A printed circuit board (PCB) is a flat structure across which a circuit of electricity is conducted. PCBs generally use conductive pathways and traces created by metal sheets that allow for advanced functions to be made possible in aerospace technology. For example, NASA’s Space Shuttle designs now rely on entirely computerized phases of missions, all of which are controlled by PCBs. Since they play such a vital role in technology today, it is important to understand how PCBs operate and abide by specific rules to ensure proper operation.
Printed circuit boards used in aerospace or military applications must be designed to withstand harsher conditions than the average PCB. Aerospace PCBs must meet extremely high standards of operation including IPC-A-610E Class 3. This standard applies to high-performance electronics, such as avionic navigation and control systems, and it requires guaranteed continuous operation of the device in critical operating conditions. For example, PCBs must function under high temperatures and exposure to radiation or chemicals. Aerospace missions rely on the ability to conduct electricity throughout the aircraft, so creating a functional and durable PCB is vital to a successful operation.
Since extreme temperatures, specifically overheating, is a major threat to PCBs, it is important to select high quality board part materials. Ideally, the circuit board should operate smoothly without needing maintenance for 5-15 years. A good rule for creating a reliable PCB is to utilize either anodized aluminum or heavy copper, rather than copper, to increase resistance to high temperatures. These materials allow for heat dissipation in a natural manner and do not require additional cooling systems. Another smart way to decrease temperature is to separate the components of the PCB to create a greater volume of space to allow for heat dissipation.
On top of extreme temperatures, aerospace PCBs must withstand other harsh environmental conditions. By using flex or rigid-flex PCBs with a conforming finishing material such as electrolytic nickel gold, ENIG (Electroless Nickel with Immersion Gold Coating), chemical silver, HASL (Hot Air Solder Leveling), and lead-free HAS, one can feel sure that their board will withstand high sock vibrations as well as chemical or liquid exposure. These types of PCBs can withstand high heats and adapt to small spaces in comparison to the average PCB used in automotive applications because they are made from polyamide instead of FR-4.
The correct routing of electricity across the board is important for reducing damage as well. Angles on the traces across the board should be no greater than 45 degrees. Low operating components should be separated from high operating components to avoid disturbances in frequencies, and polyamide boards allow for steady functioning across unsteady conditions.
In addition to environmental management, an important way to ensure a functional PCB is to adhere to reference standards. A specific standard known as IPC 6012DS demands high performance capabilities specifically for military and aerospace grade technologies, and these features should be met by their PCBs. They should also meet the aerospace standard AS/EN 9100, which contains a series of standards developed by the IAQG (International Aerospace Quality Group) for quality and risk management in the aerospace sector.
Owned and operated by ASAP Semiconductor, we at AOG Unlimited want to provide you with the best materials for your aerospace and military needs. We provide printed circuit boards, aircraft bearings, NSN parts, aviation parts, electrical connectors, and many other materials for your high quality aircraft. Come buy our parts and let us do the work for your sourcing, logistics, shipments, and quality so that you can focus on building. We’re always available and ready to help you find all the parts and equipment you need, 24/7x365, so rely on AOG Unlimited to guide you in your purchasing.
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