Printed Circuit Boards and PCB assembly services have been around for quite some time, though you might not recognize a PCB from 50 years ago. Printed circuit boards support electrical connections between electronic components using conductive tracks (usually made of copper). These are found in nearly every electronic device used today. However, the technology wasn’t always that sophisticated. A prototype PCB assembly in the past looked very different than it does today.
Over 100 years ago in 1903, German inventor, Albert Hanson, conceptualized flat foil conductors by laminating multiple layers of thin metal to an insulating board. Thomas Edison further experimented with plating conductors throughout the early 1900s. Eventually, Arthur Berry and Max Schoop patented the print and etch method in the UK and United States respectively.
The early days of experimenting with electricity was a race. Between Edison and Berry and Schoop, there were hundreds of attempts to harness these early PCB type technologies. Eventually, in 1936, Paul Eisler, an Austrian engineer, invented the printed circuit for a part of a radio set. This was used for the next several years and eventually multi-layer PCB assembly services were created. Though printed circuits were not common in consumer electronics until the 1950s, they were used extensively by the government and military.
During the early 1960s, printed circuit boards were reduced the size, weight, and overall cost, making it feasible to use in consumer technology. The Centralab Division of Globe Union started mass manufacturing PCBs in response to a demand from World War II anti-aircraft devices. Ceramic plates were screen printed with metallic paint for conductivity. The technique worked, resulting in a patent assigned to Globe Union. Eventually, in 1984, the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) awarded Harry Rubinstein the “Cledo Brunetti” award for his early contributions to the development of printed circuit boards.
In the 60s, the through-hole method of construction was used heavily in the manufacturing process of PCBs. Moe Abramson and Stanislaus Dank eventually developed the Auto-Sembly process to help speed up the process and improve the capacity of PCBs. Throughout the 80s, use of this process helped develop smaller boards and gave functionality to PCBs at lower production costs.For the next 40 years, new advancements would be made to continue increasing the efficiency and output of PCBs, making them one of the most essential parts of the infrastructure of society and technology today. If you think that is an overstatement, consider that most of your life (if you live in a developed country), is directly influenced by PCBs and computers.
It is estimated that transmitters will continue to get smaller and smaller until they are only 10 atoms thick. As these advancements happen, it will be amazing to see how we can continue to innovate and add technology to our lives. For example, the standard smartphone today has more computer power than all of NASA during the first moon launch. Quick-turn, prototype PCB assembly services are very much a central part of the innovation process.