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The Many Aspects of Wearables and Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs)

Wearables are becoming more and more omnipresent in the lives of the everyday consumer. With the Apple Watch, the Galaxy Gear, the Fitbit and many others, customers are finding out exactly what wearable technology can do for them. This is great for business because businesses now have the ability to open up to a massive market that only existed in science fiction ten years ago.

Designing a wearable product can be difficult for any design engineer, because the rules for most electronics don’t necessarily apply to the world of wearables. PCB companies are acutely aware of the difficulties and hurdles that must be overcome in order to create a proper PCB for the wearable market. When they are approaching the problem of wearables, PCB companies are considering quite a few factors.

Size

One of the most obvious differences between wearables and other devices is the size. The comparably small screen of smart watches, in relation to smartphones, creates a special difficulty for PCB companies. These companies must consider the fact that customers want to use their wearable much like any other device, but smaller. This means adding the abilities for all of the same functionality in a fraction of the size.

Temperature

Many places across the globe can become blisteringly hot while many locations are frigid. Companies that design and manufacture PCBs are required to take this fact into account when designing their PCBs. This means they have to design and manufacture PCBs with both of the extremes in mind; the wearable must work as well in winter in Moscow as it does in the summer in Mesa, Arizona. This task is no easy feat, as it requires a great deal of precision to ensure that components are able to take the elements.

Humidity

PCB designers and manufacturers are always required to keep humidity in mind in addition to temperature. After all, the smallest amount of moisture can wreak havoc on a PCB not designed to handle the elements. And when they speak of humidity, PCB designers and manufacturers aren’t simply talking about conditions in the rainforest, they are also referring to the minute amount of humidity that the body gives off. As the device itself is being designed to be worn on the body, PCB companies must always keep in mind aspects of the human body that many people don’t even consider.

Insulation

Improperly insulated components can surge electricity through various parts of the device, which is especially pertinent when considering the fact that wearables are sometimes flush with the wearer’s skin. Improper insulation can lead to electrocution, battery leaking, or overheating, which may cause significant injuries to the wearer.

 

Power

Wearables are small, therefore their batteries are tiny. Depending on the technical capabilities of the wearable itself, the device can last for a range of time. Some of these devices last for days while others only last for less than one day. Making a note of how much power these batteries put out is of great importance to a PCB designer. Not only will it affect what the PCB can do, it actually affects how the PCB is built as the designer wants to create the most efficient path through all of the necessary components so that no energy is wasted in the process, prolonging the life of the miniscule battery powering the wearable.

 

 


Sources:

http://electronicdesign.com/embedded/engineer-s-guide-high-quality-pcb-design

http://www.instructables.com/id/PCB-making-guide/?ALLSTEPS

http://www.edn.com/electronics-blogs/all-aboard-/4429390/Ten-best-practices-of-PCB-design

http://www.eetimes.com/author.asp?section_id=36&doc_id=1327821

http://electronicdesign.com/digital-ics/wearable-technologies-present-packaging-challenges

http://www.academia.edu/6418802/Design_of_Wearable_Antenna_System_on_Different_Materials_and_Their_Performance_Analysis_at_the_Off_and_On_Body_Environment_in_terms_of_Impedance_Matching_and_Radiation_Characteristics

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