PCB 101: Types of Printed Circuit Boards

types of printed circuit boards

To make the absolute best decision when ordering your PCBs, you should first be in tune with all the different types of printed circuit boards that exist.

Today, we’re going to do a deep dive into the world of PCBs. Hopefully, we can help you understand their differences, and show you which ones would work for you and your business.

What Is a Printed Circuit Board?

Put simply, a printed circuit board (PCB) is an item that’s used as the base in most electronic devices nowadays. You can find PCBs in radios, computers, cellphones, TVs, and cameras to name a few. They’re what allows countless signals, as well as power, to be routed between all these different devices.

Way back when, PCBs always had one layer, but manufacturing and technology have come a long way since. Nowadays, to support the needs of different devices, there are 8 types of printed circuit boards, all of which serve a specific purpose.

Types of Printed Circuit Boards

1. Single-Sided (Single-Layer) PCBs

As the name implies, single-sided PCBs are made out of a single layer of substrate or material, and they’re the simplest type. Since they’re so easy to design and manufacture, they’re also the most widespread.

One end of the single-sided PCBs is coated with a thin layer of metal (usually copper), and on top of that, there’s a protective solder mask. Then, as the last step over the mask, there’s a silk-screen that marks all the elements on the boards.

Due to the fact that single-sided PCBs are pretty easy to make, they’re also the cheapest out of all the types of printed circuit boards. You’ll most often find these in calculators, stereo and radio equipment, cameras, printers, power supplies, and solid-state drives.

2. Double-Sided (Double-Layer) PCBs

Working our way up from the single layer, next we have double-sided PCBs, which have a metal coating on both sides. Again, the coating is usually copper because it’s such an excellent conductor.

There are also two holes in the double-sided PCBs, which allow a connection on both sides of the circuits. That connection happens in one of two ways, either with a surface mount or a through-hole.

In a through-hole, there are these small wires that go (obviously) through the holes, connecting to their corresponding component. On the other hand, in a surface mount, we’d use the board itself as a wiring surface.

Even though double-sided PCBs aren’t quite as popular as single-sided ones, they still have a ton of applications. You can find them in LED lighting, HVAC systems, vending machines, and amplifiers.

3. Multi-Sided (Multi-Layer) PCBs

In multi-sided PCBs, there’s essentially a series of three or more double-sided PCBs, which, of course, makes them pretty complex.

To secure all those layers, we usually use specialized glue and put insulation between the boards. Not only does that keep the layers in place, but it also helps get rid of any excess heat that could potentially melt the boards.

Most often, multi-sided PCBs have between 4 and 12 layers, but the largest one ever had a whopping 50 layers. You’ll find these in GPS technology, data storage, file servers, medical equipment, as well as satellite systems.

Related Product: https://www.mktpcb.com/pcb-fab/multilayer-pcb/

4. Rigid PCBs

The first thing you should know about rigid PCBs is that they can be single-sided, double-sided, and multi-sided. So essentially, they have the same applications as those three types of printed circuit boards. However, the most common example of a rigid PCB is a computer motherboard.

The reason they’re called rigid is that they’re made of a solid substrate material that prevents them from bending. Also, they’re extremely widespread, and you’ll find them in countless different devices because they allow for communication between all the parts of a computer.

5. Flexible (Flex) PCBs

As you can probably guess from the name, flexible PCBs are pretty much the complete opposite of rigid ones. They consist of materials that can bend, which allows for more movement. However, considering that flexible materials are more difficult to manufacture, flex PCBs tend to be more expensive.

With that said, they do still have a ton of applications because they can be waterproof, shockproof, and corrosion-resistant. Flexible PCBs are the ideal solution for when a circuit board has to conform to a shape of a device. That is why they are often used in military industry, as well as in medical and transportation devices.

Flexible PCBs have one thing in common with their rigid counterparts, and that’s that they can have various formats. So they can be single, double, and multi-sided.

6. Rigid-Flexible PCBs

Rigid-flexible PCBs are sort of the best of both worlds, and they have tons of advantages over using just rigid or just flexible. But most importantly, their unique structure allows for a more streamlined design. In turn, rigid-flexible PCBs reduce the size of the board, as well as package weight.

That is incredibly important, especially for devices and products where size and weight are crucial, like cameras, cellphones, pacemakers, and cars.

7. High-Frequency PCBs

High-frequency refers to a design element of PCBs, and not their construction. They’re circuit boards that can transmit signals that are bigger than one gigahertz.

High-frequency PCBs play a huge role in frequency critical applications. That’s why you can find them in microwaves, and various communication systems.

Related Product: https://www.mktpcb.com/pcb-fab/high-frequency-pcb/

8. Aluminum-Backed PCBs

Aluminum-backed PCBs have a pretty similar structure as the ones with copper backing. But instead of traditional plexiglass, we’d (obviously) use aluminum to make these.

Now, aluminum-backed PCBs are pretty complex and have various areas of use. If you want to learn more about them, you can check out our guide. There, you can read more about their classifications and applications in everyday life.

Related Product: https://www.mktpcb.com/pcb-fab/aluminum-pcb/

To Sum Up

As you can see, PCBs have countless real-life applications, and choosing the right one can make or break a product. So before you select one, you have to understand all the subtle differences, and do proper, in-depth research to find your perfect match.

But if you’re struggling, and don’t know which way is up anymore, please don’t hesitate to give us a call at MKTPCB. We can guide you through the PCB selection process, and help you understand which types of printed circuit boards would be ideal for your company. Not only that, but we can also design and manufacture as many PCBs as you want, and take your business to the next level.

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