Printed Circuit Board: The Best Hobby for Tech Geeks

printedcircuitboardThroughout the years, there has been a marked increase in the number of people who have turned PCB mounting into a hobby. This hobby is made easier by the fact that the components and the base board itself can easily be purchased from any electronics store.

Numerous online stores also offer these things, so people can easily access them. Hobbyists can make use of either of the two common methods for mounting components onto a printed circuit board. These methods are:

1.Through-hole technology

Also often referred to as THT, this method has been used for mounting components from the earliest years of the printed circuit board. Hobbyists can benefit a lot from this method because it allows them to make the necessary adjustments by un-mounting the components without damaging them.

2.Surface mount technology

Also referred to as the SMT method, this was introduced in the early 1980s. It was initially thought that the SMT method would eventually wipe the THT method completely from the PCB manufacturing process. This is because with this method, manufacturers can easily mount the components onto the printed circuit board in less time.

Hobbyists can take advantage of this method because it will not take up too much of their time. Beginners on PCB mounting can also start off with this method before they decide to move on to the more complex process of the THT method.

In most cases, hobbyists often purchase base boards that already have a design printed on them. This speeds up the process since they would simply have to follow the patterns on the circuit design for mounting each component.

However, some hobbyists enjoy the challenge of creating and etching their own designs. There are several ways in which customized circuit designs can be etched onto the copper base of the printed circuit board, and these include the following:

1) Acid etching – This method requires the use of muriatic acid in order to make the design stick permanently onto the copper plate’s surface. This is ideal for etching simple designs that do not require a lot of wiring intersections.

2) UV etching – This method involves a lot of preparation and requires more materials than acid etching. A UV-LED light box is the primary material used for etching the design onto the copper plate. Afterwards, muriatic acid and other chemical compounds would still have to be used in order to make the design stick. This method is perfect for etching complex designs.

It has to be noted that before the etching process can begin, hobbyists need to draw the design that they want to etch into the copper base. Some hobbyists prefer to draw their own design for a printed circuit board on graphing papers using permanent markers. The paper would then be placed on top of the copper sheet.

The next step is to run a hot flat iron on top of the paper so that the ink will transfer from the paper onto the copper’s surface; thereby, transferring the design as well. An alternative to this manual process is the use of computer programs for drawing the design. Though the computer program can be an expensive investment, some hobbyists are ready to shoulder the cost especially if they will be selling their finished products later on.

The computer-drawn design will then be printed on a high-resolution laser jet printer. The next steps are almost the same as the steps after manually drawing the design on graphic paper. If hobbyists would be using the THT method for mounting the components, then hobbyists can pre-drill the holes on the copper sheet before soaking it in the acid concoction or exposing it to UV light.