A Brief History of Printed Circuit Boards and the Gold They Contain

Did you know that printed circuit boards are not a new idea? Today’s printed circuit boards actually evolved from electrical connection systems that were first used back in the 1850s, when makers of electronic devices mounted multiple components on wooden bases and then connected them together with metal straps, strips, and wires.

That’s just one fascinating fact that’s explained in Printed Circuit Board, an informative entry on the How Products are Made website. Here are more details about printed circuit boards that you’ll find in that article.

Modern Printed Circuit Boards Were Born in 1925

Shown: gold-plated circuit boards that Specialty Metals customers have shipped to us for recycling and refining at the best prices.

Shown: gold-plated circuit boards that Specialty Metals customers have shipped to us for recycling and refining at the best prices.

In 1925, an American inventor named Charles Ducas patented a method of printing electrical paths directly onto nonconductive surfaces by using electrically conductive inks. His method gave birth to the name “printed circuit.”

Then later, in 1943, a British inventor named Paul Eisler patented a way to etch circuit patterns onto a layer of copper foil that was bonded to a glass-reinforced, non-conductive base.

Their Use Increased Dramatically in the 1950s

Printed circuit boards had been around for decades before their use became widespread in the 1950s. That was when transistors suddenly appeared in radios and other consumer products – and those transistors were mounted on printed circuit boards.

How Printed Circuit Boards Are Made

First the boards (also called substrates or panels), are manufactured from rolls of woven glass fiber. Those panels are then electroplated with a layer of copper. That copper surface is then imprinted with the circuit pattern, using inks that will protect the areas that will not be stripped away during the etching process that follows. In that etching process, the copper surface is sprayed with acid that eats away all the unprotected areas. As a result, only the conductive copper outline of circuit is left. Fascinating, right?

Depending on the design and purpose of the printed circuit, various components are then soldered to the copper circuit pattern. They can include capacitors, diodes, transistors, circuit chips, and others.

And Then the Gold Is Applied

Gold-plated fingers, shown above, are just one type of electronic scrap that Specialty Metals recycles, along with contacts, pins and meltables, ceramics and CPU chips.  

Gold-plated fingers, shown above, are just one type of electronic scrap that Specialty Metals recycles, along with contacts, pins and meltables, ceramics and CPU chips.

 

Next, gold-plated contact “fingers” are created along the edges. They are the contact points where wire connectors slide onto the board. How are these fingers made? As the article on How Products are Made explains, “The contact fingers are masked off from the rest of the board and then plated. Plating is done with three metals: first tin-lead, next nickel, then gold.”

Today, Printed Circuit Boards that Contain Gold Are Everywhere

You can find them in computers, cell phones, televisions, radios, manufacturing equipment – just about everywhere. And the good news is, electronic scrap contains gold and other precious metals that can be extracted by an experienced precious metals refinery.

If you own quantities of older electronic equipment that contains printed circuit boards, you have something valuable. Call Specialty Metals Smelters and Refiners at 800-426-2344 to learn more about your profitable eScrap.

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