What Are The Types Of PCBs?
Printed circuit boards are widely used in various electronics and they are often the base for devices. These circuit boards provide a physical support piece and they also provide an area for the wiring and for the surface-mounted components. Printed circuit boards are most commonly made out of composite materials, such as fibreglass or composite epoxy.
Most circuit boards that are designed for simple electronics are only composed of one layer, whereas the more advanced and sophisticated electronics may require circuit boards with two or more layers, depending on the complexity. There are various types of circuit boards that have their own manufacturing properties, such as material type and their usage.
To help you understand the different types of printed circuit boards, we have provided more information below.
Single-sided PCBs or single-layer PCBs, are essentially circuit boards that consist of only one layer of substrate or base material. These boards are simple and cheap to produce both in small batches and in mass, which is why they are very popular, especially with hobbyists. Single-sided means that the circuitry and the parts and components are placed only on one side of the board, meaning that this type of board is best suited to simple electronics. Although they are relatively cheap and fast to produce, due to the design of it being single-sided, there are limitations to what it can be used for.
Double-sided printed circuit boards are similar to single-sided boards, except that they have conductive layers on both sides of the substrate. This is so that it can have components attached to both sides of the board. On double-sided boards, these components can be connected with two methods; surface mount technology or through-hole technology.
Through-hole technology involves drilling holes through the board to feed small leads through and connect them to the components by soldering. Surface mount technology is the process of directly soldering the components onto the PCB, which allows more circuits to be fitted into smaller spaces. The advantages of this technology when compared to through-hole, is that it allows the printed circuit board to be lower in weight, whilst being able to perform more tasks at quicker rates.
Multi-layer PCBs further develops the technology of double-sided boards as multi-layer boards can have three or more layers depending on the needs and application. These circuit boards contain several layers of substrate which are separated by insulating materials. Similar to double-sided circuit boards, multi-layer boards can also use through-hole technology or surface mounting to connect the components.
The design of the multi-layer circuit board improves on the space efficiency of the double-sided boards. Usually, these multi-layer PCBs have any where between three to ten layers, but they can have more layers depending on the requirements of application. These types of PCBs are often used in advanced machinery such as medical equipment and servers.
Aluminium-backed PCBs are very similar to their copper-backed counterparts, except instead of using the regular fibreglass material for the board, they use aluminium or copper substrate. Aluminium-backed PCBs provide an array of advantages over the usual fibreglass PCBs, which make them suitable for applications that have high performance requirements.
These advantages include:
- Improved Thermals & Heat Dissipation – One of the main advantages for using aluminium-backed PCBs is that they have better thermal efficiency than fibreglass. Unlike fibreglass, aluminium can dissipate heat away from the core components on the board by transferring the heat into the open air, rather than dispersing it across the circuit board. As a result, Aluminium-backed PCBs can cool quicker than your usual PCBs.
- Greater Durability – For heavy duty applications, aluminium PCBs can be very beneficial. Aluminium is more durable than fibreglass or ceramic boards which can help reduce any damage from manufacturing, shipping, and even installation.
- Lower Costs – Another reason why aluminium PCBs are very popular, is because of the abundance of aluminium metal on Earth. Aluminium is one of the most common metals and they can be mined and processed very easily, effectively helping you save on costs.
- Eco-friendly Alternative – Not only are aluminium PCBs very easy to process and manufacture, but aluminium is also non-toxic to the environment and they can be easily recycled. This means that you can conserve more energy.
Rigid PCBs are made with solid substrate materials that can help reduce bending and flexing of the board. By making the board solid and immovable, it can help prolong the life of the components as they will be less prone to environmental damages, such as moving and shaking.
A popular application for Rigid PCBs are computer motherboards. These types of boards are commonly used for this application because they generate low electronic noise. This means that the circuit board is designed to reduce the amount of electrical currents running between components and minimise cross talking.
Unlike rigid PCBs, flexible PCBs or flex PCBs, are printed circuit boards that are designed to be flexible and malleable. These types of boards can come in various formats such as single-sided, double-sided, or even multi-layered. The substrate itself is a flexible plastic which allows the printed circuit board to fit into various shapes without damaging the circuits. Flexible PCBs can cost more to design and manufacture than rigid PCBs, however, they do provide various benefits over rigid boards. For applications where space and weight are important, a flexible PCB can replace components and wiring that are heavy or bulky.
Rigid Flex PCBs
Rigid flex PCBs combine the technology of rigid PCBs and flexible PCBs. Essentially, a rigid flex board consists of multiple layers of flexible PCBs attached to multiple rigid PCB layers. Rigid flex circuit boards provide numerous advantages over just using either flex or rigid boards for different applications.
Rigid flex boards tend to have less parts than your usual flex or rigid board as the wiring for both boards can be combined into one board. By combining these two circuit boards, you can achieve a streamlined design which can help reduce the overall size of the board and the weight.
Contact Clarydon for PCB Manufacturing
Clarydon Electronic Services has a wealth of expertise in PCB manufacturing. If you require PCB manufacturing or assembly, please get in touch with one of our PCB specialists and we would be happy to help.
Call us on 01902 606 000 or you can email us at [email protected].