Curious how the printed circuit boards in electronics gadgets are made? Scotty from Strange Parts takes us to a PCB Factory in China, showing us the manufacturing process from design files to the finished product.
The following is part of the process shown in the video. A big take-away is what he did not mention -- there are many steps involving various chemicals, and it's not discussed what happens to those chemicals. When copper is etched off the board, is the copper reused? Are the chemicals toxic? Are the chemicals disposed of properly?
This is in China, a country not known for ecological standards. It's possible the process uses toxic chemicals that are simply dumped into the local river.
Recovery of etched copper could be very important since copper is a rare material. The rareness of copper might be enough incentive for the companies to recover copper from the etching process?
All images are of course copyright to Strange Parts. I did not request permission, but I believe they will like what I've done here.
Old-school printed circuit boards like I made in my bedroom in the 1970's were a single layer - copper coated on one side of the board, you draw the circuit using an ink-resist pen, then process the board to etch off the copper, then finally solder components to the board. Modern circuit boards are much more complex than that, of course.
About the Author(s)
David Herron is a writer and software engineer focusing on the wise use of technology. He is especially interested in clean energy technologies like solar power, wind power, and electric cars. David worked for nearly 30 years in Silicon Valley on software ranging from electronic mail systems, to video streaming, to the Java programming language, and has published several books on Node.js programming and electric vehicles.