PCB Transformer Guide

A PCB transformer is an electrical device that provides isolation, protection, and current transfer using the mutual induction method. Such electronic components offer several advantages, including their small size, lightweight design, and the ability to be seamlessly integrated into the circuit layout, conserving valuable space within electronic devices. These transformers are directly mounted on the circuit board and are commonly utilized for voltage transformation, signal isolation, impedance matching, noise reduction, and other critical functions within electronic systems.


Working Principles of Transformers in Electrical Circuits

The internal structure of a transformer consists of different components that together form a cohesive unit, each serving distinct functions. For instance, the primary coil and secondary coil determine the transformer’s transformation ratio. The core enhances the magnetic coupling effect, while the pins are used for connecting to other components in the circuit. Insulation is employed to safeguard the circuit against short-circuits and other potential issues.

Transformers employ mutual inductance in a circuit to transfer energy or information between two separate circuits through inductive coupling. This method relies on the magnetic fields generated by alternating currents in one coil, inducing a voltage in another adjacent coil. This phenomenon finds common application in transformers, where the primary coil induces a voltage in the secondary coil.

When a circuit is energized and current flows through a conductor, it generates a magnetic field. Changes in the current create fluctuations in the magnetic field. Placing a second conductor in this changing magnetic field induces a voltage in the second conductor, following Faraday’s law of electromagnetic induction. The induced voltage facilitates energy transfer from one circuit to another.

A transformer comprises two coils, namely the primary and secondary, which are wound around a shared core. As alternating current flows through the primary coil, it generates an alternating magnetic field. This magnetic field, in turn, induces a voltage in the secondary coil. The voltage ratio between the primary and secondary coils is determined by the turns ratio (the number of turns in each coil).

Types of PCB Transformers

When your project requires mounting a transformer for a PCB, you may encounter challenges in selecting the right components. FS Technology can assist you by offering cost-effective alternatives for components and procurement services. To facilitate the smooth progress of your project, here are some common transformer types:

  • Isolation Transformers: These transformers provide galvanic isolation between the primary and secondary windings. They are used to transfer power while ensuring there is no direct electrical connection between the input and output circuits. This is critical for safety and noise reduction.
  • Autotransformers: Autotransformers have a single winding that serves both as the primary and secondary winding. They are used for voltage conversion, where a portion of the winding acts as the primary, and another portion acts as the secondary. Autotransformers are more compact and efficient than traditional isolation transformers but do not provide complete electrical isolation.
  • Flyback Transformers: These are commonly used in switch-mode power supplies. They store energy in their magnetic field during the switch-on period and release it to the secondary winding when the switch is turned off. This is used to generate isolated output voltage levels.
  • Forward Transformers: Also employed in switch-mode power supplies, forward transformers transfer energy directly from the primary to the secondary winding during the ON time of the switching transistor. They offer good efficiency and are suitable for medium-power applications.
  • Push-Pull Transformers: Used in push-pull converter circuits, where the primary winding is driven by two transistors that alternate in conducting. This configuration provides efficient energy transfer and is often used in high-power applications.

Technical and Calculation

  • Voltage and Turns Ratio: Determine the desired input and output voltage levels and calculate the turns ratio of the transformer using the formula: Turns Ratio (Np: Ns) = Vp/Vs, where Np represents the number of primary turns, and Ns represents the number of secondary turns.
  • Core Material and Design: Select an appropriate core material (such as ferrite or iron) based on the application’s frequency range and power requirements. The core design impacts factors like maximum flux density and saturation.
  • Inductance Calculation: Compute the required inductance of the transformer using the formula: L = (V * D) / (ΔI * f), where V denotes the voltage, D stands for duty cycle, ΔI represents the change in current, and f is the frequency.
  • Wire Sizing: Determine the wire size for the primary and secondary windings based on the desired current and maximum power. Ensure that the wire can safely carry the required current without excessive heating.
  • Magnetic Flux Calculation: Calculate the magnetic flux density using the formula: B = (V * 10^8) / (4.44 * f * A * N), where V is the voltage, f represents the frequency, A denotes the core’s cross-sectional area, and N is the number of turns.
  • Spacing and Insulation: Maintain proper spacing and insulation between windings to prevent breakdown due to high voltage differentials.
  • Parasitic Capacitance and Leakage Inductance: Account for the effects of parasitic capacitance between windings and leakage inductance, as they can impact the transformer’s performance, particularly at high frequencies.
  • Core Saturation and Losses: Calculate core losses and ensure that the transformer operates below the core’s saturation point to maintain efficiency and prevent distortion.
  • Winding Techniques: Employ appropriate winding techniques to minimize electromagnetic interference (EMI) and maximize coupling between windings.
  • Thermal Considerations: Address thermal management to guarantee that the transformer operates within safe temperature limits.

Key Problems and Solutions in PCB Transformers

Leakage Inductance

Leakage inductance is a crucial electrical parameter that characterizes the lack of mutual inductance between the inductive portion of a transformer and the adjacent coil. It occurs when the magnetic flux generated by the primary winding of a transformer doesn’t fully link with the secondary winding. This phenomenon can result in energy being stored in the leakage inductance rather than efficiently transferred to the secondary winding, leading to losses and decreased efficiency.

How to Address:

  • Wind the primary and secondary coils close to each other to maximize magnetic coupling. This proximity enhances the efficiency of energy transfer and reduces the impact of leakage inductance.
  • Incorporate magnetic materials or shields between the windings to redirect the magnetic flux and diminish leakage. This approach helps contain the magnetic field within the desired paths.
  • Consider alternating the winding layers to enhance coupling and minimize leakage. This technique can improve the transformer’s overall performance by ensuring a more effective transfer of energy between the coils.


In transformers, EMI issues often manifest as electromagnetic radiation and interference with surrounding circuits. The primary cause is the use of high-frequency currents or signals that switch rapidly during operation. Additionally, the layout of the transformer’s coils and wires, as well as the current path, can contribute to these problems.

How to Address:

  • Utilize shielding materials or enclosures to envelop the PCB transformer, reducing the propagation of electromagnetic radiation.
  • Integrate ferrite beads into circuits to absorb high-frequency noise and prevent its propagation.
  • Proper grounding and component layout can minimize EMI by controlling current paths and reducing loop area.


Noise issues typically manifest as high-frequency oscillations or spurious signals. These problems can arise from unstable or high-frequency components, unstable supply voltage, electromagnetic coupling between coils, or improper component selection.

How to Address:

  • Include a power filter as part of the PCB design process.
  • Optimize circuits by selecting more stable transformer components.
  • If feasible, consider lowering the operating frequency.
  • Utilize simulation tools and test equipment to assess the noise characteristics of your circuits. This evaluation will enable you to fine-tune your designs and minimize noise-related challenges.

Thermal Management

PCB transformers, like all components, generate heat during operation. If not managed properly, excessive heat can lead to performance degradation, reliability issues, and even component failure.

How to Address:

  • Attach heat sinks to the transformer or adjacent components to dissipate heat.
  • Ensure sufficient space around the transformer to allow for heat dissipation.
  • Use thermal vias in the PCB to transfer heat from the component side to the other side of the board.
  • Choose materials with good thermal conductivity for the PCB and other components in the vicinity.

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