On all but the simplest PCBs, wires must be printed on more than one surface of fiberglass to allow for all the required component interconnections. Each surface containing printed wires is called a layer. In a relatively simple PCB that requires only two layers, only one piece of fiberglass is required since wires can be printed on both sides. In a more complex PCB where several layers are required, individual circuit boards are manufactured separately and then laminated together to form one multi-layer circuit board. To connect wires on two or more layers, small holes called vias are drilled through the wires and fiberglass board at the point where the wires on the different layers cross. The interior surface of these holes is coated with metal so that electric current can flow through the vias. Most Digilent boards are simple four or six layer boards; some more complex computer circuit boards have more than 20 layers.
A first look at a circuit diagram may be confusing, but if you can read a subway map, you can read schematics. The purpose is the same: getting from point A to point B. Literally, a circuit is the path that allows electricity to flow. If you know what to look for, it’ll become second nature. While at first you’ll just be reading them, eventually you will start creating your own. This guide will show you a few of the common symbols that you are sure to see in your future electrical engineering career.
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