Almost all electronic devices pollute the environment to a degree during manufacturing, usage, and even after being discarded. The printed circuit board isn’t an exception to that norm either, but it is certainly possible to reduce electronic waste from PCBs, by being aware of the various steps which start with the design process and end when the final product is manufactured.
Make Them Last Longer
When PCBs don’t last long, landfills fill up faster than they can be managed, so designing them to last longer is an important part of making PCBs less harmful for the environment. In manufacturing, be sure to avoid epoxies and phenolics because these cheap substitutes for copper or substrate are not capable of tolerating the heat generated by most electronics and will breakdown within a short period of time.
Using PCB Designing Tools to Make the Board Serviceable
Even if we manufacture our printed circuit boards with the best of materials, it will most likely require repairs from time to time. It’s an unavoidable phenomenon, as with regular usage, all boards do lose their quality over time. Aside from that, there’s always the risk of sudden electrical surges and dips damaging the board.
This is why serviceability as a notion should be embedded in the PCB design itself. Today we have access to PCB design tools such as Upverter to rely on, which makes everything so much easier, even for relative amateurs in the field.
We can use tools like this to assign surge protection components on the PCB itself. This ensures that the board can be repaired with relative safety, outside the electronic device which it was made for. Then there are also modular PVB design ideas, which brings us to the next point.
Modular Designs Make It Easier to Replace Parts, Rather than the Whole Board
A modular PCB actually consists of multiple PCBs, which come together to form the mainboard. For example, in a simple, double-board modular design, the SMD ICs (including the microcontroller) and the wire-to-board connectors will be placed on two separate PCBs.
This design would make the whole circuit board more accessible to repairs, but even more importantly, chances are that only one part of the board will malfunction at a time, making it unnecessary to replace the whole board, even if it can’t be helped.
Looking to the Future: Biodegradability
We are not there yet, but research into biodegradable PCB materials have yielded some promising results.
Apparently, traditional metal conductors can be replaced in some designs with a water-soluble metallic paste, which consists of tungsten and zinc. If the findings of the research pan out on a production level, the impact on the planet from PCBs can be significantly reduced.
Printed circuit boards are an essential part of so many different types of modern electronics. So much so that they are produced by the billions every year. By employing the simple eco-friendly methods here, we could be making a huge difference in terms of reducing pollution from electronic manufacturing and waste.
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