Metal Core PCB, MCPCB Manufacturing Service

Low-cost Metal Substrate PCB, Metal Backed PCB and Multi-layer Metal Core PCB Prototype Fabrication With Advanced Manufacturing Process

PCBs are the essential elements of modern devices. They make the product compact and more reliable. Nowadays, PCBs are commonly used in almost every industry and have solved many problems that were caused by open circuits(Learn More about: What Does PCB Open Circuit Mean?) or open wires.

While choosing a PCB for a project, it is essential to look at the conditions, constraints, and requirements. You need to pick a suitable PCB that can offer good performance under the expected conditions. Otherwise, the PCB might not survive or offer unexpected results. Metal core PCBs are also designed for such applications, where typical PCBs cannot work.

Metal Core PCB Board

Everything you must know about metal core PCB

Metal Core PCB

What is a Metal Core PCB (MCPCB)?

A metal core PCB is a special PCB having a metallic base layer. This base layer is usually made of aluminum or copper. As it contains a metallic layer, it is named Metal Core PCB (MCPCB).

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The metallic layer present in the metal core PCB does many wonders along with the dielectric layers. These PCBs are far better than FR-4 PCBs in terms of bearing thermal and pressure stresses. They are suitable for extreme conditions and high heat-dissipating components. Therefore, it has solved many issues that were faced in other PCB substrates. Metal core PCBs have tons of benefits, but all of them come at an additional cost.

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Why Metal Core PCBs?

  • Metal core PCB can work normally in extreme environments

When it comes to high-temperature and high-pressure in the place or area where the PCB will be installed, it is important to make the decisions carefully. Typically, the FR-4 or common PCB substrates have some constraints and limitations. They cannot work under high pressure and temperatures as they cannot bear these extreme conditions. For instance, if you exert too much pressure on the FR-4 PCB, it will break, and in the case of high temperatures, it starts to bend and deteriorate with time. Thus, we cannot use every PCB in every situation. The condition of the environment must be kept in mind while selecting a PCB.

  • Metal core PCB can withstand high temperature and high pressure

The pressure and temperature constraints of FR-4 are a serious issue. But thanks to the Metal Core PCBs. The solution to all problems of FR-4 and other similar materials is a metal core PCB, and it has gained much popularity in the industry. Nowadays, you see metal core PCBs in LED lights, automobiles, medical equipment, communication devices, and many other applications because of their characteristics and ability to bear high temperature and pressure.

  • Metal core PCBs are much stronger than FR-4

Metal core PCBs have a layer of metal, usually aluminum or copper, and sometimes iron. Due to the presence of a metal layer, these PCBs are much stronger than FR-4. They can bear more pressure stress; therefore, they are commonly used in places where there is more vibration and high-pressure stress. The PCB retains its shape and does not break.

  • Metal core PCBs also have an excellent temperature bearing capacity

They can work under extreme temperatures. They are mostly used in applications where the components dissipate heat. These PCBs can easily dissipate the heat and increase the life of the components. The PCB never bends due to high temperatures and offers excellent reliability. If we compare the heat dissipating capacity of the Metal core PCBs with FR-4, then metal core PCBs are 6-9 times better.

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Layers of Metal Core PCBs

The metal core PCBs have some special layers compared to the traditional FR-4 PCBs. The total number of all layers in the PCB also depends on the number of conductive layers you need.

Metal core PCBs can be of one, two, or multiple conducting layers. Their design and material make the PCB more durable, reliable, and long-lasting. There can be several layers, but they can be categorized into three types.

The types of layers in a metal core PCB are,

  • Copper Layer (Conductive)
  • Dielectric Layer
  • Base Layer
Copper Layer

This is the first layer, which is common in all PCBs. The copper layer is a conductive layer that transmits the signals. It is also known as the circuit layer as the whole circuit or conductive paths are made through it. Therefore, it is the same layer you will find in other PCBs.

The thickness of this layer depends on your requirements. You can select the thickness of this layer according to your project.

Dielectric Layer

This is an extremely important layer in a metal core PCB. You will not see this layer in FR-4. We know that the top layer is the copper layer, and the bottom layer is the base layer, which is made from metal. These two layers are conductive, and the insulation between them is the dielectric layer. Thus, this layer plays a very important role in separating the copper layer and the metal layer. It prevents short circuits.

The most vital function of the dielectric layer is the dissipation of heat. The layer has the ability to take heat from the components on the top layer and pass that heat through itself to the metallic base layer. Then, the metallic base layer dissipates the heat.

Due to this layer, heat dissipation becomes more efficient as it can improve the heat dissipation up to 9 times. Thus, a metal core PCB is 6-9 times better than the traditional FR-4 PCB. There can be different components on the board, and their heat will be easily dissipated through this layer. Thus, it keeps the component cool and increases their life.

Keep in mind that the thickness of dielectric in the metal core PCBs should be as minimum as possible. Usually, it is no more than 0.003-0.006 inches. Thus, it won't affect the overall thickness of the board. The reason behind the thin layer of dielectric is to transfer the heat in the shortest possible time. The transfer of heat depends on the thickness of the dielectric and the material. There are different dielectric materials available, and every material has a different heat transferring capacity, which is mentioned in Watts per Meter per Kelvin (W/mK).

Base Layer

The base layer of metal core PCBs is made of metal, which is why the PCB is named as metal core PCB. As the base layer is metal, it can withstand more pressure stress and vibrations compared to FR-4 PCBs. It is strong, durable, and long-lasting.

The metal layer of the PCB works like heat sinks. It takes the heat from the conductive layers and disperses it to keep the PCB cool. Such cooling cannot be attained using cooling fans, so metal core PCBs enjoy more importance.

The base layer can be of different metals. However, the most commonly used metals are copper and aluminum. Iron is also used in a few cases. Some buyers also request brass and other alloys. In the LCD industry, the preferred metal is aluminum as it offers a reasonable cost. On the other hand, copper is superior in performance, but it is costly.

The thickness of the base depends on the customer's requirements. Typically, the thickness is in the range of 1-4mm, or it can be as you like.

Layer Stack-ups in Metal Core PCBs

Metalcore PCB has three series, using magnetic materials, namely aluminum-based copper clad laminate, copper-based copper-clad laminate, and iron-based copper clad laminate. Compared with aluminum substrates, iron substrates have significant differences in hardness, manufacturing process, and difficulty. Metalcore PCB is divided into single-sided metal core PCB, double-sided metal core PCB, multilayer metal core PCB, and its thickness are between 1mm-6mm. Metalcore PCB also has a circuit layer, and the thickness of the circuit copper foil is between 1oz and 8oz.

The metal core PCB comprises a metal layer, a conductive layer, and an insulating layer. Among them, iron is used as the metal layer material, and copper foil is the conductive material. The insulating materials for the insulating layer are polyester or ceramics, modified polystyrene Ether, PI, prepreg, etc.

Single Layer Metal Core PCB Stack Up

Single Layer Metal Core PCB Stack up

This is obviously the simplest of all, and it has one layer of all three types of layers. At the top, it has a copper layer to create the circuit. Then, there is a dielectric layer, and finally, the metal base layer.

Advanced Learning:

The Most Important Things You Need To Know About Single-layer PCB

Double-Sided Metal Core Stack Up

Double Layer Metal Core PCB Stack up

When we talk about a double-layer PCB, the first thing that comes to mind has two conductive layers. These two conductive copper layers are on both sides of the PCB. There are two circuit layers and two dielectric layers, while a metallic base layer is sandwiched between them. In total, there will be five layers,

  1. Copper Layer
  2. Dielectric Layer
  3. Metallic Base
  4. Dielectric Layer
  5. Copper Layer

Thus, this stack-up is also quite simple and used in many applications where you need the components on both sides.

Learn More Double-Sided PCB Manufacturing Process

Multilayer Metal Core PCB Stack Up

Multilayer Metal Core PCB Stack up

Multi-Layer PCB means the PCB that has three or more layers. The stack-up of the PCBs remains the same whether you have three layers, five layers, or more, but the number of dielectric and copper layers increases. The top layer is the copper layer, and then there is a dielectric layer. We have alternate layers of copper and dielectric. All layers with the dielectric and copper layer are connected. Finally, there is a base layer in the end.

The general stack-up can be given as,

  1. Copper Layer
  2. Dielectric Layer
  3. Copper Layer
  4. Dielectric Layer
  5. Copper Layer
  6. Dielectric Layer
  7. Base Layer

In this type of stack-up, you can only use the component on the top copper layer. The other copper layers are to implement the complex circuits through vias.

Metal Core PCBs VS FR-4

How Do Metal Core Circuit Boards Differ From FR4 Boards

The metal core PCBs are different in many aspects as compared to the common FR-4 board. Both boards have their own benefits, pros, and cons, which is why we cannot declare any of them the best. It depends on the customer’s requirements.

The electrical conductivity of metal core PCBs and FR-4 PCBs is the same as long as the conductive layer is made of the same material. If the conductive layer is copper, both PCBs will transmit signals similarly. There won’t be any effect on electrical conductivity.

In the case of thermal conductivity, there is no doubt that the metal core PCB is the winner. It is because there are an extra dielectric layer and the signature metal layer. The heat of components is transferred to the metallic layer through the dielectric layer. Thus, it can bear more temperature stress. Even under high-temperature stress, there is no need to worry about the breakage and deterioration of the board.

In contrast, the FR-4 PCBs are suitable when there are no or a few high heat-dissipating components. If there is any high heat-dissipating component, it is used with a heat sink.

If the heat dissipation in the circuit is not up to the mark, the components do not last for a long time. They deteriorate, and finally, you need to replace them to get the desired results. Moreover, the FR-4 board cannot bear high-temperature stress. It starts to bend with time.

On the other hand, metal core PCBs work exceptionally well under high-temperature stress. They can easily dissipate the heat without the need for the heat sink. Their metallic base acts as a large heat sink.

The durability of the PCB matters a lot when there is high-pressure stress. There can be vibrations in the final product. FR-4 can bear little vibrations to an extent, but for high-pressure stress, metal core PCBs are considered the best. The metal is much stronger than the epoxy board, which is why it is more robust and works in extreme conditions.

It is quite easy to cut down the FR-4 board into pieces and sizes you need. However, the metal core PCBs are quite hard. Metal core PCBs cannot be cut down with equipment used for the FR-4 PCBs. Usually, special blades are used that are coated with diamond.

When it comes to single-layer boards, FR-4 can use any type of component, whether it is a through-hole component or SMT package. It is because the leads of the through-hole components can easily be passed from the board via drilling, and they are soldered on the other side as the board itself is an insulator.

The single-layer metal core PCBs can only work with SMDs as they can be mounted over the surface without drilling. They cannot accommodate through-hole technology because the leads of the components will touch a common conductor, which is the metallic base. Thus, it will result in short circuits.

If we look at the FR-4 and metal core boards, we won’t find any safety hazards at all. But the actual judgment can be made on their performance. When the components on the FR-4 boards are hot, they create a safety hazard; therefore, it is necessary to cope up with this problem. Otherwise, there can be a fire in the result.

On the other hand, the components on the metal core PCBs always remain cool, so they do not pose a safety hazard.

It is quite obvious that the price of the metal core PCB would be high as the metal is more expensive than the epoxy resin. The price of the metal core PCBs also depends on the metal. The cheapest one is iron, and then comes aluminum. Copper is more expensive. These are the commonly used metals, but there can be other alloys and metals as well.

In metal core PCBs, more components are placed on the area as there is no heat sink on the board. It offers more space. Furthermore, the cost of heat sinks and cooling fans is also saved.

Advantages and Applications of Metal Core PCB

Metal core PCBs are widely used in almost every industry. Surprisingly, it has also taken some places of the FR-4 boards, especially in the LED industry. LEDs are massively used, and they have replaced other types of lights. We need light almost everywhere, which is why the major use of metal core PCBs is in the LED industry. These LEDs can be used in automobiles, houses, industries, events, and almost at every place where light is needed.

Apart from the LED industry, metal core PCBs are also used in other areas.

The first and most vital use of metal core PCBs is in the power supplies and devices. All power devices transfer power, which is why they generate a lot of heat. Therefore, for better reliability and long life, metal core PCBs are used.

Voltage converters are an excellent example of the use of these PCBs. DC-DC converters and voltage regulators use this PCB as the components dissipate a lot of heat. The DC-DC converters are quite popular and demanding in solar applications. They efficiently extract more energy from the sun’s rays.

Metal Core PCB Fabrication produces a product that transfers heat up to nine times more rapidly than a typical FR4 PCB. The laminates in MCPCB’s dissipate heat, which ensures that components which generate heat will remain cooler. This leads to a longer operating life as well as maximized performance for such components.

The automotive sector uses metal core PCBs for dozens of purposes. Apart from the lights, these PCBs are used in audio control and motor controls. In electric vehicles, power and voltage converters are also used that also require metal core PCBs.

Amplifiers are also designed on metal core PCBs. No doubt FR-4 is also used, but when it comes to quality, reliability, and best performance, metal core PCBs are the best.

It requires considerable power to drive a motor and take control over speed. Motor drives use heat emitting devices, which is why normal boards cannot withstand such conditions. These drives are used in every industry where the speed of the motor needs to be controlled.

Semiconductor devices are the master of emitting heat. Transistors are especially used with a suitable heat sink to dissipate heat, and when there are many transistors, using heat sinks wastes a lot of space. Moreover, the heat sink cannot offer the optimum heat dissipation just like a metal core PCB.

The Basics of Metal-Core PCB Design

Metal core PCB design (including DFM) follows many of the same basic design rules as typical PCBs on FR4. Metal core PCB boards carry specific manufacturing requirements, but a suitable design company can help you deal with these requirements and ensure that your board can be mass-produced.

About the design points of metal core PCB, this article will tell you more.

Metal Core PCB Manufacturing- How to make MCPCB?

The iron substrate PCB fabrication process is ①Grinding plate (500# brush)→②Washing→③Passivation→④Washing×3→⑤Blow-drying→⑥Drying. Grinding plate: Grinding the iron surface only, grinding the plate according to FR4 parameters. The first board must check the circuit without scratches, black tin surface, other defects, and uniform wear marks.

The following is our metal core PCB fabrication capability:

FeatureTechnical Specification
MaterialAluminum core
FR4 prepreg
Iron Alloy
Board Thickness0.8mm-10mm
Thermal Conductivity0.8, 1.5, 2.0, and 3.0 W/m.K.
Max Panel size21*33inch
Copper ThicknessOut Layer: 8oz
Inner Layer: 6oz
Surface FinishOSP
HAL lead-free
chemical gold
Immersion tin
Immersion Gold
Immersion Silver
Solder MaskWhite
Silkscreen ColorBlack
Inspection Methods100% Visual Inspection
Cross Sectioning
Sample Lot Inspection
Electrical Testing
PackingVacuum/Plastic bag

Learn more about Metal Core PCB Manufacturing Process

One Place for All Your Metal Core PCB Needs - JHYPCB

JHYPCB is a leading manufacturer of PCBs and PCBAs in China. Our large facility can handle small-large volume orders without the restriction of the minimum pieces; you can also order one PCB. We offer quick PCB prototypes and turnkey PCB assembly services. Everything can be done under one roof, and we take responsibility for every process. Our experts are always ready to help you develop better designs for better performance.

We guarantee high-performing PCBs with exceptional quality at a low cost. We have a strict quality management system certified by RoHS, IOS, and UL. We follow the industry standards, and our latest technology makes everything more reliable and faster. You can contact us anytime, and our 24/7 customer service team will help you out.

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