If we go back and study the evolution of computer engineering, we will see that many of the products we have adopted as part of our everyday lives have changed significantly over time. Thinking back to the days of the Apollo workstations, the first PCs and mainframes that could occupy complete building floors, it is evident that miniaturization is the common denominator on how technology has progressed over time.
Recent innovations in tablets, smartphones, ultrabooks and many other applications have created a greater challenge for engineering and design teams to balance the act of implementing the optimal form, fit, and function during product development. They also have to carefully take into account materials, components, and signal/power quality requirement to ensure that all specifications are realized to deliver their products to the market. One of the key factors enabling design teams to meet these requirements is the cost-effectiveness and advancement in the application of embedded components in PCB design.
Use of embedded components has grown significantly in the defense, aerospace, telecommunications, medical and consumer markets. We may not have experienced the impact of the embedded components in most of these industries, but we have all experienced first-hand the birth of compact cameras and camcorders in the late 80s into the early 90s. With the decreasing cost of manufacturing boards containing embedded components, other industries are adopting this technology as part of their product designs, and we are sure to see a new wave of innovative products on the market in the future.
To support this innovation, there has been a parallel evolution on the design and manufacturing of PCBs. Companies are working closely with their manufacturers to refine the process of producing "multi-functional" boards and packages to support the requirements for new product development using cutting-edge technologies.
Some of these boards include electro-optical components with flexible interconnections, embedded optical connectors and polymer-based optical waveguide Embedding passive and active components within the substrate with laser cavities, and now placing high pin-count ICs within the substrate with microvias connecting both sides of the chip to adjacent conduct layers is a commodity these days for advanced PCB manufacturers.
There are many benefits of using embedded components today. When working with embedded components, it is important to understand the current and new approaches for implementation and the necessary steps and challenges within the design process. As manufacturing processes continue to mature, you can easily realize your new products with more functions within the same or less space and still achieve of the right margins for profitability.
Technology has advanced, so too have the methodologies that are currently being used or explored with embedded components, including the increased use of cavities and connection options for high pin-count devices.
To gain the greatest value and result of using embedded components, start the floorplanning of your electronic system during the planning phase and take a rules-driven approach across the logical and physical circuit design phase and into manufacturing. If you can utilize a 3D platform to plan and design your printed circuit boards with embedded components, it will help you model your design and generate the outputs to manufacturing with accuracy, and can help save time across the product development cycle.
Initially Published in the IPC Proceedings