A printed circuits board (PCB) or printed circuits assembly (PCA) are two important terms used extensively in the electrical and electronics field. But what do they mean and what are the differences between the two?
The PCB is the plain circuit board without any electronic components. After placing and soldering the components, or assembling the PCB, it becomes a PCA or PCBA (Printed Circuit Board Assembly). As such, the PCA comprises the plain board, as well as interconnected resistors, capacitors, integrated circuits, and other electronic components. Additionally, the PCA has the soldering that electrically and mechanically interconnects the different electronics components.
Applications for printed circuit assemblies
It is quite impossible to develop an electronic product without the use of PCA’s. They are as important as the backbone is for the human body. Here are some key applications for the printed circuits assemblies.
Consumer Electronic products
This is one of the biggest uses of printed circuits assembly. It is used in almost all electronic products present in our houses. These include televisions, microwave ovens, and computers. None of these products can be created without a PCA.
If you talk about smartphones, it is impossible to imagine life without them. We perform various day to day activities using them including telephonic conversation, social media interaction, personal scheduling, and usage of different apps. A quality PCA has an impact on the life span of each of the electronic products. Substandard ones do not have the ability to tolerate power outages. They stop working in case of a fluctuation.
Electronics medical equipment PCA
A large number of medical equipment uses electronic devices, sensors, systems, and hence circuits. We can take the example of blood glucose monitors. These usually rely on electronics sensors and circuits to analyze and identify anomalies or medical issues in the blood samples from the patients. Unlike the other general applications, the medical or military PCA is usually of high quality and reliability due to the sensitivity of what they do. Usually, manufacturers use very high-quality components and board materials for the medical equipment.
PCA for LED devices and lighting controls
We use a variety the lighting devices in our houses and commercial premises including emergency lights and lamps. LED devices are highly preferred because they operate with low power consumption, and are more environmentally friendly. A normal electronic bulb often requires more electrical energy than an equivalent LED model. since the LEDs are semiconductor devices and DC-based, they require an associated control circuit comprising of diodes, resistors, and capacitors. All these are then assembled on a printed circuit board to make the PCA.
Electronic systems in modern vehicles
As technology advances and becomes more widespread, manufacturers are adding an increasing number of smart devices and systems. These provide continuous monitoring and control of various parts of the vehicle in addition to improving the performance and comfort for the driver and passengers. For example, the fuel indicator is today more electronically controlled.
This is usually a dashboard based needle or digital readout that moves according to the amount level of the fuel in the tank. It goes up as the amount of fuel in the tank increases and down as the vehicle consumes the fuel. The tank has an electronic level monitoring mechanism that connects to other components. But basically, other than the wires that run from one location such as from eth tank to the dashboard, most for the monitoring and display system is build on a PCA.
Most of today’s vehicles have stereo systems with GPS features. These gadgets cannot be made without using a printed circuit assembly. The overall architecture they have is complex and several components are integrated together.
The modern vehicles comprise of many electronics sensing systems. This allows the driver and maintenance people to detect a wide range of malfunctions or things that are out of place. These allow alerts such as an open door, a driver or passenger who has not put on the safety belt, low tire pressure, engine defect, low engine oil, and more. For instance, if the tire pressure goes below the minimum margin, an installed sensor would highlight this condition. The system that controls and checks the status of the monitoring sensors as well as the alerting system is usually built on one or more printed circuits assemblies.