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Printed Circuit Boards (PCB) Tutorial

Printed circuit boards (PCB's) are laminates. This means that they are made from two or more sheets of material stuck together; often copper and fibreglass.

Unwanted areas of the copper are etched away to form conductive lands or tracks which replace the wires carrying the electric currents in other forms of construction.

Some parts of the side with copper tracks is coated with solder resist (usually green in colour) to prevent solder sticking to those areas where it is not required. This avoids unwanted solder bridges between tracks.

Sometimes the boards are double-sided with copper tracks on both sides. Tracks on one side can be joined to tracks on the other by means of wire links. Plated through holes are available which do the same thing but these make the PCB more expensive.

Components are stuffed into the board by hand or by pick and place machines.

Soldering is done by hand or by flow wave soldering where the PCB passes over a wave of molten solder.

Most recent PCB's use surface mount techniques where components are on the same side of the board as the tracks. Components are stuck to the board with adhesive and the solder caused to flow by heating the board in a hot gas or by some other technique.

When fitting components ensure that they are orientated correctly and lay flat on the board unless otherwise stated.

When the board is assembled avoid flexing it which may crack tracks.

Avoid touching the board which may cause contamination due to dirty fingers or damage due to static electricity carried on your body.

It is best to handle PCB's by holding them by two edges only, between thumb and forefinger.

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