Engineer’s Guide to Metal Core PCBs

Metal Core PCB

MCPCBs (metal core printed circuit boards) are special types of PCBs that are formulated from various metals, with that type of metal used varying depending on the application of its utility. Many modern-day applications utilize aluminum printed circuit boards, making them the most popular type of MCPCB. They are equipped with copper-clad and metal-based laminate. These circuit boards’ construction makes them optimal both in terms of thermal conductivity, as well as electrical insulation. Beyond that, it yields a PCB that delivers high performance.

In this post, we are going to detail all of the important aspects you need to know about aluminum PCBs, how they are manufactured, and what purposes they are utilized for. Let’s get started!

Aluminum Printed Circuit Boards

Featuring an aluminum core and standard FR4 laminate, the aluminum PCB is among the most commonly used types of circuit board due to its ability to dissipate heat for electronics, aided by a feature thermal clad layer. Due to their effective heat dissipation prowess, these printed circuit board types are ideal for high-powered applications that involve tight tolerances.

The Aluminum Circuit Board Layers

Unlike other PCBs, aluminum boards are designed and produced differently, mainly in that they feature three distinct layers.

  • Circuit Layer: This layer consists of copper foils that can weigh anywhere between one and ten ounces.
  • Thermal Insulation Layer: This layer is made up of ceramic polymer which has viscoelastic properties and is capable of great thermal resistance. This essential layer is arguably the most important as it serves to protect the PCB against thermal and mechanical stresses.
  • Base Layer: This layer is formulated from an aluminum alloy substrate. Due to the presence of aluminum, these PCBs can be effectively utilized for through-hole technology.

Manufacturing Of An Aluminum PCB

In between the base and circuit layer of an aluminum PCB, a thin layer of dielectric, which is both thermally conductive and electrically insulated, is added. Then the copper foil is etched for the addition of the circuit layer, which allows the achievement of the required pattern. The thin dielectric on the PCB’s metal base helps to mitigate the heat that the circuit will generate.

How Are Application PCBs Applied?

Aluminum printed circuit boards can be found across a vast spectrum of applications including:

  • Power Transmission Systems
  • Interior Lighting
  • Surgical Lighting Equipment
  • Signal Beacons
  • Light Assemblies
  • Dashboard Lighting
  • Scanners
  • Landscape Lighting Equipment
  • Power Converters
  • Medical Operating Theatre Lighting

Now that we have addressed the basics of aluminum PCBs and how commonly they are used, let’s dive into different aluminum PCB types, as well as the benefits that come with their usage.

Different Types Of Aluminum PCBs

As we noted earlier, there is more than one type of aluminum circuit board, and the decision as to which type is used depends almost entirely on the application it is intended to be used for. Primarily there are three different aluminum PCB types. These include:

  • Through-hole Aluminum PCBs: The aluminum for these circuit boards is pre-drilled, with the dielectric used to back-fill the holes afterward.
  • Flexible Aluminum PCBs: These use flexible dielectrics that provide excellent electrical insulation and thermal conductivity while yielding a high degree of flexibility. The fusion of aluminum and dielectrics forms a very flexible product, allowing it to be molded into various shapes that save the cost of purchasing expensive PCB fixtures and connectors.
  • Hybrid Aluminum PCBs: These types of PCBs are among the most efficient in terms of thermal performance, and are generally used in standard FR4 products and RF applications.

Why Is Using Aluminum PCBs So Popular?

The reason so many applications make use of aluminum PCBs is due to their numerous benefits which include:

  • Durability: As a highly durable metal, bases formulated from aluminum reduce the risk of accidental damage during the manufacturing process, handling, and typical usage of the board, providing a more longer utility life than ceramic or fiberglass bases.
  • Lightweight: As an extremely lightweight metal, aluminum offers PCBs a particularly significant advantage allowing them to be stronger and more resilient.
  • Heat Dissipation: Because circuit board components can sustain damage due to exposure to very high temperatures, material that can dissipate the incoming heat is needed. In this regard, aluminum’s ability to dissipate the generated heat away from the board’s pivotal components greatly aids in protecting them from incurring heat-induced damage.
  • Economical: Aluminum is plentiful which makes it easy to acquire (by contrast with other suitable metals), mine, and refine. All these factors contribute to lower costs for PCB manufacturers.
  • Environmentally Friendly: The ease of aluminum PCB assembly does not require a lot of energy, allowing for energy conservation. Aluminum is non-toxic, as well as recyclable, which makes it safe for the environment and the planet.

 Metal Core PCB Conclusion

This post outlined the various types of aluminum and metal core PCB types and the benefits of using them for various applications. Of course, many of those aspects are moot if these are not acquired from a trusted, reputable, and experienced supplier or manufacturer. Luckily, there are several expert players on the market who have a long-established track record of delivering high-quality aluminum printed circuit boards that suit the needs of application for their clients.

Vinatronic‘s expert staff has extensive knowledge of aluminum clad PCBs as well as other metal core circuit boards. If you have an idea or design, we’d be happy to assist in turning that dream into a reality. Explore our website for our offerings.

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