Understanding the different type of circuit board with their unique features can help you quickly and cautiously find a suitable one. The significance of PCBs helps in choosing a component that has a reliable and better-quality circuit board. Gaining professional insights from this guide will give you a thorough understanding of PCB types.
As a PCB buyer, you will make a wise choice when you finally choose to buy PCB. Beginners, on the other hand, you will be familiar with some electronic knowledge about PCB.
1. What is a Printed Circuit Board?
Printed circuit boards (commonly abbreviated as PCBs) are chips that mechanically support and electrically connecting electric components. They act as the building block of most modern electronic designs. They are a widely applicable method in assembling electronic circuits. It ranks PCBs highly as they are an integral part of our daily lives. Considering the industries they use will directly affect us.
PCBs can be single-sided, double-sided, or multilayered. And even more, they can contain rigid, flexible, or both rigid and loose parts. We’ll look into that in detail in a few. The niceties above can help with assembling PCB materials.
Characteristics of PCBs.
- Base material. It should be of high quality to reduce the possibility of open circuit and delamination caused by inflation.
- A solder resists layer on top of the copper layer. Failure to meet ink safety requirements could lead to corrosion of the copper circuit and detachment. Consequently, poor insulation could cause a short circuit. Therefore, superior inks, instead of inferior ones, have met the UL standard and are recommended.
- Solder resistant material. The thicker it is, the better it gets loaded with the ability to withstand mechanical impact. In other words, it won’t quickly lose the adhesion property or starts being flaky.
- Copper layer. Heavy copper is preferable in the manufacturing and design of circuit boards. It is to evade thermal strains and increase the current-carrying capacity.
- Hole wall thickness. Ensures reliability, further improving the z-axis, which can give room to an expansion.
- Clean PCB. It controls the service life of the surfaces.
（Printed circuit board and component diagram）
2. Application areas of printed circuit boards
2.1 Medical treatment
Life is crucial. For that matter, health workers work tirelessly, patients giving the utmost care to sustain it. Should there be complications? Hospitals need to use a variety of electronic equipment, life-saving, or diagnosis. A dysfunctional machine can be a massive threat to the patient’s life when needed. Therefore, PCBs selected by medical professionals are often long-lasting and resistant to damage at the slightest disturbance.
PCBs are in medical equipment range from large devices such as medical imaging systems (ultrasonic, CAT, and CN scanners); to small appliances, including monitors (body temperature, blood sugar monitors, etc.).
In addition to that, advanced methods of currently using smartphones, iPods, and tablets, making use of PCBs to function, have been adopted. Hence, Patients can quickly contact doctors at their homes’ comfort. Not to mention the doctors who can now access a patient’s record with a click away.
2.2 Industrial equipment
Industrial equipment is becoming more evolved in their designs, so are the PCBs used in making them. Most industries use PCB to bring to life the electronic components we often use. The most apparent sector could be the electronic industry. Other companies involved are the medical, automotive, and aerospace industries, to name a few.
PCBs designed to be used in this sector meet certain criteria as spelled out by specific requirements. This often falls in the line of durability, long-lasting, and stability.
When citing examples, three industries factors in industries remain constant. They act as the basis for a manufacturing facility to run effectively. They consist of power, measuring, and industrial equipment. As a matter of fact, All of these are from efficient PCB design.
2.3 Military industry
As we are all aware, the military’s purpose is to serve and protect the people’s lives in their countries. At all times, soldiers arm themselves in the best way possible. They mainly achieve maximum protection to themselves during their missions, lands, and against the intruders.
PCBs develop the machinery in this particular industry from the basics, with the multi-layer PCBs highly prioritized.
Examples of devices with the PCB installation are;
- power supplies,
- temporary sensors,
- control tower systems,
- radio communication systems,
- missiles and guided weapons,
- underwater navigation systems,
- military imaging equipment and camera
- and a couple of others.
2.4 Automotive and aerospace
Automotive is involved with the design, development, marketing, and selling of motor vehicles. Vehicles have gone through sophisticated changes over the years. New technology uses an authentic circuit board, which is now essential in running an automobile. Ideally, They should withstand harsh environmental conditions, have good thermal resistance, and set a high bar on longevity.
A car, for instance, has a lot of parts. Some may require extra care; other parts are somehow ‘safe.’ Fortunately, these distinctions are paid attention to by automotive manufacturers. And As a result, different types of PCBs are in other parts.
By way of illustration;
- Flex PCBs are often around the bends and corners of the automobile.
- Rigid PCBs are in display monitors and reverse cam screens.
- Rigid-flex PCBs in lighting systems
- LED PCBs in car brake lights, indicators, and headlights.
Aerospace produces or operates aircraft/ spacecraft. Experts and manufacturers take extra caution when making equipment in the aerospace industry. It is on account of changes to extreme conditions, which are generally severe. For one thing, that matter, extremely durable materials in making PCBs are a viable general option.
Some uses include;
- power supplies that power the tower, satellites, etc.
- monitoring equipment, for instance, the pressure sensors to monitor the function of aircraft and
- communication equipment enhancing safe air travel and summoning for help in case of emergencies.
All these components rely on PCBs.
（High computer technology on abstract circuit board）
2.5 Other industries
So far, we’ve gone into the depth of areas in which PCBs become the basic unit of electronic components thriving. More industries apply the usage of PCBs.
All of them have a thing or two in common, and that is longevity and reliability.
Without giving too many details, I will list other industries while providing examples of components that fall in the category;
- They apply to security equipment：security cameras, smoke detectors, and electronic door locks.
- Telecommunication equipment- telecom towers, LED displays, and indicators.
- They applied to the Maritime applications- navigation, communications, and control systems.
- They apply to Consumer electronics- communication devices, e.g., smartphones, tablets, radios, computers, and home appliances.
3. Types of a circuit board
Unquestionably, there are a couple of circuit boards in the market. Most, if not all, have the best reviews and recommendations, which makes them tick. A look into the commonly known boards will help you apprehend why we settled for PCBs despite others being relatively good.
Breadboards are simply temporary experimental boards. Often, breadboards lack soldiers. It brings out the difference between breadboards and other circuit boards. Essentially, this technological design eases the trial and error circuit trial period. It makes it simple to add or take off components when needed to put it in another way.
Often, solderless boards act as prototypes to standardized boards like the PCBs. On the bright side, breadboards have the advantage of being reusable in comparison to other boards.
(An insight of a Breadboard)
- Components; has switches and variable resistors which require soldering since they lack leads. It could also have capacitors, inductors, LEDs, transistors, just to mention a few.
- Are rectangular.
- In terms of sizes, it ranges from ‘mini’ 17 rows, ‘half’ 30 rows, and ‘full’ 63-row boards. Enables you to decide on the breadboard’s size for your prototype, depending on your project’s scope.
- Breadboards have holes across the surface, holding several electrical components such as resistors via conductive spring clips. The spots are specific on which components get plugged into them.
- Some breadboards have external terminals with all holes in a rail having a standard connection.
- Rows, numbering rows, and linking them together by metal clips allow easy connection for jumper components and enhance the board’s strength—manufacturers label columns with letters in breadboards.
A breadboard provides a cheap and quick solution for manufacturers to test out their modules and circuits before permanently placing certain parts. A breadboard is not applicable where a product is supposed to be the final product, in a high vibration area, or with high voltage objects.
3.2 Strip Board
The Vero board is also used to make permanent, soldered circuits and is ideal with one or two chips. In short terms, it’s a simple PCB with lots of copper dots and small holes available.
It is a modified form of the breadboard as it is a permanent prototype but with limited reuse.
- Base material; easy to cut into different sizes with simple tools like a junior jag saw as per your need.
- Can turn circuits inbuilt with it into functional projects quickly due to permanently soldered connections. Besides that, one can still remove a component and mount it in another one.
- Stripboard experts specifically designed them to make working with Dual In-Line or DIP ICs efficient.
- A simple strip layout with more than five holes makes it easy to build complex circuits since numerous connections are achievable.
- Copper tracts running in one direction across the board are isolated and sometimes cut to stop current prototyping flow.
- One full strip has had the copper removed.
4. Type of circuit boards and advantages.
It is the most basic type of circuit board. The name suggestively implies that it consists of only one conductive copper layer above the substrate. The electrical component then gets soldered onto one side of the board. See the etched circuit on the other side of the board—copper metal conductive paths.
- Easy to design, therefore an ideal choice for beginners.
- Easy to repair when faultiness arises.
- Comfortable in manufacturing due to less sophisticated circuitry.
- Cost-effective and can be easily accessible by a large group of people.
Suitable for low-density designs since the conducting paths cannot cross or overlap, thereby taking large space. Simple devices like calculators, power supplies, FM radios, timing circuits, etc. have this type of circuit board.
（Circuit board type-single panel picture）
Also known as Double-Sided plated thru or DSPT. It allows for closer routing traces by alternating between a top and bottom substrate layer. This is done by Using vias with copper metal in the middle. Holes drilled on the board connect circuits on both ends.
- Increased circuit density
- Relatively lower cost since it isn’t as complex
- Reduce board size contributing to the low cost and hence saves storage space.
- Intermediate level of circuit complexity for advanced learners
- More flexibility for designers.
Both old and new designs of DSPT are applicable, for instance, in UPS power systems, amplifiers, power supplies, converters, control relays, instrumentation, regulators, line reactors, printers, phone systems, etc.
（Double-sided welded board on white background）
It is a circuit board with at least three layers of conductive material buried in the material’s center. It is involved with a combination of single and double-sided boards.
First, you are required to laminate alternating layers of prepreg and core material together under high temperature and pressure to produce Multilayer PCBs. Then place a piece of insulation in between the boards to prevent damage by excessive heat. The process blocks out any possibility of trapping air between layers.
Further on, conductors get encapsulated by resin.
Finally, the forces holding the layers together are properly melted and cured.
The range of materials used degrees from basic epoxy glass to exotic ceramic or Teflon materials.
- Reduces the need for interconnection wiring harnesses as they work as a singular unit.
- They have a higher assembly density due to two PCBs, single- and double-sided PCBs.
- They are smaller than permit the single- and double-stranded PCBs, which is cost-effective for a buyer.
- Multilayer PCBs' flexibility is high in cases where mild bending and flexing may occur.
The weight and space mostly benefit the aerospace PCBs but other electronics, e.g., computers, cell phone transmission, GPS technology, handheld devices, test equipment, x-ray equipment, heart monitors, use multilayer PCB as well.
（PCB Type-Picture of Multilayer Circuit Board）
It’s a type of PCB that comes with an installed FR4 stiffener that intensifies the rigidity. It, therefore, can’t be twisted or folded into and shape.
It consists of copper trances (laminated by extra heat and adhesives) and Besides that, Integrated on a board to connect paths of different components. The substrate has a rigid substrate made of glass fiber, making the board firm. There’s a solder mask layer on top of the copper for increased insulation by reducing risks of damage should another conductor come in contact with the copper layer. The most outer outward layer is the silkscreen. The silkscreen has characters and symbols for good comprehension of the board.
- Less costly than flexible PCBs in terms of purchasing.
- Low electronic noise. The board layout is such that there's minimum current in between the layers. It leads to low radiation emissions that cannot pick electromagnetic waves, thereby reducing noise emissions.
- Easy to repair and maintain due to the design. Components in rigid PCBs are marked, making it easy to trace any nonappearances.
- It indicates a relatively small size, which is equivalent to a small space occupation and is an added advantage to smaller-sized electronic components.
- Components within the PCB have a solder flux spread on them on the board, denoting that it’ll stay in contact even in harsh conditions.
You can use it in toys, electronic gadgets, solid-state devices, and desktop devices such as the motherboard.
(A close-up on the use of a PCB In a motherboard)
Commonly known as flex circuits, flexible PCBs, flex print, or Flexi-circuits in different parts of the globe. They have a thin insulating polymer film with a pattern of conductive traces mounted onto the substrate. The flex PCB encompasses single-sided, double-sided, rigid, and multilayer flex.
Their main components are conductors; allowing a free flow of current, adhesives for surface mounting; insulators, separating electrical currents but don’t conduct and finish; to prevent the metal’s oxidation surface.
- Cost reduction in purchase and repair as they require less labor and reduced production time.
- It has the benefit of meeting multifaceted conformations.
- Fully automated production as there’s lessening of assembly error.
- It can endure unforgiving environments. For instance, thinner flex circuits allow for increased heat dissipation.
- Require a few parts and interconnections.
- Have a low weight and take up less space, i.e., smaller in size.
Flexible PCB applications are in electronics such as cameras, printers, cell phones, and medical equipment. Such as hearing aids, pacemakers, satellites, and GPS systems.
（Circuit board type-electronic flexible circuit board)
From the name, it’s a clear indication that this is a combination of rigid and flexible PCBs. Manufacturers make them by integrating elements from both sides. They can be folded or flexed with the firmness being intact in areas that need additional support. The circuits in this circuit board consist of an epoxy pre-preg bonding film.
- Increased circuit density
- Elaborate production. You can use it in complex equipment since the operation is reliable.
- It decreases necessary assembly operations by economizing the space available.
- Survive extreme conditions such as shock and vibration that can otherwise damage the components
It has reduced packaging weight due to a smaller size.
Are vastly suitable in the military, aerospace, medical industries, and commercial products.
Abbreviated, as MCPCB, is a type of circuit board that contains a base metal material. The base metal is vital in increasing the thermal conductivity of the PCB. Notably, the metalcore that dissipates heat from the components should be of a substantial thickness to stand the heat.
- It can survive extreme circumstances such as increased heat.
- The scale of the metal core is stable at high temperatures as opposed to the FR4 PCB.
- The metal expands with heat and contracts with cold. Hence Subsequently, this improves the durability of the component.
Devices using Light-Emitting Diodes (LEDs) and High-Power Light-Emitting Diodes (HP LEDs) emit a lot of heat that can destroy the components if not controlled. MCPCB is consequently used to redirect the heat generated.
Other equipment that applies this technology are; desktops, general lighting, automotive lighting, medical and industrial monitoring systems, to name the least, et cetera.
It’s a widely used PCB in applications involving particular signal transmission between objects.
They offer a frequency range of 500MHz-2GHz. The advanced transmission frequencies provide quicker signal flow rates.
- Dielectric loss (DF); the smaller the DF, the higher the transmission speed.
- Thermal expansion. High-frequency PCB designers place a versatile material that contracts in the cold and expands in hot temperatures while designing it.
- Water absorption; increase or retain in humidity in the circuit board’s internal interfaces acts on dielectric properties of insulation.
- Other resistance; the high-frequency PCBs are resistant to chemical corrosion, peeling, moisture, and high temperature.
Suitable in radio frequency, microwave, and mobile applications.
（High-frequency copper wire on the circuit board）
Aluminum backplane PCB
Aluminum is the most common type of metalcore used in PCBs. The base material has an aluminum core with the normal FR4.
In a similar fashion like any other PCB, it has layers of copper, solder mask, silkscreen layer over and fiberglass replaced with aluminum. It can be single or multi-sided.
- Low cost as there’s no addition of conductors into their design.
- Environmental protection. Aluminum is non-toxic and recyclable. Moreover, its manufacture conserves a lot of energy.
- Heat dissipation; essential in translating thermal energy away from the components. Hence Under such a circumstance, guaranteeing harmless surroundings is an easy task.
- Material durability. By maintaining an adequate level of heat in components, it ensures their long life. As a rule has it, the lower the temperatures, the longer the survivability of components. Aluminum in itself is alternatively more robust than materials such as ceramic or fiberglass.
They are in higher power dissipation applications similar to the MCPCB. LED will also apply, such as traffic lights and automotive lighting. Other applications are in motor controllers, high current circuits, power supplies, etc.
(An aluminum radiator prototype)
5. How should we choose an appropriate type of circuit board?
Factors you need to consider.
Selecting the right type of circuit board can be a challenging task for you. Should you settle for one, ensure it’s of high quality and critically meets your needs. The following can guide you into knowing the best offer you could choose.
- Materials used; this is dependent on your project. For instance, if you are to manufacture a microwave, you’ll be required to purchase a high-frequency PCB to sustain the heat. On the other hand, you'll need an FR4 stiffener to add strength to a rigid PCB.
- License; the manufacturer from which you get your PCB should have a permit from the respective industry—circuit boards from authorized personnel guarantee first-class products. By the same token, they provide better services to their customers.
- Expert experience; well-trained experts can act as your reference point when you get stuck on the way or generally want to know how to use the specific circuit board you’ve chosen. They also help solve challenging problems that may arise on the boards.
- PCB quality; as we’ve seen above, different materials are used to develop an advanced PCB form. Depending on which component you’ll use your PCB on, you should ensure the dimensions, materials such as the base material, solder resistant materials used are apt.
- Budget allowance; the cost should be friendly if you are to settle on something simple. If a circuit board has a higher price, the value should also be great. In addition to that, you should consider the cost of maintenance. Some PCBs are cheap, but unfortunately, repeated care will force you to dig deeper into your pocket. Choosing high quality can hence save you the nuisance of constant repair.
（Display a plurality of types of circuit boards）
To sum it all up, getting a well-reviewed circuit board for starting your project or gaining general knowledge on it is essential in the electronic world. Depending on what product you want to work on, I hope the guidelines have spelled out what you needed to learn in advance.
To even better your experience, you could reach out to us on any concern you may still be having. We will be glad to rewalk you through the journey of circuit boards.