Aluminum Base PCB – Printed circuit boards with aluminum as substrate material
Aluminum PCB is also called aluminum base PCB, aluminum substrate, or aluminum core PCB. As its name suggests, this is a metal circuit board made of aluminum as the substrate material, and it is also a type of insulated metal substrate (IMS PCB). It was first used in 1970 to make hybrid ICs for amplifier circuits, during a boom year for the electronics industry. These circuit boards consist of metal-based copper-clad laminates, which enhance their insulating and thermal conductivity properties.
The structural configuration of the aluminium PCB is similar to that of other circuit boards, with a silkscreen layer at the top for circuit creation, a solder mask layer beneath that, and copper layers on the substrate. The core of the board can consist of a mixture of fiberglass and aluminum or other completely metallic substances. With excellent heat dissipation performance, aluminum PCBs have thermal conductivity typically ranging from 1W/mK to 9W/mK, making them ideal for use in light-emitting diodes with power conversion circuits. In the lighting industry, the aluminum base LED PCB can absorb the heat emitted by light emission, which improves the durability of electronic equipment while saving circuit components.
Aluminum Base PCB Manufacturer-FS Technology
FS Technology is China’s leading turnkey aluminum PCBA service provider, which means that we can help you realize every link in PCB manufacturing and PCB assembly. With over 10 years of experience, we have mastered the skills and technology necessary for producing high-quality aluminum circuit boards at a lower cost. As an established manufacturer, we have gained a huge clientele, with most of our clients coming from the lighting industry. For several of their specific requests, many of the boards produced are single-side aluminum PCBs. Of course, FS Technology provides personalized customization services, such as rigid, flexible, through-hole and double-sided aluminum PCB, etc. The following are some of the samples that we produce:
|Quality Grade||IPC PCB Standards: 2|
|Order Quantity||MOQ = 0: Accept Prototype, Low Volume, Medium Volume & High Volume Aluminum PCB Fabrication|
|Lead Time||2 days – 5 weeks (according to the number of layers and order quantity)|
|Number of layers||1-6 layers|
|PCB size||Min 6×6 mm | Max 610×1200 mm|
|Board Thickness||0.8 mm – 5.0 mm|
|Copper Weight||0.5 oz – 10.0 oz|
|HASL, Lead Free HASL, ENIG, OSP, etc.|
|Min Annular Ring||4mil|
|Minimum Drilling Hole Diameter||6mil|
Key to Manufacturing High Quality Aluminum PCB
Dedicated outer layer solder mask equipment
After extensive experience serving the lighting industry, we discovered that the production panel for circuit boards used in LED products is much longer than that used in traditional PCBs. This renders the traditional manufacturing process unsuitable for the production of aluminum substrates. The conventional method of printing half an image and manually aligning it with the second half is not suitable for high-speed production.
To meet the demands of high-speed production, FS Technologies utilizes UV light imaging equipment or equipment capable of screen printing images in one pass and subsequently curing them using a UV oven. This enables us to achieve precise registration and cost-effective manufacturing of these aluminum PCB boards for LED.
Automatic V-cut equipment
A V-cut device is a tool used in the fabrication of printed circuit boards that creates V-grooves or V-cuts along the surface of the board. These V-grooves are made using a rotating circular blade that partially cuts into the board material, leaving a shallow trench. The V-grooves serve as pre-cut lines, making it easier to separate individual aluminum backed PCB from a larger production panel.
However, traditional V-cut equipment is manually operated, which is suitable for traditional FR-4 PCBs, but not for high-volume aluminum PCB manufacturing. This may result in missing V-notches on the panel, which can cause at least a 10% damage rate.
Drawing on years of manufacturing experience, FS Technology designs the most cost-effective sub-board array for our customers. To avoid various possible failures, we use automated v-cut equipment for high-volume aluminum substrate.
Large PCB Punch Press
Printed circuit boards are available in various shapes and sizes, and if you require aluminum clad PCB with unique features like slots, large holes, cutouts, or circular shapes, traditional mechanical routing may not be the best option as it can be very costly. To ensure cost-effectiveness and production efficiency, it’s advisable to partner with manufacturers like FS Technology that have access to punching machines larger than 40 tons.
FS Technology can manufacture complex and irregular PCB for customers by utilizing our large PCB punching machines. This technology allows us to produce high-quality PCBs quickly and accurately, significantly reducing waste and overall costs. Therefore, if you need customized aluminum PCBs with unique features, partnering with a reliable manufacturer with large punching machines like FS Technology can provide an efficient and cost-effective solution.
In-Line Hi-Pot Test
Most of our customers have a common requirement for their aluminum PCB sheet – they want to ensure that the product has undergone a hi-pot test. While it is not difficult to perform this test, most factories typically conduct the test separately and it is not part of the electrical testing process. At FS Technology, however, we include hi-pot testing as part of our electrical test setup, which results in significant cost savings for our customers.
Buy Aluminum PCB or Others
Various types of circuit boards are used in electronic applications, but how do we choose the right one? Is it advisable to purchase an aluminum PCB, or are there better options available? Look no further! FS Technology provides valuable insights on the features of aluminium clad PCB, their application fields, and how they compare to other types of boards.
Features of aluminum substrate PCB
- Cost-Effective: Aluminium is cheaper compared to other metal materials, and this makes them a good option for cost-effective manufacturing;
- Good Insulation and Mechanical Strength: Aluminum PCB board has excellent insulation properties and mechanical strength, which makes them a suitable choice for various applications;
- High Thermal Conductivity: Its thermal conductivity is about 1W/mK-9W/mK, which is much higher than that of traditional circuit boards;
- Low Weight: It is a combination of low weight and high strength, aluminum is lighter in metal materials, and it is more reliable than other materials;
- Heat dissipation ability: As a type of metal PCB, the aluminum core board has superior heat dissipation performance, which makes it continue to work at a temperature of about 150 °C without failure, and can prolong the service life of electronic equipment. In addition, its shrinkage rate is only about 3% under high-temperature conditions;
- Suitable for assembly: At FS Technology, the necessary components are assembled onto the aluminum plate using SMT assembly, DIP assembly, or mixed assembly methods, making it an ideal choice for low-power SMT equipment.
- Difficult to Fabricate: If your project requires multilayer PCB, it may be disadvantageous to choose aluminum as a substrate material, because they are not easy to manufacture and process;
- Corrosion: Aluminum is vulnerable to corrosion caused by halide ions such as chloride ions. This can lead to damage to the PCB and the components on it;
- Limited Applications: For high-frequency applications and high-speed circuits, FS technology is not recommended to use it. For these applications, more people choose to use Rogers materials;
Application of Aluminium Core PCB
The most common application of aluminum PCB is in LED lighting, which is also the product that FS Technology serves the most. LED lights generate a significant amount of heat when they are operating, and a thin layer of thermally conductive aluminum is used as a heat sink beneath the electronic components to keep the LED lights cool. These types of PCBs are commonly used in various applications that require high-power LEDs, such as automotive lighting, street lighting, and other industrial applications.
Apart from their use in basic LED lighting, aluminum core PCBs can also be employed in electronic devices such as engine management systems, infotainment systems, power supplies, and automotive sensors. High levels of vibration, shock, and other environmental stresses pose a significant threat to the components in automotive applications, whether driving on flat or bumpy roads. In addition to the stronger mechanical strength of aluminium, the use of SMT technology to install components on the board further adds to its resilience against such stressors.
Power Transmission System
An electricity transmission system is a network of electrical components used to transmit and distribute electricity from generating plants to consumers. The system includes high-voltage power lines, transformers, switches, and other components used to regulate and control the flow of electricity through the grid. In this system, the aluminum-backed PCB plays an important role, both to bear the various stresses (high temperature, high voltage and high current) received by the construction of the power transmission system that transmits power over long distances and to make the process more efficient and reliable.
- Medical PCB: X-ray Machines, CT Scanners, Heartbeat Sensors and MRI Machines;
- Industrial PCB: Battery Charging, Motor Controllers, Automation Systems and Control Panels;
- Aviation Circuit: Radar, Navigation and Communication Systems;
- Security System: Detectors, Image Processors;
- Power Converters: AC to DC and DC to AC converters.
- High-frequency Modulators: Oscillators, Amplifier Circuits, Antennas, Transmitters and Satellite Communications, etc.
Comparison with other PCBs
Aluminum vs FR4
- Material: Aluminum PCB have a metal core made of aluminum, whereas FR4 PCB have a core made of fiberglass-reinforced epoxy resin;
- Thermal Management: Whether in terms of thermal conductivity or heat dissipation, aluminum substrates are superior. This makes them more suitable for high-power applications;
- Cost: Aluminum is more expensive and not the best choice if you are more cost-conscious;
- Insulation Properties: FR4 have better insulation properties than aluminum, which makes them more suitable for low-power applications where insulation is critical;
- Mechanical Strength: Aluminum is stronger and more durable than conventional FR4, which makes them more suitable for applications where the PCB may be subject to mechanical stress or vibration;
- Applications: Aluminium PCB are commonly used in high-power LED lighting, power transmission systems, and high-power electronics. FR4 PCBs are more commonly used in low-power applications such as computers, phones, and other consumer electronics;
- Manufacturability: This kind of board is not easy to manufacture. Unless it is a factory with professional equipment like FS Technology, it may increase the cost due to manufacturing failures. However, PCBs using FR-4 as the substrate material do not have this problem, and customers can create more layers according to application needs.
Aluminum vs Ceramic
- Thermal Expansion: While both have excellent thermal conductivity and heat dissipation capabilities and are used in applications that generate a lot of heat, Ceramic PCB has a better value for the coefficient of thermal expansion.
- Price: Ceramic PCBs are much more expensive to manufacture, so the electronics used to use it are more expensive and bulkier.
- Internal Structure: The structure of a ceramic circuit is similar to a sandwich cake, ceramic layer, copper layer, ceramic layer. Aluminium PCBs use copper dielectrics and aluminum substrates. The essential difference in structure is that there is no dielectric layer in the ceramic PCB.
- Mechanical Strength: Aluminum substrates are stronger and more durable than ceramic substrates.
- Manufacturing Difficulty: Manufacturing ceramic PCBs requires more sophisticated equipment and professional instruments.
Aluminum vs Copper
- Copper PCBs are more expensive than aluminum PCBs under the same circumstances;
- Metal PCBs have good thermal and electrical conductivity, but copper is stronger than aluminum in this regard and can pass more current, so it is often used in high-power applications;
- While larger layers of printed circuit boards copper are used, aluminum is preferred for its small size and lower weight of boards;
- The resistance offered by copper is less used for circuits where a less resistive nature is required than aluminum base PCB;
- In the case of metal core boards, there is a metallic core used with copper layers while aluminum PCBs have a solder mask that does not lie in the metal core board.
Manufacturing Aluminum PCB
After learning about the advantages and applications of aluminum-based PCBs, you may already be considering using them for your project. To help you maximize their performance, FS Technology is here to provide additional instructions and support.
Types of Aluminum PCBs
Standard Aluminum PCB
The standard aluminum PCB, also known as an aluminum clad PCB, is a printed circuit board based on a thin layer of thermally conductive aluminum. Standard aluminum PCBs are more cost-effective compared to others, and they are widely used in various industries, such as LED lighting, power supplies, and automotive systems. Typically, a standard baseplate thickness has a thickness of 0.8-3.0 mm and a thermal conductivity of 1.0-3.0W/mK.
Copper-Clad Aluminum PCB
Copper-clad aluminum (CCA) PCBs are a type of aluminum PCB that have a layer of copper on top of an aluminum substrate. This type of PCB combines the thermal performance of aluminum with the electrical performance of copper, making it a good choice for high-power applications where heat dissipation is important. CCA PCBs are typically less expensive than traditional copper PCBs and offer better thermal conductivity than FR4 PCBs. However, they can be more difficult to fabricate and may require special processing techniques due to the dissimilar materials used.
Hybrid Aluminum PCB
Hybrid Aluminum PCBs, also known as mixed base metal PCBs, combine the thermal conductivity of aluminum with the electrical conductivity of copper. They have a copper layer laminated to the aluminum substrate, which provides a low thermal resistance path for heat dissipation while also allowing for easy electrical connections. These boards are for applications where radio frequency is used such as in communication systems and telecom devices. It also has good thermal operation for standards PCBs. They offer the best of both worlds, providing efficient heat dissipation and excellent electrical performance in a single PCB.
High Frequency Aluminum PCB
High Frequency Aluminum PCBs are a specialized type of aluminum PCB that is designed to work in high-frequency applications. They have a specific type of substrate material that is optimized for high-frequency circuits, typically made of a composite material such as PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene) or ceramic-filled PTFE. This substrate material has a low dielectric constant, which enables it to maintain a stable and consistent impedance over a wide frequency range.
Generally, high frequency PCB is more expensive due to their use in applications such as radar systems, satellite communications, and high-speed digital circuits. The high thermal conductivity of aluminum makes it an ideal material for heat dissipation in high-power applications, which is important for maintaining the reliability and longevity of high-frequency circuits. If your project requires it, FS Technology can manufacture high-frequency aluminum core PCBs at a lower cost.
Heavy copper aluminum PCB
Heavy copper aluminum PCBs refer to aluminum circuit boards that have thicker copper layers than standard PCBs. The copper layers on these boards can range from 3 ounces to 10 ounces or more, providing increased current-carrying capacity and improved thermal management.
These heavy copper aluminum PCBs are typically used in high-power applications that generate significant amounts of heat, such as power electronics, industrial control systems, and automotive applications. They are also used in applications where the board needs to withstand high mechanical stresses, such as in aerospace and military systems.
Heavy copper aluminum PCBs offer several benefits over traditional PCBs, including improved thermal performance, increased current-carrying capacity, and better mechanical strength. However, they are also more expensive to produce due to the higher cost of materials and manufacturing processes.
Structure of Aluminum PCB
The copper layer is used to spread the signal over the complete board. When current is passing in the circuit, the heat generated moves to the aluminum substrate and has a high value of dissipation factors that saves the components of the circuit from the heating effect.
Below the copper layers, there is insulating material called a dielectric layer. This material is non-conductive in nature and is used to get the heat generated into the copper layers and transit to an aluminum substrate that dissipates the heat.
The substrate is known as the base layer below the insulation layers. It can be aluminum or copper as well but the functions of this layer depend on the features of the substrate. Aluminum substrate helps to use boards in circuits where thermal dissipation is needed as it can enhance the operation life of boards since it saves components from heat.
Aluminum PCB Manufacturing Process
The copper materials used in the first step for copper creation (etching) are thick and the copper used must have dimensions of about three ounces or less. The tracing width must be under consideration for the limited size of the products designed to make the fine board.
After the copper etching, a solder mask is printed and applied to the surface of the board. There must be some precision made to perform accurate solder mask applications and the copper size must be correct according to the design, otherwise, soldering mask printing becomes difficult.
Mechanical Structure Creation
Three different processes of drilling, moulding and V scoring are done in this step. This process must be done precisely as errors could cause a reduction in the electrical strength of the board. For this purpose, high-precision & high-quality electrical drilling must be used.
Insulation material is often applied on the aluminum base PCB which reduces the heat movement to the other components of the board. The substrate material is present at the end of the aluminum plate.
Many details about aluminum printed circuit boards have been explained in this article and in short, an aluminum PCB basically consists of an aluminum substrate with copper insulation and solder mask layers. It is most commonly used for lightweight applications and circuits where high thermal management is needed. As a result, this PCB type is commonly used in the lighting industry and may be referred to as LED PCBs. In general, aluminium based PCB offers less weight and excellent conductivity with reasonable price features. It can be designed in a single double layer but can not be for multiple layers. These boards are also often used in medical aviation and space instrument applications.
FS Technology can not only provide you with professional knowledge but can additionally assist in aluminum PCB prototyping and manufacturing. In addition, we offer the capability to manufacturer aluminum PCBs in large quantities. If you need more services, choosing FS Technology will be the right choice for you. Our turnkey PCBA service starts from the moment you place an order.