Printed Circuit Boards are the electronic powerhouses of many devices. PCBs connect all of the electronic components of a device using pads, tracks, and other features that are assembled by manufacturing companies. Many of the concepts and terminologies that are used in PCB prototype manufacturing are foreign to many people, as well as a little complicated to understand. Here’s a run-down of the common component terms that are used by PCB assembly manufacturers as well as the engineers that design them:
A track is conductive path that connects the points of PCB in order to allow electrical current flow between them. The width of these tracks vary in order to allow smaller or greater amounts of electricity to flow between the points.
The frequency of the current must be calculated in order to match the width of the track, for proper design and assembly.
The soldermask of the PCB prototype is applied on top of the copper tracks to prevent these components from oxidizing. It also protects the circuit board from unintended connections from copper tracks being close enough together to form a bridge. Soldermasks are a finish or varnish that is applied over the entire circuit board to, usually giving the PCB prototype a green color. Soldermasks can make the board appear blue or red as well, depending on the manufacturer.
The silkscreen is the printed information on top of the soldermask in order to indicate test points and instruct the electronics production company on the position and orientation of the circuit board inside the finished product.
The silkscreen can also bear the name of the manufacturer as well as any other information that the designer requires.
Pads are small copper surfaces on the board where pins are soldered in order to mechanically support the device. There are two different types of pads: thru-hole and surface mount.
Thru-hole pads connect the pins of the components from the opposite side, while surface mount pads solder the component to the same side as it is placed.
These components are layered within the PCB and are all vital in order to create a properly constructed end product. The misprinting or lack of any of these components can result in PCB malfunction, short circuiting, or overall failure.