Production circuit boards typically start out as thin sheets of fiberglass (about 1mm thick) that are completely covered on both sides with very thin sheets of metal (typically copper). A "standard" circuit board might use a 1 ounce copper process, which means that one ounce of copper is evenly spread across 1 square foot of circuit board. During the manufacturing process, wire patterns are "printed" onto the copper surfaces using a compound that resists etching (hence the name Printed Circuit Board or PCB). The boards are subjected to a chemical etching process that removes all exposed copper. The remaining, un-etched copperforms wires that will interconnect the circuit board components, and small pads that define the regions where component leads will be attached.
Circuits often require output devices to communicate their state to an user. Examples of electronic output devices include computer monitors, LCD alphanumeric panels (as on a calculator), small lamps or light-emitting diodes (LED), etc. Digilent boards include different output devices, but all of them include some number of individual LED, and seven-segment LED displays that can display the digits 0-9 in each digit position (each segment in the seven-segment display contains a single LED). LED are two-terminal semiconductor devices that conduct current in only one direction (from the anode to the cathode). The small LED chips are secured inside a plastic housing, and they emit light at a givenfrequency (RED, YELLOW, etc.) when a small electric current (typically 10mA to 25mA) flows through them.
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