5 Things You Never Knew About Printed Circuit Boards

All around you, circuit boards are everywhere all at once. No matter where you turn in the developed world, chances are there’s a circuit board within arm’s reach—or at least just a few feet away. Anything that needs an electric current to work has a circuit board. From your mobile device to traffic lights and microwaves, you don’t need to look hard to find the tiny green printed circuit boards that help power the technology you know and love.
The average person never thinks twice about these flat micro objects or the tactile switches, transistors, batteries, and LEDs that run through them. After all, what’s hidden in plain sight is often ignored. But if you want to take a moment to appreciate the small things that help your everyday life, read on to learn more things you never knew about printed circuit boards:
PCB is a Massive Global Industry
If you want to learn to create printed circuit boards for business purposes, you’re in luck; PCBs are a massive global industry. As previously mentioned, circuit boards are in most modern technology, which means there will always be a need for this talent and business. In 2014, the global PCB industry was worth $65.5 billion. As technology continues to progress at an astronomical pace, you can be assured this is an industry that shows no signs of slowing down.
Biodegradable Circuits in the Future
Recycling electronics is a highly complex process, which is why so many harmful chemicals end up as waste. Because devices have become increasingly smaller, tinier electronic parts have made recycling even more complicated.
Many consumer electronics in the western world end up in landfill across Asia. In fact, there are over 20 million tons of electronic waste sent overseas every single year. These electronics release hazardous chemicals like cadmium, lead, and mercury, which pose hazardous risk to marine life, human life, and the earth.
Currently, a team scientists at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign are working on a biodegradable circuit board that functions just as a standard PCB does, with one special twist: it disintegrates when it comes into contact with water. This proprietary technology could have exponentially positive impacts to the integrity of our ecosystem.
We Wouldn’t Be In Space Without It
Outer space may be an elusive concept to most, but it’s a big part of our world today and the future of tomorrow. After all, President Trump recently signed a law establishing the U.S. Space Force. What many people don’t realize is that printed circuit boards play a big role in the NASA space program. In fact, they were instrumental in getting the Apollo 11 safely into outer space and back.
These devices are lightweight and require very little energy, making them the perfect compact piece for limited electrical supply in small places. Studies show that 30% of printed circuit boards that come into North America go towards military and aerospace markets. Today, the average spacecraft consists of 70% electronics, with the vast majority of them powered by PCBs.
Most PCBs Come From Asia
A study from Technavio found that by the end of 2020, 85% of the world’s PCBs will come from the Asia-Pacific region. China alone controls 43% of the entire PCB market, while North America’s share is just 5%. Coming in second behind China is South Korea, with a market share of 16%. For potential business owners, this is important to note. Many companies with headquarters in the United States, like Apple, print their circuit boards and other technology in these overseas regions.
The Ubiquitous Green Color is a Mystery
Even if you know little to nothing about PCBs, you might be able to envision them. These green boards have tiny “golden” conducive tracks that run across it like a maze. But no one really knows where the ubiquitous green color is, and it makes no difference to the effectiveness of the board. In fact, PCBs can be any color the creator wants it to be, and it doesn’t make a difference.
Although there are no solid answers, there are several myths surrounding this iconic green hue. Some believe these boards are this way because the thin layer of polymer that was originally applied to copper traces were green, and others believe they’re green because of influence from the American military. But none of these theories have been proven accurate.


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