A printed circuit board, or PCB, is used to mechanically support and electrically connect electronic components using conductive pathways, tracks or signal traces etched from copper sheets laminated onto a non-conductive substrate. It is also referred to as printed wiring board (PWB) or etched wiring board. Printed circuit boards are used in virtually all but the simplest commercially produced electronic devices.
A PCB populated with electronic components is called a printed circuit assembly (PCA), printed circuit board assembly or PCB Assembly (PCBA). In informal use the term "PCB" is used both for bare and assembled boards, the context clarifying the meaning.
Alternatives to PCBs include wire wrap and point-to-point construction. PCBs must initially be designed and laid out, but become cheaper, faster to make, and potentially more reliable for high-volume production since production and soldering of PCBs can be automated. Much of the electronics industry's PCB design, assembly, and quality control needs are set by standards published by the IPC organization.