Understanding What PCB Controller Is and How It Works

Printed circuit board controllers are the heart of embedded systems, which are present in any electronic product or device. A circuit board is essential to an electronic device; it electronically connects and mechanically aids its entire parts. Furthermore, the proper functioning of an electronic device depends on the efficiency and quality of the circuit board. Based on this fact, it makes sense that one has to design a PCB controller with generic specifications and multiple functions.

A PCB controller is to the PCB what a PCB is to an electronic device; it plays a crucial role in its functioning. This article has detailed more information about PCB controllers, including what they are and how to design them.

What Are Printed Circuit Board Controllers?

PCB controllers are a vital part of circuit boards; a PCB controller is vital to a circuit board’s functioning. It is that component of the circuit board that enables the board to perform different tasks. The controller is stored in an integrated circuit inside the PCB, a chip designed to control electronic devices. A PCB controller has a variety of uses and applications, including industrial applications and consumer electronics.

PCB controllers are used for different purposes; those used in wireless communication devices serve different purposes from those for automotive applications. However, PCB controllers are electrochemical devices that change values by utilizing input signals. They obtain voltage inputs from a source, analyze them, and then manage condition changes through signal outputs. PCB controllers have inputs and outputs and are usually mounted in control panels and enclosures.

What Are the Various Applications of PCB Controllers?

Controllers in PCBs are a vital component of the board and play a crucial role in its functioning. As such, PCB controllers are used in various applications, including consumer electronics, medical devices, industrial electronics, and automotive components.

● Consumer Electronics

PCB controllers are used in consumer electronic devices such as TVs and smartphones; they help the devices to function properly. Besides TVs and smartphones, PCB controllers are also used in communication devices such as tablets and smartwatches.

● Medical Devices

PCB controllers enable medical devices to function as they should, which is why the medical industry will always need them. For instance, devices like infusion pumps and imaging systems need PCB controllers for proper functioning.

● Industrial Electronics

Besides consumer electronics, PCB controllers are also essential for industrial purposes as they feature in industrial electronic devices. For example, industrial electrical appliances like those that power manufacturing and distribution centers need PCB controllers to work right.

● Automotive Components

Another common application of PCB controllers is in automotive components such as sensors and navigation. PCB controllers’ functions in automotive components are numerous; most automotive systems that carry out basic functions have PCB controllers.

How Do You Design a General Purpose PCB Controller?

You need generic specifications to design a general-purpose PCB controller, and you can use several firmware tools. Also, you will need components such as a microchip, microcontroller, power management, and peripheral interface. We recommend designing the general-purpose printed circuit board controller on a single circuit board. Run switches and cables from external sensors to the PCB controller and then secure it to an industrial enclosure or terminal rack.

You can separate your PCB controller into different modules to make future repairs and upgrades easy. However, to ensure this effort is not wasted, you may want to ensure the components are well segregated. Below are the best practices for designing a general-purpose PCB controller:

  • First, separate the controller into two modules – that is, the I/O module and the MCU module;
  • Now, mount the I/O module into an enclosure; plugging the MCU module into the I/O module should be easy. This is mostly because the MCU module has more intelligent memory chips.
  • MCU and memory chips can fail; thus, you may want to segregate passive components from high-use components. The component that has the highest chance of failing should be placed on the MCU module that is easy to remove;
  • Ensure there is interconnectivity between board-to-board connectors and the modules;
  • Allocate sufficient voltage and ground pins on the inter-board connectors, maintaining optimal carefulness;
  • You need the best PCB software to design the best PCB controller; the software should be able to manage different schematic blocks.

How Does a PCB Controller in Embedded Systems Work?

Embedded systems have many applications, including industrial environments, traffic signal control, and home automation. The purpose of an embedded system incorporated into an electronic device is to control the latter in a specific manner. Great specific examples of PCB controllers in embedded systems include microcontrollers, FPGAs (field-programmable gate arrays), and microprocessors. Most PCBs feature sections like power, interfaces like JTAG, reset, oscillators, DACs, ADCs, and I/O peripherals.

Having a PCB controller in embedded systems is essential as it is the system’s heat. The embedded system receives input signals through the I/O peripherals, which the controller interprets. Then, the received information or data is processed based on the instructions stored in the controller’s program memory. After this, the processed data is passed through I/O peripherals to the external devices, and the task is completed.

How to Choose a PCB Controller

When choosing the best PCB controller, certain factors must be considered. These include the controller board size and degree of routing, and trace placement freedom offered.

● Controller Board Size

The controller board size must be in accordance with the available space for the board in the application system. The size should be accurate to prevent overheating in the controller board. Most of the time, PCB controller designers use double-sided PCBs with SMD components assembled on both sizes. These controller boards enable seamless testing, debugging, repairing, reworking, and simpler routing.

● Degree of Freedom

When tracing placement and routing, multilayer PCB controllers offer more freedom. However, troubleshooting and modification are more challenging in multilayer PCBs. Nevertheless, a standard PCB with a four-layer PCB controller is a good compromise.


A PCB controller plays a vital function in a PCB and the electronic device it serves, offering a wide range of functions. Several aspects need special consideration when designing PCB controllers, including component placement, power supply rail noises, and separation between digital and analog devices. This article has discussed vital information about PCB controllers that have been very helpful.