There has been a great wave in the evolution and development of technologies which has impacted the design of PCBs. Also, the electronics industry is driven by consumer trends, tech innovations, and better production processes that are in popularity.
For example, we have smartphones that require a smaller size of a PCB board, unlike the traditional PCB boards. There's also the advent of IoT devices like wearables that have irregular and different shapes which can only be achieved through PCB miniaturization.
The following are some tech trends that have contributed to and are accelerating PCB miniaturization.
1. Higher Density Interconnect
This is the major and most impactful technological development towards PCB miniaturization. It is one of the fastest-growing technologies. HDI boards have higher density circuitry in comparison to traditional boards.
HDI boards give designers the freedom to place smaller components close to each other without affecting the electrical flow of things. This will in effect make space for other components and minimize the overall size of the PCB.
Furthermore, the motivation behind HDI development was the growing need and demand for smaller and lighter products with even higher performance and capability. They also efficiently utilize the current trending technologies to enable PCBs to perform at its peak using little space. A prominent feature in the HDI board is its filled stack of micro vias which results in miniaturization.
Through the use of HDI boards, PCBs get to be smaller whilst skyrocketing its functionality and quality.
2. IoT Devices
The advent of the Internet of Things (IoT) has largely impacted the design and size of PCBs. They are the technology behind wearables, smart homes, offices, remote monitoring, and control. Also, the major component of almost every IoT device is PCBs.
With wearables in vogue whose shapes are unconventional and barely noticeable, they will highly require very tiny PCBs. One of the major challenges it poses to PCB design is its layout, space, and weight while maintaining high functionality.
It requires a very minimalistic design, as a great deal of functionality will be embedded into something that would be used in the parts of the human body, like the wrist or the ear lobe or even ingested in the body.
With HDI PCB technology in view, it will enable the IoT circuit boards to be accurately small, whilst increasing the effective performance of IoT devices.
Most IoT packaging trends tend to keep things as minimal as possible. Considering the fact that IoT devices like wearables are taken around at all times, it should be almost invisible, therefore its components especially the PCB has to be minute.
Furthermore, designers and OEMs consider miniaturization one of the major focus while creating wearable technologies. It is now obvious that miniature components are of great essence when creating IoT devices.
3. Augmented Reality
The existence of augmented reality (AR) has evolved from the gaming world to the world of unlimited possibilities.
It has been applied in several business models and provided solutions to real-life problems and it is now making its way into the manufacturing world.
AR has a great potential in revolutionizing PCB manufacturing and designs and it is already gaining traction in consumer electronics at a rapid scale.
One of the results of applying this technology in PCB design is providing PCBs the ability to be in any shape, especially small "ish" shapes.
Producing augmented PCBs will definitely reduce the number of materials used in production compared to the usual process in PCB assembly.
It will give PCBs the possibility to attain unconventional designs. Also, the miniaturization effect doesn't just stop at its designs but extends to the production process.
AR miniaturize the view of PCBs in reality, making it easier to fully examine its components, the details and clearly oversee the whole design.
It also aids in exploring several possibilities of giving a PCB design an otherwise deemed impossible shape through vivid visualization, while prioritizing what's most important for its effective functionality. AR would also miniaturize the timing in a PCB engineering test.
4. 3D printing
We now live in the era of 3D's where almost anything can be 3D printed and PCBs are not left out of the picture. Although this is just in its infantry stage, 3D printing will bring about increased miniaturization of PCBs alongside interesting shapes.
The use of 3D printing while making PCBs will enable the customization of PCB design to take any desired shape. So if the need for small PCBs arises, 3D printing will make that highly possible.
The possibilities that 3D printing stands to give in the electronics world is one to be marveled at. For example, circuits could be easily printed within objects without obstructing its functionality.
One of the pivotal goals of applying 3D printing in the production of PCBs is to reduce its size and weight. It will differ from the traditional methods of making PCBs, which takes up a lot of board space than necessary. This is because one of the techniques that can be employed while 3D printing is placing the components on the interior layers, which will then save space for bulkier components.
However, none of these is yet to be proved practically. The level at which 3D is at is limited to prototypes. With further advancements, it is sure to deliver more.
Some of the aforementioned trends are in their infancy stage and hope to be fully advanced for application in the future, while others are already making groundbreaking changes.
As technology evolves so does the PCB industry. It will continue to grow and evolve to meet its consumer needs and also expand its market share. Miniaturization of PCBs is here to stay and can only continue to advance in the near future.