Ceramic Substrate: The Best Choice for High-Frequency Applications
Ceramic PCBs, also referred to as ceramic-based PCBs, are printed circuit boards that use ceramic as their substrate material and undergo processing through a series of special procedures. In contrast to the conventional substrate material FR4, ceramic printed circuit boards exhibit superior high-temperature resistance, wear resistance, and stability. This makes them ideal for high-frequency, high-power, and high-reliability applications such as radar systems, antennas, and power amplifiers.
Currently, manufacturers can fabricate ceramic PCBs through a variety of distinct technologies, including laser-assisted metallurgy (LAM) technology, pressure-sensitive thermal curing printing (PTP) technology, pressure-sensitive co-firing technology (LTCC), and high-temperature co-firing technology (HTCC), amongst others. These technologies have diverse application scenarios and provide higher manufacturability.
Ceramic substrates are typically made of aluminum nitride, beryllium oxide and other conductive substances. The strong connection between the substrates and the copper board enables it to operate in conditions where other boards cannot. FS Technology, one of the top-quality ceramic PCB manufacturers in China, will showcase our manufacturing capabilities and provide manufacturing-related knowledge related to ceramic PCBs in this article.
Ceramic PCB Manufacturing Capabilities
No Waiting Necessary: Although FS Technology does not offer an online quotation service, we will promptly contact you upon receipt of your email to understand your requirements and provide expert assistance.
Quick Turnaround: Our standard just-in-time delivery service offers a fast turnaround, reducing prototype and low-volume orders from weeks to days.
Turnkey Service: While we do allow individual ceramic PCB fabrication, we are well-known for our turnkey PCBA services.
Secure: Your information is securely stored on our server with a secure SSL connection, and all credit card payments are processed by Stripe or Paypal.
Optional Projects: These may include fabrication, PCBA, prototype production, small batch production, and high batch production.
Substrate Materials: These may include, but are not limited to, alumina, aluminum nitride, silicon nitride, zirconia, silicate, and silicon carbide.
Detection Methods: These may include, but are not limited to, AOI, X-RAY, ICT, 3D scanning, and Joule heat testing.
Process Support: This may include, but is not limited to, support for circuit board interlayer bonding technology, metallization technology, and multilayer ceramic PCB connection technology.
Quality Control: This is ensured through skilled technology, standardized processes, advanced equipment, and quality management practices.
Ceramic PCB Board Sample Display
Manufacturing Technology of Ceramic Multilayer PCB
FS Technology is a leading ceramic PCB manufacturer, offering a wide range of cutting-edge manufacturing technologies. Our expertise includes HTCC, LTCC, and Thick Film, making us the ideal choice for your ceramic circuit board needs.
Thick Film Ceramic PCB
Thick film ceramic PCBs are produced by printing a thick layer of conductive ink on a ceramic substrate using a screen printing process and then baking it at a temperature below 1000 °C. The substrate is typically made of alumina or aluminum nitride, while the conductive ink is composed of metal and glass powders.
This technology has become popular among electronics manufacturers due to its ability to meet mass PCB manufacturing needs, although its use may be limited by the high cost of gold and its potential to hinder solder paste settling.
The manufacturing process of thick film ceramic circuit boards includes substrate preparation, printing, drying, firing, and metallization. The thick film layers are printed onto ceramic substrates using a screen printing process and then fired at high temperatures to create a dense and durable conductive layer. After firing, metallization is applied to the conductive layers to create necessary electrical connections. It is essential to bake these types of circuit boards in nitrogen to avoid copper oxidation and circuit board failure. Furthermore, dielectric pastes are produced in nitrogen to create complex multilayer interconnect structures.
Low-Temperature Co-fired Ceramic (LTCC) PCB
Low-temperature co-fired ceramic (LTCC) PCBs are ceramic substrates that are produced by assembling multiple single-layer ceramic/glass/organic (green) sheets, which are then perforated to form vias and screen printed with conductive, dielectric, and resistive pastes to create circuit elements. These layers are subsequently trimmed and fired at high temperatures to form a robust substrate with exceptional dielectric properties, a low coefficient of thermal expansion, and excellent thermal conductivity. Active and surface mount devices can then be mounted on top of the emitter stack to complete the multilayer electronic circuit.
LTCC PCBs are well-suited for extreme environmental conditions and are particularly useful in applications requiring high functional density and exceptional reliability. They are frequently employed in telecommunications, defense, and other fields. Many technology companies prefer LTCC substrates due to their high density, high reliability, and high-speed circuit board characteristics. For instance, in the United States, the Don Company utilized an 8-layer low-temperature co-fired multilayer substrate in the test circuit of the Stinger missile. Fujitsu in Japan employs 61-layer low-temperature co-fired ceramic substrates to manufacture multi-chip modules for VP2000 series supercomputers, whereas NEC produces 78-layer low-temperature co-fired multilayer substrates with an area of 225*225 mm2, featuring 11540 I/O terminals and capabilities of accommodating up to 100 VLSI chips.
High-Temperature Co-fired Ceramic (HTCC) PCB
High-temperature co-fired ceramic (HTCC) substrates are aluminum oxide cast ceramics that contain tungsten, molybdenum, and molybdenum/manganese. These materials make up a metal-heating resistor paste that has a high melting point, which is then printed onto 92-96% alumina green bodies, followed by the lamination of 4-8% sintering aids in multiple layers. They are then co-fired at temperatures of 1500-1600°C, resulting in excellent properties such as high-temperature resistance, corrosion resistance, long lifespan, energy efficiency, uniform temperature distribution, and high thermal conductivity.
The production process of HTCC ceramic substrates is relatively complex and involves several stages such as powder preparation, casting, slicing, punching, electrode printing, lamination, isostatic pressing, cutting, sintering, and plating.
HTCC base PCBs are suitable for use in a variety of applications such as ceramic heaters, infrared physiotherapy instruments, high-power micro-assembly circuits, and electronic packaging industries. They are popular for precision circuit interconnection due to their high thermal conductivity, strong insulation, and high mechanical strength, all achieved by firing in a high-temperature environment above 1500 °C.
Optional Ceramic Substrate PCB
As you may already know, FS Technology is a Chinese ceramic PCB supplier offering competitive prices. These circuit boards are suitable for a wide range of applications, including automotive electronics, medical equipment, and communication devices. However, it can be difficult to determine which materials will perform best for your specific needs. To help you make an informed decision, we have provided some tips below. Of course, you can also contact us directly for pricing and further inspiration.
Alumina Ceramic PCB
Also known as alumina (Al2O3) PCB, it is often mistakenly confused with aluminum PCB, despite being two distinct concepts. Alumina PCB is made of pure aluminum, which is coated with a thin layer of alumina ceramic. This coating allows the PCB to benefit from the mechanical properties of an insulated metal substrate (IMS), while retaining the excellent thermal performance of ceramics.
Typical circuit boards are formed by bonding copper foil to a substrate, which are prone to warping due to various factors such as overheating, chemical factors, and improper production. In contrast, alumina ceramic materials are continuously improved and developed to provide better heat dissipation capacity, current carrying capacity, insulation, and thermal expansion coefficient than ordinary circuit boards. As the most popular ceramic material for multilayer encapsulation, almost any supplier can provide it, making this Ceramic-based PCB highly recommended for applications such as LED lighting products, communication equipment, solar cells, braking systems, and jetting systems.
Characteristics of Alumina Ceramic Base PCB
- Alumina Ceramic PCB is more cost-effective compared to other metal core materials and is an excellent insulating material.
- It features airtight packaging that ensures 0% water absorption, while the use of alumina provides wear and corrosion protection.
- This type of printed circuit board enables high-density assembly, with outstanding thermal conductivity and higher thermal conductivity.
- The alumina protective film ensures that the ceramic PCB retains normal mechanical strength.
- As it can realize a multi-layer circuit board structure, its package size becomes smaller.
- The thermal expansion coefficient of ceramic core PCBs is similar to that of the chip, which avoids the problem of circuit de-soldering due to changes in temperature difference.
Alumina Ceramic Substrate Performance Table
|Features||96% Alumina PCB||99% Alumina PCB|
|Thermal Conductivity||24-30 W/mK|
|Coefficient of Thermal Expansion (CTE)||6-7.5×10^(-6)°C||8-10×10^(-6)°C|
|Dielectric Constant [1MHz, 25°C]||9.4||10|
|Dielectric Strength||15-20 kV/mm||20-25 kV/mm|
|Volume Resistivity||>10^14 ohm-cm||>10^15 ohm-cm|
|Surface Roughness (Ra)||0.6-0.8μm||0.6-0.8μm|
|Maximum Operating Temperature||1500°C||1800°C|
|Water Absorption Rate||0%||0%|
|Fracture Toughness||3-4Mpa m1/2||4Mpa m1/2|
|Thermal Shock Resistance||200T°C||220T°C|
Aluminum Nitride Ceramic (AlN ) PCB
While cheap alumina ceramic-based copper-clad laminates (CCL) exhibit superior mechanical properties and high dielectric strength, they may not be suitable for high-power projects. AlN PCBs are a type of ceramic PCB that uses aluminum nitride as the substrate material. Like alumina, AlN PCBs offer high thermal conductivity, excellent electrical insulation, and high-temperature resistance, making them suitable for high-power and high-temperature applications. AlN Ceramic CCL, on the other hand, not only matches the insulation and mechanical properties of alumina Ceramic CCL, but also offers superior thermal conductivity, which is 10 times that of alumina ceramic-based laminates. As a result, FS Technology believes that aluminum nitride ceramic PCB will become the core technology for high-power integrated modules, and represent the future of ceramic PCBs. However, this circuit board type is relatively expensive compared to other ceramic materials; therefore, it is recommended for use in high-end projects that require its unique properties. These applications include high-power electronic semiconductor modules, injection systems, solar cells, high-power LED lighting, air conditioning systems, refrigeration chips for refrigerators, automotive ABS systems, and others.
Characteristics of AlN Ceramic PCBs
- AlN PCBs are multi-functional ceramic core circuit boards with high-temperature resistance, high heat dissipation, high dielectric strength, and low dielectric constant. These properties make them an ideal choice for high-power electronic projects and suitable for a wide range of electronic applications.
- Customers can purchase this PCB in bulk from FS Tech at better prices.
- AIN PCBs have the best thermal conductivity and combine top-notch thermal performance with low expansion. FS Tech believes that it is the perfect replacement for traditional printed circuit boards.
- Similar to other ceramic base PCBs, it is characterized by its excellent rigidity, durability, and 0% water absorption.
Aluminum Nitride (AlN) Ceramic Board Properties Table
|Coefficient of Thermal Expansion [20°C to 300°C]||4.6×10^-6°C|
|Dielectric Constant [1MHz, 25°C]||9|
|Dielectric Loss [1MHz, 25°C]||3.8×10ˆ-4|
|Surface Roughness Ra||0.3-0.5μm|
|Fracture Toughness||320-330MPa m1/2|
Silicon Nitride Ceramic PCB
Since the beginning of the 21st century, the new energy automobile industry has been rapidly developing. On November 2nd 2021, the General Office of the State Council issued the “New Energy Vehicle Industry Development Plan (2021-2035),” sparking heated discussions. The article stated that by 2025, it is estimated that the total sales of new energy vehicles in the world will account for 30% of total vehicle sales. This development of new energy vehicles is benefiting from the help of silicon nitride ceramic PCBs.
Silicon nitride PCBs, also known as Si3N4 PCBs, are advanced ceramic circuit boards that exhibit superior performance compared to traditional printed circuit boards. This makes Si3N4 PCBs an ideal choice for high-temperature, high-power, and harsh environments.
Characteristics of Silicon Nitride Ceramic PCBs
- Although the production of silicon nitride ceramic PCBs presents challenges, the abundance of raw materials enables the manufacturing of high-quality products using high-purity raw materials.
- These PCBs meet the requirements for high thermal conductivity and current load, which are essential for heat dissipation in third-generation power semiconductor components.
- They also possess excellent physical and chemical properties, as well as electrical and mechanical properties.
- To manufacture silicon nitride PCB, manufacturers require a molded PCB manufacturing process and a recipe to match it.
- Additionally, advanced sintering equipment and a first-class sintering process are necessary.
- Lastly, double-sided precision grinding technology is used for large-size ceramic circuit boards.
Silicon Nitride Ceramic PCB Property Sheet
|Thermal Conductivity||100-200 W/m·K|
|Coefficient of Thermal Expansion (CTE)||3.0-3.5 ppm/°C|
|Dielectric Constant [1MHz, 25°C]||8.0-8.5|
|Dielectric Strength||200-300 kV/mm|
|Volume Resistivity||>10^14 Ω·cm|
|Surface Roughness (Ra)||<0.1 μm|
|Maximum Operating Temperature||1000-1200°C|
|Water Absorption Rate||<0.01%|
|Fracture Toughness||6-7 MPa·m^1/2|
|Withstand Voltage||>15 kV/mm|
|Thermal Shock Resistance||400-500°C|
|Compressive strength||>2000 MPa|
|Bending resistance||>300 MPa|
Alumina PCB vs Aluminum Nitride PCB vs Silicon Nitride PCB
|Properties||High Thermal Conductivity Silicon Nitride Ceramics||Aluminum Nitride Ceramics||Alumina Ceramics|
|Reliability||5000 Cycles||200 Cycles||300 Cycles|
|Manufacturing Technology||Hardest||Difficult||Easier (Low-Medium)|
|Thermal Resistance||0.201K/W(0.63mm) 0||0.197K/W(0.63mm)||0.275K/W(0.63mm)|
Number of temperature cycles (-40~150℃)
Conductive copper electrode thickness (mm)
|Silicon Nitride Ceramic Board||＞5000||＞5000||＞5000||＞5000|
|Aluminum Nitride Ceramic board||300||200|
|Alumina Ceramic Board||500||300||200||100|
Comparison of ceramic core PCB and other PCBs
While ceramic-core printed circuit boards are an excellent option for cutting-edge applications, electronics manufacturers often avoid them due to their higher prices. However, price is relative, and here we will compare several boards to discourage you from overlooking ceramic PCBs manufactured by Chinese companies.
Characteristics of ceramic multilayer PCB
- The packaging is sealed with 0% water absorption, making it suitable for use in any humid environment;
- The product has a small size, simple structure, and convenient design modification, offering great advantages in mass production;
- It can operate at a high temperature of up to 350 degrees Celsius;
- The thermal conductivity of the ceramic PCB material is similar to that of silicon in the electronics industry, making it highly suitable for applications that require high heat dissipation;
- Its lifespan is not significantly affected even with prolonged use;
- It provides excellent performance for high frequency applications and is suitable for use in microwave and radio frequency circuits;
- The product does not use organic materials and is resistant to cosmic rays.
Ceramic VS FR4 PCB
- The coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE) of these two bands depends on the use of their components and materials.
- Ceramic substrate materials have a fantastic response to high-frequency applications, while FR4 PCBs have a moderate response. Since FR4 is cheaper, it can be used in a wider range of applications.
- The price of ceramic-based printed circuit boards is much higher than that of FR-4, and the cost-effectiveness of each depends on the specific project.
- The manufacturing process of FR4 PCB is simpler, making it more commonly used in electronic products.
- The manufacturing cycle for a ceramic PCB prototype is usually longer, taking 10-15 days.
- There is a significant difference in thermal conductivity and insulation between the two, where FR4 is at a disadvantage.
Ceramic VS PTFE PCB
- Ceramic boards are composed of materials such as alumina, aluminum nitride, or beryllium oxide, whereas PTFE is fabricated from a special plastic called polytetrafluoroethylene.
- While both types exhibit good thermal conductivity and heat dissipation, the heat dissipation efficiency of PTFE PCBs may not suffice for applications that generate extremely high levels of heat.
- Both types can be used for high-frequency applications, but PTFE materials are not recommended for high-power applications.
- In automotive electronics, ceramic substrates are commonly employed in engine compartments, while PTFE PCBs are utilized in safety systems and radar technology.