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.
Electronic components are often assembled and interconnected on a flat surface known as a circuit board. The several types of existing circuit boards may be divided into two broad categories: those intended for prototype or experimental circuits; and those intended for production and/or commercial sale. Circuit boards used for experimental work are often referred to as breadboards or protoboards. Breadboards allow engineers to construct circuits quickly, so that they can be studied and modified until an optimal design is discovered. In a typical breadboard use, components and wires are added to a circuit in an ad hoc manner as the design proceeds, with new data and new understanding dictating the course of the design. Since breadboard circuits exist only in the laboratory, no special consideration need be given to creating reliable or simple-to-manufacture circuits – the designer can focus exclusively on the circuits behavior. In contrast, circuit boards intended for production or commercial sale must have highly reliable wires and interconnects, permanent bonds to all components, and topographies amenable to mass production and thorough testing. And further, they must be made of a material that is reliable, low-cost, and easy to manufacture. A fiberglass substratewith copper wires (etched from laminated copper sheets) has been the PCB material of choice for the past several decades. The Digilent board is a simple example of such a board. Note that most often, production circuit board designs are finalized only after extensive breadboard phases. Components are permanently affixed to production boards using the soldering process.
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