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In this answer poster talks about "PWB", for Printed Wiring Board, instead of PCB. In comments to the answer he suggests "PCB" should be a wrong name, and only "PWB" and "PCA" should be used.
Should "PCB" be banned? It's used a lot, also here on StackExchange.

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migrated from electronics.stackexchange.com May 17 '12 at 10:52

This question came from our site for electronics and electrical engineering professionals, students, and enthusiasts.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Makes sense for meta to discuss our use on site. \$\endgroup\$ – Kortuk May 17 '12 at 10:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ The thing that I think confuses me most about either of these acronyms is why is it "printed". At some stage, printing is involved, but seems odd to keep in it the name. \$\endgroup\$ – Cybergibbons May 17 '12 at 10:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Cybergibbons: Exactly. And the wiring may be printed, the components are soldered. A SCB (Soldered Circuit Board)? ;) \$\endgroup\$ – Federico Russo May 17 '12 at 11:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ I use and hear "PCB" almost universally. Sometimes people just have a bug up their butt about a particular usage and pretend it's a standard when they're really just off the deep end. Ignore and move on. \$\endgroup\$ – Olin Lathrop May 17 '12 at 12:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ I was going thru questions on the main site and didn't realized this was in meta at first. Somehow we're not in Kanasa anymore. \$\endgroup\$ – Olin Lathrop May 17 '12 at 12:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Cyber: It's "printed" as apposed to point to point wiring between the eyelets of tube sockets. You have to think in the context of what came before and the state of the art at the time. \$\endgroup\$ – Olin Lathrop May 17 '12 at 12:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ Indeed, but in the context of being anal about what an acronym should be, it seems odd to differentiate between "wiring" and "circuit" and not think about "printed". Not that it matters. \$\endgroup\$ – Cybergibbons May 17 '12 at 12:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ Is PWB a regional thing maybe? \$\endgroup\$ – jippie Jun 4 '12 at 6:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ @jippie, in general, regional varies between US and EU, this does not, just one user whom knows better then every other engineer. \$\endgroup\$ – Kortuk Jun 18 '12 at 12:32
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"Professionals such as myself only use "PWB", or "bare boards" or slangs like Fabs etc, but never PCB's."

[grammar nazi mode on]
This means "Those professionals who are like myself". If he means all professionals, "such as myself" should be between commas. :-)
[grammar nazi mode off]

I guess he means "all professionals".
That's not my experience. Every professional EE I know, colleagues and other, will talk about PCBs, either empty or populated. Every PCB manufacturer I've worked with calls itself a "PCB manufacturer". They talk about PCBs throughout, from tender to invoice.

In BOMs and other documents we'll use "PCB" for the empty board, and "PCB Assembly" ("assy") for the (partially) populated board. In everyday parlance, however, we'll almost always just use "PCB" for both. Doesn't really cause confusion.

Here on EE there are currently over a thousand questions with "PCB" appearing in them. There are 4 (four) with "PWB".
I think "PCB" will be with us for a long time still.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ [pedantic]"Grammar Nazi" is hardly a proper way call someone who encourages people to express themselves carefully.[/pedantic] :) \$\endgroup\$ – Andres Riofrio May 28 '12 at 22:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Andres - "Grammar nazi" is common slang, tongue-in-cheek(!) for someone who pedantically wants to correct others on this. If I didn't call myself so, someone else would have. My point was that his phrase was ambiguous. I tried to understand it the way he probably meant it. \$\endgroup\$ – stevenvh May 29 '12 at 4:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 for the use of grammar nazi \$\endgroup\$ – John May 29 '12 at 21:29
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No terminology should ever be banned on our site.

The reason stackexchange is able to exist is because there is a monetary value to the sites. Driving views is essential to this site being able to survive. Not only does views bring in more ad money, but it also brings in new users who wouldn't have known about the site otherwise.

One of the key drivers to getting users to view our sites is through search engines. If we arbitrarily ban the use of certain terminology, we would lower the potential views because that common term would no longer appear on our site, thus not show up in search results.

If we have an instance where a common term truly is wrong and we would like to attempt to correct that term, it should be done some in comments or as part of the answer. This allows for searching of both the right and wrong term to both end up here and also helps to teach the OP of the correct terminology.

In this particular instance, I believe Olin hit the nail on the head:

I use and hear "PCB" almost universally. Sometimes people just have a bug up their butt about a particular usage and pretend it's a standard when they're really just off the deep end. Ignore and move on.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for the Olin quote. \$\endgroup\$ – stevenvh May 18 '12 at 8:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for the Olin quote \$\endgroup\$ – Chris K Jun 14 '12 at 17:53
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'PWB' in my experience is an archaic term (even for me!). I agree with stevenvh in that PCB is almost universal today for blank boards. Personally I do not like the use of 'PCB' for assembled boards because of the ambiguity (I have experienced major stock control problems in the past because of this).

Terms like 'ECA' (Electronic Circuit Assembly) or 'CCA' (Circuit Card Assembly) are better suited to assembled boards.

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    \$\begingroup\$ ... although I will admit to a general dislike for TLAs (three letter acronyms :). \$\endgroup\$ – MikeJ-UK May 17 '12 at 10:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ Sorry, I like your answer on the whole but I dont agree with the avoidance of use of PCB for assembled boards. I understand why you would not use it but I plan to keep using it. \$\endgroup\$ – Kortuk May 17 '12 at 18:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Kortuk: I agree. We use "PCB", "board", and "circuit board" interchangeably. To make a distinction, we sometimes use "bare board", "assembled board", or "assembly". There is no problem to solve here. \$\endgroup\$ – Olin Lathrop May 17 '12 at 20:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ @OlinLathrop, glad we have the same nomenclature, everything you said there would have made sense to me without any thought in normal conversation. Interesting issue to think about. \$\endgroup\$ – Kortuk May 17 '12 at 20:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ @OlinLathrop - My stance on this comes from several incidents, the worst being when a sales department were tasked with producing a price list by adding margin to the cost prices of 'the PCBs'. They did exactly that and we lost a lot of money. \$\endgroup\$ – MikeJ-UK May 18 '12 at 8:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Mike: That's a bigger system-wide screwup than just a little naming convention. \$\endgroup\$ – Olin Lathrop May 18 '12 at 16:52
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Our company's official names in released documents for bare boards / assembled boards are PWB (Printed Wiring Board) and CCA (Circuit Card Assembly), but in day-to-day discussion everyone calls them PCBs. We don't get all bent out of shape about it; but at the same time we have a company-wide standard and for official purposes we stick to it.

Because this is a site for day-to-day discussion of engineering issues, I think the common terms "PCB" or "bare board" or "assembly" are fine, but I do also think that if someone uses PWB because it's their normal usage, let them.

Brits have their English, Americans have ours, and we communicate fine without having to argue about how to spell "color" or "colour", or how to pronounce "controversy" -- let's move on.

IIRC the StackExchange framework allows you to specify tags with aliases and canonical forms, e.g. someone could enter "PWB" and it would get changed automatically to "PCB", and on the search side you can use either term and it will pull up the results.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The 1000+ questions about "PCB" i counted are the ones where "PCB" appears in the text. So no distortion from tag synonyms. \$\endgroup\$ – stevenvh May 25 '12 at 13:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ Perhaps your 'official' guidelines are written by the OP? or his three loyal compatriots? \$\endgroup\$ – shuckc Jun 21 '12 at 10:04
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this is my first visit to a question on EE.SE... To even consider that someone proposes to ban calling a PCB a PCB is absurd to me.

My start in EE was via Heathkit stuff from the 60s. After high school, I went on to become a Electronics Technician in the Navy. Now that is where to find a PWB!! IMHO, a PCB (populated or not) should have as few wires as possible. The populated PCBs (I'm trying to like CCA) I saw in my 8 years in the Navy would have wires, but after getting my BSEE and working on TV broadcast equipment, wires were "jumpers", which were corrections of flaws and seen as evidence of poor design.

I have made PCBs. I bought the copper covered boards, "printed" my circuits on them, and dipped into the acid to dissolve the exposed copper. My printing was via transfer paper, but the same could be done via a PDF or AI file.

That's my two cents. And even though someone doesn't like PCBs, I'm excited to have discovered EE.SE! :D

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome here! We hope that you can become a regular member, and don't worry, PCB will always be right :) \$\endgroup\$ – clabacchio Jun 15 '12 at 5:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ ... and in the '70s in the UK, the military used PPC (Panel Printed Circuit) for blank PCBs and PEC (Panel Electronic Circuit) for assembled PCBs! So many abbreviations and so much scope for misunderstanding! \$\endgroup\$ – MikeJ-UK Jun 15 '12 at 10:02

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