Before the advent of the printed circuit board, electronic products used vacuum tubes. These huge, long, space-consuming tubes connected larger components of electronic devices such as the early computing machines and telecommunication instruments. Tube sockets, terminal strips and soldering the components were the main methods to keep these connected. This type of setup requires rooms of equipments to carry out simple services and functions. Connections were exposed to changes in temperatures and humidity, among many other factors, making them more vulnerable to damage. Maintenance was very costly and time consuming, too. Then, came the printed circuit board, which made everything more compact; as a result, functions performed faster and became more reliable. These boards also made electronic products easier to manufacture and therefore cheaper. Connecting electronic components became much easier, too.
Since then, PCBs have become a crucial component of electronic instruments and equipment. One small board can contain a lot of passive and active electronic components such as resistors, capacitors and diodes. All the components are connected to each via traces (copper lines). No need for bulky vacuum tubes and lengthy wires to connect the various parts. The entire circuit is more organized, less cluttered and more compact. This way, several circuits and boards can be connected together and fit into a small electronic product. Compact but fully functional.
Aside from the above mentioned advantages of using PCBs, there are still more benefits, such as these:
Reduced electronic noise
Electronic noise refers to fluctuations in the electrical signal that occur at random. All electronic circuits exhibit this, at varying degrees. Noise can degrade the performance of the circuit, especially if these occur frequently. PCBs often have very low electronic noise. One kind of noise that is significantly reduced when using PCBs is shot noise. This type of noise is generated when electrons travelling through the circuit leave and arrive at random. For example, in a vacuum tube (used in electronics before the arrival of PCBs), the electrons travel a considerable distance from one end (cathode) to the other (anode). Because of the distance and the width of the path the electrons travel, they arrive at random. This randomness creates shot noise. Over time, shot noise can significantly reduce the efficiency and reliability of the entire system.
In PCBs, shot noise is significantly reduced. This is because of the presence of resistors and conductors within the circuit. These components allow the electrons to etherealize. Because of this, the electrons are able to move diffusively and arriving at relatively the same time. There is minimal randomness in the electron arrivals, which reduces shot noise.
Also, the length of the paths that electrons have to travel is significantly shorter and more organized. This reduces the radiation and the pickup of electromagnetic waves. It also lowers the cross-talk between the different circuit components and the different traces.
Easy to Diagnose and Repair
The different components and polarities on a printed circuit board are well-designed. These are also clearly labeled on the boards. These make installation and repair more convenient. A person would immediately know what the component and its specifications.
One PCB can accommodate a large amount of electronic components such as diodes, resistors, and ICs. One of the reasons that allow for the compact size is the absence of wires. The components are connected through copper traces. Wires would make the entire circuit cluttered and messy.
Also, a printed circuit board provides a very convenient platform where various components can be mounted in a more efficient way. This way, more complicated circuits can be made, which will only take up a small space when installed in the device.
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