How do manufacturers miniaturize their electronic products

In the electronics world, everyone knows that the old saying "bigger is better" just doesn't apply. Today, we all want our devices to be as small as possible without losing any of their capabilities.

 

As the demand for smaller and lighter devices grows, anyone working in the PCB assembly field knows that miniaturization is an ongoing process.

 

Improving the Power

As advances are made for each component, they get better and better at doing their jobs. Sensors are more sensitive, chips are faster, and memory capacity continues to grow. Overall, that can mean that fewer components are actually needed. When you only require one processor chip instead of 5 for example, you are able to shrink down the overall circuit board. It's not necessarily that the parts are smaller, but that you have to use fewer of them.

 

Improving the Materials

This is similar to the last point, but more focused on the materials used rather than the capabilities of the components. Better composites can lead to thinner boards, different alloys used in the traces can mean cooler operation or less space required to lay out the circuitry.

 

Even with smaller circuit boards, most devices still need to allow space for their power supplies (usually batteries). So improving the materials used in batteries can mean that you can get the same amount of usage time between charges with a smaller battery unit.

 

Better Heat Management

This one may be a little unexpected since it doesn't seem to relate to size at all. But improvements in materials development mean that there is less thermal resistance in the components, leading to cooler operations. Better heat sinks have also helped dropped the operating temperature of electronics. And that applies to miniaturizing by allowing manufacturers to cluster components closer together without worrying about overheating. More tightly packed circuit boards means smaller devices.

 

Production Precision

Computers that operate PCB productions are getting more powerful, and that means they can create far more precise circuitry. Finer traces, smaller vias and more elaborate layer construction in the boards can all contribute to a smaller overall product. Another part of this is the more sophisticated CAD software that is used to design the circuit layouts.

 

Why Miniaturize at all?

We tend to think about this field in terms of our mobile devices, like the ubiquitous smart phone. But there is more to gain my shrinking electronics than just having more hand-held personal gadgets. Medical devices are getting small enough that they can operate on their own within the body, and space exploration has just exploded due to the ability to carry so much more equipment on board each probe we send out.

 

The non-stop drive for smaller (and yet more powerful) devices will continue to push industry to keep working on more miniature techniques. Is there a limit to miniaturization? Probably, but with the new fields of microscopic circuitry and nanotechnology, we may see even smaller electronics for some time yet to come.