The applications of PCBs in consumer electronics are extensive. The following are just a few of the common uses of PCBs in consumer electronics:
• Mobile Devices: Smartphones and tablets are at the heart of our daily routine, functioning as everything from our alarm clocks to our GPS.
• Computer Electronics: Desktops and laptops both contain PCBs at their cores, as do the screens and peripheral devices associated with them.
• Recording Devices: Camcorders, digital cameras, microphones and other recording devices all rely on their internal PCBs to function.
• Entertainment Systems: Everything in your home entertainment system, from your DVD player and video-game console to your television and stereo set.
• Home Appliances: Almost every modern device runs using electronic components: Alarm clocks, microwaves, refrigerator, coffee makers, etc.
High-powered industrial applications for PCBs are common as well. These electronic components control the mechanisms used in factories and manufacturing facilities, and have to survive the harsh conditions often seen in industrial installations. This can include anything, including harsh chemicals, vibrating machinery and rough handling.
In such a fast challenging environment, industry standards is equally rigorous. Currently, thick copper PCBs (significantly thicker than standard ounce PCBs) are often seen in other applications. This kind of PCB facilitate high-current industrial applications and battery chargers.
• Industrial Equipment: Many electric drills and presses used in the manufacturing industry operate using PCB-controlled electronics.
• Measuring Equipment: Equipment used to measure and control pressure, temperature and other variables in the industrial manufacturing process.
• Power Equipment: DC-to-AC power inverters, solar power cogeneration equipment and other power control devices.
Cars increasingly rely on electronic components in the modern era. While in the past, electronic circuits were only actually applied to headlight switches and windshield wipers, modern automobiles use electronics for far more purposes.
Today's automobiles take advantage of the ever-advancing electronic circuit technology by incorporating PCBs into some new applications. PCBs working with high-frequency signals like RF, microwave or millimeter-wave frequencies are often used in sensor applications which are now common in automobiles. In fact, radar technology once relegated to military vehicles is now common in modern automobiles to help cars avoid collisions, monitor blind spots and adapt to traffic conditions when the vehicle is under cruise control.
These advanced systems bring improved safety to roads while simultaneously offering an improved driving experience, which is why they have become so popular in today's motor vehicles. The manufacturers of these systems, therefore, have to source and use an increased number of advanced high-frequency printed circuit boards and associated materials.
Just a few of the common applications of PCBs within automobiles include the following:
• Surrounding Monitors: Newer car models are often designed with substantial safety systems to help the driver monitor blind spots and more accurately judge distances. Many cars now come with full-perimeter monitor systems, using radar or cameras to measure distances and alert the driver to close-proximity objects. These systems require high-quality PCBs in order to function correctly.
• Control Systems: Car control systems, including engine management systems, fuel regulators and power supplies, use PCB-based electronics to monitor and manage resources. Some control systems even drive the car for the driver in certain situations. For example, some cars on the market today offer automatic parallel-parking functions.
• Navigation Devices: Incorporated navigation devices are now common in modern vehicles, using GPS computers to help drivers find their way through unfamiliar territory or identify the fastest route to their destination.
• Audio and Video Devices: Many cars on the market today have advanced dashboards that connect the vehicle to the radio or a passenger's phone or music device. Additionally, many family vehicles make use of passenger movie screens to occupy passengers during longer rides. All these devices are controlled using PCB-based electronics.
Within any of these automobile PCB applications, particular design concerns have to be taken into consideration. For example, the high-vibration environment of an automobile may put a large amount of strain on a standard rigid PCB. Instead of a rigid PCB, therefore, many vehicle electronics manufacturers use flexible PCBs, which are more resistant to vibration in addition to being small and lightweight. The challenge, then, is to make enough of these high-frequency, flexible PCBs to meet the needs of the large automobile industry.