Introduction to Metal Core PCBs, Their Applications, and Advantages

Metal Core PCBS, also known as MCPCBs, Insulated Metallic Substrates (IMS), or thermal PCBS are one of the most popular PCBs in use today. These PCBs find applications in various industrial electronic equipment. You may ask how these PCBs are different from the regular PCBs. How they are advantageous over the standard CEM3 or FR4 PCBs. Read the post to know more.

Basic Introduction to Metal Core PCBs

The basic structure of MCPCB comprises:

  • Solder Mask
  • Circuit Layer
  • Copper Layer
  • Dielectric Layer
  • Metal Core Layer
  • Heat Sink

The base material used in this PCB is a metal, and not FR4 or CEM3 material. The most common metals used are aluminum, steel alloy, and copper.  Aluminum is cheaper and has good heat dissipation, and transferring ability. Copper has a better heat dissipation, and transferring ability than aluminum, and stainless steel, but is expensive. The stainless steel is more rigid than copper and aluminum and has a low thermal conductivity too.  Hence, the choice of metal core will depend on the application where they will be used.

Types of Metal Core PCBs

The PCBs are divided into four basic types depending on the location of the metal core, and trace layers. They include:

  • Single Layer MPCB: The PCBs with a single trace layer on one side.
  • Double Layers MPCB: The PCBs featuring two trace layers on the same side.
  • Double Sided Layer MPCB: These PCBs have two trace layers on each side.
  • Multilayers MPCB: These PCBs have more than 2 layers per board.

Applications of MCPCBs

Following are the few applications using MCPCBs:

  • LED Lights: Spotlights, high-current PCBs, high-current LEDs, street safety applications, and all applications using LEDs.
  • Cars: Power regulators, firing implement, exchange converters, variable optical systems, and motors used in electric and hybrid cars.
  • Power Supply Devices: DC-DC Converters, voltage regulators, high density power conversion, and switching regulators.
  • Audio Devices: Balanced, input-output, audio, power, and pre-shield amplifiers.
  • Other Electronic Devices: IC arrays, thermal insulation boards for semiconductors, ICs carrier chips, solar cell substrates, heat sinks, and semiconductor refrigeration devices.
  • Home Appliances: Flat panel displays, motor controls,
  • OA Devices: Large electronic display substrates, thermal print heads, and printer drivers.

Benefits of Metal Core PCBs

Following benefits of metal core PCBs make them ideal for different industrial applications:

  • High Thermal Conductivity: The standard PCBs with FR4 and CEM3 have weak inter-layer insulation, and low thermal conductivity. If heat is not properly dissipated, the internal temperature may raise, and affect the internal components. Metal PCBs made from aluminum have excellent thermal conductivity, which helps keep the internal components safe.
  • Good Dimensional Stability: The metal core PCB exhibits good dimensional stability when compared to FR4 or CEM3 PCB. When aluminum PCB is heated to a temperature from 30 degree C to 140~150 degree C, its dimension expands between 2.5-3%.
  • High Thermal Expansibility: The Coefficient of Thermal Expansion (CTE) is the term used to describe expansion or contraction of a substance under the temperature. Aluminum and copper have high CTE than the normal FR4, and thermal conductivity is 0.8~3.0 W/c.K.

If you are unable to decide on the type of metal core PCBs for your next project, you should get in touch with the PCB experts. They will understand your problem and help you select the appropriate PCB for your application. They will better help you understand the benefits of each PCB mentioned above.