PCBs are the basis of all electronics designs. They allow complex designs to be manufactured in a reliable and repeatable way. While the manufacture of PCBs is typically handled by a PCB fabricator, it is important for PCB designers to understand the manufacturing process. With an understanding of the process a designer has an insight into some of the opportunities for errors to be introduced into their PCB designs and how to avoid them. Furthermore, PCB designers can also benefit from understanding all of the capabilities of modern PCB fabricators and take advantage of these capabilities when tackling their next PCB based application.
Broadly, this article will discuss how a PCB goes from being output by PCB design software to being manufactured into a physical PCB by a PCB fabricator. As an initial point of reference, let us first look at a diagram of a four layered PCB board: