce boards in high quantities, the process is usually done with an SMT placement machine using bulk wave soldering, or even reflow ovens. Those of us who have a little more experience are probably familiar with soldering even smaller parts individually, like the 0201 package, which is only 0.02 inches by 0.01 inches.
Circuit board prototyping for many of us is a job, a hobby, a pastime, and an obsession. Thanks to the skill, dedication, and constant attention paid to the field by professionals and hobbyists alike, the world market for printed boards hit just shy of $60 billion in 2012! That’s an overall rate of 1.7 percent real growth over 2011, which is a massive growth rate for something that once looked like it would be confined to research labs forever.
Whatever your reason for getting involved with PCB fabrication, the industry thanks you for it. Prototype circuit boards were once little more than a dry, engineers-only sector of the industry though it has burgeoned well past this past point in recent years.
Don’t hesitate to share any questions, comments, or concerns you may have below.