Everything You Want to Know About PCB in the IoT

As time progresses, we witness an increasing number of designs incorporating the concept of network connectivity to achieve the Internet of Things (IoT). According to relevant data, it is estimated that by 2030, over 30 billion devices will be connected to the internet. Imagine your coffee machine understanding your schedule better than you do, your car predicting road traffic conditions, or your desk lamp changing colors based on weather changes—all seamlessly integrated through a network of interconnected devices. However, achieving all of this is no simple feat and relies heavily on advanced circuit boards integrated within devices— IoT PCB.

iot circuit board

Fusion of IoT and PCB

IoT is a technology that connects the physical and digital worlds, allowing more devices to join IP networks. On the other hand, printed circuit boards serve as the core components of all electronic devices, facilitating electrical connections. The combination of these two elements complements each other, with the rapid development of IoT driving continuous innovation in PCB design and manufacturing. Moreover, high-performance circuit boards form the foundation for implementing intelligent device functions. This integration plays a crucial role in various industries’ electronic products.

For instance, sensors embedded in health trackers can collect users’ health data in real-time and transmit it wirelessly to other devices or cloud servers. Users can access their health data in real-time through applications, while doctors can remotely diagnose and provide recommendations based on this data, thereby enhancing the efficiency and timeliness of health management.

In addition to individuals, the dual development of IoT and PCB also promotes government and corporate interests. For example, with the efficiency of high-speed PCB in data transmission, government agencies can quickly access transportation schedules and GPS navigation, enabling scientific traffic management. This not only improves traffic efficiency but also enhances driver safety. For businesses, relying on IoT devices allows real-time monitoring of machinery and equipment production status and performance. Through data analysis, potential faults and anomalies can be detected promptly, reducing downtime risks and lowering labor costs. The realization of these IoT device functions in all these examples depends on the stable operation of internal PCB.

Challenges in PCB for IoT

Unlike traditional applications, most IoT devices belong to the cutting-edge technology field, placing higher demands on circuit boards. Designers need to innovate continually and utilize more advanced technology to create more efficient and reliable boards to support the next generation of IoT technology. This includes aspects such as material usage, layout, and components, to meet the growing demands for data and connectivity.

In comparison, PCB for IoT presents additional design challenges, including maintaining quality during high-speed data transmission, planning compact component layouts to meet small size requirements while ensuring adequate heat dissipation. Moreover, to ensure real-time data transmission, sensors must be matched with their intended applications and achieve high-precision measurements. Designers must balance factors such as range, bandwidth, and energy efficiency when choosing the best wireless technology.

For manufacturers, IoT PCB have higher precision requirements, which may pose greater challenges in detailed processes such as etching and soldering. Additionally, the boards used in IoT devices are more expensive, and any manufacturing failures could lead to higher repair costs. Therefore, PCB manufacturers must strive harder in quality management, implementing stricter quality control standards and investing in facilities, including advanced testing equipment and precision manufacturing equipment.

In addition to these conventional challenges, different industries have specific requirements for IoT PCB. For example, the healthcare industry demands high reliability, precision, and biocompatible materials. The automotive industry requires durability against vibration and thermal cycling. The industrial automation sector requires robustness against chemicals and extreme temperatures. Furthermore, the production process must comply with international standards and certifications to ensure quality and safety.

Design Recommendations for IoT PCB

IoT devices not only consider how consumers interact with electronic products but also evaluate how devices interact with each other. Therefore, their design methods need to meet the rigorous parameters of IoT applications while reliably operating within their required parameter ranges. Therefore, creating IoT PCB projects should start with assessing the possibilities of new forms and then transition to determining what materials to use and how to lay out the design.

Another important aspect is considering device size. Future electronic devices will continue to trend towards miniaturization, requiring designers to maximize PCB area utilization in layouts without additional space. Therefore, the focus is placed on aspects such as High-Density Interconnect (HDI) and flexible technologies.

Furthermore, consideration must be given to prolonging IoT device battery life and maintaining power integrity, as these devices are constantly communicating with their networks. Therefore, designers must not only strictly control the energy consumption of each circuit block to help the entire product stay within the appropriate power range but also accurately plan power consumption and track each task cycle of the PCB through comprehensive testing.

It is essential to understand that the foundation of IoT devices is the internet, ensuring that devices always have access to the network is a core requirement of any IoT PCB design. Therefore, when selecting components, factors such as power consumption, network range, speed, and any security requirements must be considered to ensure that devices maintain high-speed and accurate collection and transmission of surrounding environmental data.

Flex and HDI Technologies Empower IoT PCB

Today, the shape and size of electronic devices are no longer limited by internal structures but depend more on technological advancements. Almost all professionals are striving to create the best IoT products, regardless of their internal structures, as long as the functions are the same. To achieve miniaturization and multifunctionality, one of the hottest discussions in the IoT field is flexible technology and HDI technology.

The use of flexible technology has become widespread, such as common flexible PCB and rigid-flex PCB. These types of circuits provide more eye-catching internal contours and curves for IoT devices. Due to high-quality materials, these PCB always possesses sufficient electrical and mechanical properties, ensuring the reliability and durability of the devices. Applying flexible PCB in IoT devices not only flexibly realizes complex designs of irregular shapes but also easily places them in narrow spaces. Most importantly, these circuit boards do not use mechanical connectors, reducing nearly 95% of the weight of IoT devices and eliminating the costs associated with wiring, soldering, and wrapping wires.

In contrast, although HDI technology has become popular later, it has similarly become one of the most favored technologies in IoT projects. By arranging blind vias, buried vias, or micro vias on HDI PCB, it can smooth the dense parts of the circuit, providing multiple wiring options and ultimately achieving denser component placement. Additionally, using micro vias instead of through-holes makes the placement spacing smaller, shortening the wire length required by the components. Ultimately, HDI technology excels in speed, reliability, energy efficiency, and reduced layer requirements.

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