The difference between single and multi-layered PCBs is more than obvious. One of those simply has more layers than the other. But is that all there is to it? Of course not. Single-layered PCBs are a base for simpler electronic devices, while you can find multi-layered ones in more complex devices that feature a bigger number of connections.
That’s not all. Multi-layered PCBs can technically have as many layers as you want. The biggest one so far contains 129 layers. Now, not everyone needs a PCB that thick, so let’s stick with why you should give a 4-layer PCB a try. We’ll go over what these four layers actually mean, the pros and cons, when to choose these printed circuit boards, and what makes them better than the rest.
What Are 4-Layer PCBs?
Yes, the name means that this particular printed circuit board consists of four layers. However, it’s not all that simple. These layers are there to rout electrical signals, which means that there are a top and a bottom layer, as well as two inner layers.
The outer layers (i.e., the top and bottom layer) receive all of the components and routing you’re planning to include. On the other hand, inner layers can be found at the very core, and they help route signals, as well as act as power planes. The reason why this layout works so well is that it makes it much simpler to connect the components, send quality signals, and reduce EMI emissions. Plus, it’s a matter of electromagnetic compatibility, which, in this case, is outstanding.
There are several ways in which you can stack your layers when it comes to this type of PCBs. Stacking them will depend only on what you want to achieve with your board.
So, from this, we can gather that 4-layer printed circuit boards are ideal if your next project requires a sturdy starting point. You won’t go far if you apply the wrong PCB, so always keep multi-layered ones in mind. Again, they can come in more or fewer layers than four. However, we’re sure you’ll find that four is just enough to satisfy all of your needs.
Still, PCBs with a lot of layers can be vastly different from one another, so let’s take a look at what sets them apart.
The Difference Between 2 and 4 Layers
The reason why we’re comparing 2- and 4-layer boards is because PCBs with two layers are the most common. That’s because they allow for connections on both sides, similarly to the rest of multi-layered PCBs.
The difference between stackups is more than obvious. With 2-layer circuit boards, what you see is what you get — there are the top layer and bottom layer, and that’s about all there is to it. Having both inner and outer pairs of layers makes them more intricate.
When it comes to board design, 2-layer PCBs definitely offer a lot more conductor pattern space than single-layer PCBs do. Still, even that space is small when we compare it to the 4-layer boards.
We can see the same superiority of 4-layer circuit boards regarding cost and functionality. One could argue that 2-layer boards are more functional, but the difference is barely noticeable. That’s why it’s safe to say that they’re both fit to do their job correctly. Cost-wise, it should come as no surprise that 4-layer boards cost more to produce. These boards have high sensitivity, as well as more complex designs.
These differences were probably obvious from the start, but comparing them like this puts everything into a different perspective. You won’t make that big of a mistake if you have to settle for less due to financial reasons. However, consider investing in a superior product that will yield better results.
Pros and Cons
So, now you have a 4-layer PCB, and let’s assume you went for the standard stackup version. There’s no need to customize it since the version you have can offer you quite a lot.
The first thing you’ll get with this PCB stackup is correct power distribution. Not only that, but it’s also greatly improved and even simpler than it was before. There’s no need for power traces anywhere on the board because of the inner layers. So, that means there’s a lot more space for other things on the board, like signal traces. Since VCC and GND are the inner layers, you can just drill to find them whenever you need them.
We’re still not done with the pros. Many of this board’s benefits are in its design that allows you to have more board space for whatever your heart desires. Plus, you’ll be saving a lot of time on the design itself.
Don’t things sound a little too good to be true? Let’s mention the cons.
These boards are small and complex, which means you’re looking at longer production times. Add higher cost to that, and you have yourself some minor cons. Being complex as they are, fixing and quality-controlling the prototypes could prove somewhat challenging. That shouldn’t come as a surprise, though. 4-layer PCB boards aren’t simple, so why should managing them be any different?
When to Choose Them?
If your next project has anything to do with complex devices such as computers, mobile phones, or, say, heart monitors, multi-layer PCBs are the right choice for you. More layers allow for more complex applications, so the world is your oyster in this case.
Some of the things that multi-layer PCBs offer are small size, lightweight-ness, more durability, and flexibility. They’re more powerful and high quality than the rest. However, let’s talk about what makes 4-layer circuit boards so special.
You should choose 4-layer printed circuit boards if:
- You’re looking for a powerful PCB that has smaller dimensions. No matter how many layers you’re looking for, these boards will come as small as you want them.
- You need higher functionality than the single-layer boards can offer. The more complex your project, the better. These boards will have your back and deliver high performance.
- You’re on the lookout for a PCB that will last you a long time. These boards aren’t always as cheap as we imagine, so having high durability is definitely a must.
- You have deep pockets. You’ll need quite the budget for this, but investing in a quality product is never a bad idea.
- You have time to wait for production. The complexity of 4-layer boards means they require more production time than their 2-layer counterparts, for example.
Those are all the things you should take into consideration before settling for multi-layer PCBs.
Having a complex project warrants the investing you will have to make with 4-layer PCBs. However, we’ve established that the pros outweigh the cons by a long shot. It seems that there’s not much to lose by letting these boards be the base of whatever electronic device you need to breathe life into.
Multi-layer boards are by far superior to single-layer ones. They’re more functional, perform better, are more durable, etc. Still, their complexity means they will definitely cost more and will take a while to finish producing. Knowing all that, we still believe you should give them a try. They’re bound to outperform everything you’ve seen before.
These PCBs can come in as many layers as you want them to, but 4-layer ones are simply the perfect fit for almost any project. Obtaining a prototype and giving them a try is something we would definitely recommend.
It seems as though they’re not that much different from the 2-layer PCBs, which are the most common in advanced electronic devices. However, once you take a deeper look at it, you’ll realize that there’s so much more than meets the eye. The bottom line, they’re beyond worth investing in and will be exactly what you’ve been looking for.
So, if you’re on the lookout for a supreme product, look no further. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions or doubts, and our team will be more than happy to assist you.