Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Brief History of PCB Automation

Automation is all around us these days, especially in the manufacturing industry where many of our modern goods are made. Shows like "How it's made" showcase these gargantuan workhorse machines in all their glory, and the average person is well aware of the robotics' existence. But how did these machines come into being?

It all started a century ago with the advent of the auto industry. Ford was the first automaker to utilize the assembly line, a new idea in manufacturing that took sometimes hundreds of people and tasked each of them with their own simple small task to perform. All of these many men doing their own little piece of a greater work provided a more efficient workflow.

As technology grew, the men were soon replaced by machines to take over these small specific tasks, these robotic machines have their own brains called PCBs. A PCB assembly is really just a microchip that is programmed to perform the task indefinitely, at an extremely quick rate, and with little to no chance of error. Unlike the microprocessors that are used in home computers -- and are created to perform thousands of tasks -- a prototype PCB is created to only know how to perform its one specific task over and over again.

PCB manufacturing companies that create these "brains" are in high demand these days, as the people that create a PCB must be knowledgeable in both engineering and computer programming. Best Proto is one such company that takes an obsolete process of either manufacturing or packaging, and then builds PCBs that power a newly automated process.

It is quite interesting to see how so many manufacturing processes have become automated over the years and how now our goods and services can be made at a blurring rate, and with relative ease. It is more interesting when you realize that the entire automation idea was originally created to give a single worker a mindless, simple task to complete over and over again, and today we have handed those tasks over to microprocessors and metal.

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