What we now know as printed circuit boards (or PCBs) began their history in the very early 20th century. Several scientists around the world experimented with fixing thin conductors onto boards. German inventor Albert Hanson described the first circuit board in 1903, when he laminated foil conductors in multiple layers onto an insulating board. In 1904, Thomas Jefferson researched methods for plating conductors onto linen paper. By the mid-teens, British and American companies perfected technologies for flame-spraying metal onto boards through patterned masks, which allowed for quicker production, and a few years later, Charles Durcase patented methods for electroplating patterns.
Perhaps the most important early advancement came when the US army used the technology to build proximity fuses for their explosives during World War II. To handle the demand, the army developed the Auto-Sembly process. While early circuit boards required a hole drilled for each wire, the new method used standard interconnection patterns and dip soldering for efficient mass production. This formed the basis for modern circuitry.
When the war ended, printed circuit boards became a part of everyday consumer electronics. Wave soldering machines evolved to allow quicker and more precise automatic soldering. As printing technology improved, circuits became more complex. In the 80s, manufacturers began replacing through-hole components with surface mount parts, removing the need to drill. Digital technologies have further expanded the possibilities for design and manufacturing.
The first step in manufacturing a PCB is creating a schematic. Today, there are various design programs that professionals use to design a PCB layout, and a combination of software and experience can fine-tune the PCB design so that it will properly function. Before computers, engineers designed PCBs manually by creating a photomask on a clear sheet so that the schematic could be reproduced. If you’re dealing with an older piece of equipment, and its boards have hand drawn designs, we offer the best digitizing services in the industry. We won’t just scan the drawings; we fully reproduce them in a file that looks as good as new.
PCB designs can go through several file types, but in the end, every PCB manufacturer requires a final design in Gerber format. If you have plans that aren’t yet in the Gerber format, we provide simple services for conversion, including AutoCAD to Gerber and DXF to Gerber file conversion. If you need replacement boards and you don’t have plans, we can create them from the physical circuitry with PCB reverse engineering.
PCB technology may seem really complicated, but it’s actually a pretty old technology, and when you break it down, it’s not that daunting. For any questions or services in PCB design, gives us a call. We can help with just about anything.