Your Reliable Metal Core PCB Manufacturer in China

PCBMay is a leading metal core PCB supplier in China, we could provide many types of metal core PCBs for your project.

  • Over 12 years metal core PCB manufacturing experience
  • Sufficient metal core PCB raw material in stock
  • COC report and test report for every order
  • No minimum order quantity for your new order
  • 24h quick-turn service for your prototype metal core PCB
  • 7/24 sales and engineering tech support
ITEM DESCRIPTION SYMBOL STANDARD ADVANCED
No. of Layer Count Max Layer Count NA 1-4 layer 1-8 layer
T-clad Laminate Supplier Laminate Supplier NA Bergquist, polytronics Bergquist, polytronics
Metal Thickness M 0.4-3.2mm 0.4-3.2mm
Dielectric Thickness E 100-200um 100-300um
Thermal Conductivity NA 1W/m-k , 2W/m-k 3W/m-k 1W/m-k , 2W/m-k 3W/m-k , 4W/m-k
Circuit Width Outer Layer Min. Circuit Width W1 0.15mm 0.15mm
Circuit Spacing Outer Layer Min. Circuit Spacing S 0.15mm 0.15mm
Copper Foil Thickness Copper Foil Thickness T ½- 4 oz 1/3 –6 oz
Finished Hole Min. Finished Npth Hole Size X 1.0mm 0.80mm
Npth Hole Tol. A /-0.05mm +/-0.05mm
Max. Aspect Ratio Max. Aspect Ratio T:H 8:1 10:1
S/M Dam & Clearance Min. S/m Dam W1 0.10mm (Green S/M); 0.13mm (white S/M) 0.10mm (Green S/M); 0.13mm (white S/M)
Min. S/m Clearance W2 0.075mm (Green S/M); 0.075mm (white S/M) 0.05mm (Green S/M); 0.05mm (white S/M)
VPC Plating Line

Releted Some Other PCBs

Why Choose PCBMay for Your Metal Core PCB

The metal core printed circuit board(MCPCB), also known as a thermal PCB or metal-backed PCB, or metal-clad PCB.

As a professional metal core PCB manufacturer in China, PCBMay offers many types of the metal core printed circuit boards (PCBs) to meet your demands, including Aluminum core PCB, copper core PCB, and heavy copper PCB.

Do you know why the designers choose metal core PCB, instead of standard FR4 or CEM1, or CEM3 PCBs? Because the metal has more strong ability to dissipate the components’ heat.

Are you looking for a premier metal core PCB supplier? PCBMay is your best choice. We are producing more than 100 models of metal core PCBs every day and serve over 1000+ customers all around the world.

There are many applications for metal core PCB, including power supplies, automotive electronics, LED lighting, aerospace, military& defense, telecom & industrial, power conversion systems.

If you have any urgent metal core PCB projects, please send them to us. PCBMay can produce them as 24h quick-turn service and ship them by UPS, DHL, or FedEx.

When you have any metal core PCB inquiries, please send them to us.

Metal Core PCB: The Ultimate FAQ Guide

LED-based products are becoming popular day by day over the last few years, and therefore, the use of metal core PCB has increased significantly.

The lighting and automobile sector is also using metal core PCB.

Studies show that metal core PCB makes the LED-based lights more efficient and reduces the price by 5 times than typical incandescent units.

Even the production cost of compact fluorescents is higher than LED lights.

Because of the flexibility and price advantages of metal core PCB, many industries are using more and more metal core PCBs.

If you are unaware of the fact and willing to learn more about metal core PCB, this is just the right place for you. Here you will learn everything you should know about metal core PCB.

What Is A MCPCB or Metal Core PCB?

A metal core PCB (MCPB) is also known as a metal-backed PCB or thermal PCB. This type of PCB uses a metal material other than typical FR4 at its base, which is the board’s heat spreader portion.

Metal Core PCB

Metal Core PCB

As you know, heat develops on the board because of some electronic components during the operation. The metal diverts this heat from the board and redirects them to the metallic core or metal heatsink backing and saves critical components.

In multi-layer PCBs, you will find the layers are evenly distributed over the metal core sides. For example, if you look at a 12-layer PCB, you will find six layers at the top, six at the bottom, and the metal core in the middle.

The MCPCBs or metal core PCBs are also referred to as ICPBs or insulated metal PCBs, IMS or insulted metallic substrate, metal-clad PCBs, and thermal-clad PCBs. For your better understanding, we will only use the term metal core PCB throughout this article.

A Metal core PCB’s basic structure consists of the following:

  • Copper layer – 1oz. to 6oz. (1 oz or 2 oz are most common)
  • Circuit layer
  • Dielectric layer
  • Solder mask
  • Heat spreader or a heat sink ( the metal core layer)

What Are The Reasons For Using Metal Core PCB?

If your PCB board temperature starts rising, you will feel more heat than the components of the circuit board. Joke apart, excessive heat is never good for any circuit board as that can damage the components and, as a result, creates malfunctions in the device.

You can not cool down the excessive heat from an electronic device with the help of regular fans. That’s why metal core PCB becomes handy in heat management.

So, the conductive cooling system of metal board PCBs is a very suitable option.

In the conductive cooling procedure, the metal core transfers heat from the hot part to the cooler part using direct contact.

You must know heat always moves from a hot object to a cool object and in the metal core cools down the board using this straightforward process.

How Many  Metal Core PCB Types Are There?

There are five types of metal core PCBs where the metal core is used. They are :

Single-layer Metal Core PCB

A single-layer metal core PCB comes with a metal core. Here manufacturers use aluminum or copper alloy on just a single side of the circuit board. Then they solder mask the nonconducting dielectric layer, IC components, and the copper circuit layer.

Single Layer Metal Core PCB

Metal Core PCB Single Layer

Here the heat from foil and components transfers smoothly to the base palet because of prepreg dielectric. The metal base plate provides mechanical integrity to the single-sided substrate. Here are some applications of single-layer PCB:

  • Audio Equipment
  • LED lighting
  • Relays (Automotive)
  • Packaging equipment
  • Sensors

COB Metal Core PCB

You will find a microchip in COB MCPB. The microprocessor or integrated circuit is wired and directly bonded to the board to provide power to the board. It also touches the metal core directly to transfer heat.

COB Metal Core PCB

COB Metal Core PCB

In typical metal core PCBs, there is a dielectric layer in-between the metal core and copper layer. But in COB, you will find no dielectric layer as the chip touches the metal core directly.

Typically manufacturers use aluminum as the metal core. As a result, its thermal conductivity is higher than 200W/m.K. Here are some applications of COB metal core PCB:

  • High power LED
  • Electric lighting
  • Automotive
  • Power supply
  • E-book’s LED front light
  • Parking lot and street light
  • Horticulture and Agriculture lighting
  • Many other products that demand thermal solution.

Double Layer Metal Core PCB

In a double layer PCB, the bottom part contains the metalcore. You will find a two-conductor layer on top of it. For the metal parts, manufacturers use aluminum, iron alloys, or copper. The dielectric layer is in between the metal core and the copper layer.  

 

Double Layer Metal Core PCB

Double Layer Metal Core PCB

Two-layer metal core PCBs need an additional step for laminating the metal core and imaged thermal conductive laminate. If you compare it to FR4, this process demands advanced technology and lots of experience.

Here are some applications that use double-layer metal core PCB:

  • Inverters, Power rectifier relays, and other power modules.
  • Automation equipment for office
  • Preamplifiers, Balanced amplifiers, and other audio equipment
  • Electronic regulators and power controllers in automobile
  • High-frequency amplifiers, transmit circuits, and other electronic equipment used in communication technology.

Double-Sided Metal Core PCB:

You will find two layers in this type of PCB board, and therefore they are stated as two-layer PCB. Manufacturers use through-hole or surface mount technology to connect the circuits on each PCB side.

Double Sided Metal Core PCB

Metal Core PCB – Two-sided

Double-sided MPCBs need an additional step for laminating the metal core and imaged thermal conductive laminate.

However, you can get pre-laminated board material from some metal-clad material suppliers.

Here are some applications of double-sided metal core PCBs:

  • Industrial Controls
  • HVAC Systems
  • Converters
  • Regulators
  • Power Supplies
  • Automotive Dashboards
  • Line Reactors
  • Hard Drives
  • UPS Systems
  • Traffic Systems

Multi-layer Metal Core PCB

This is the most robust type of PCB, which gives designers the highest level of flexibility. In multi-layer PCB, you will find more than two layers of copper such as 4L, 6L, 8L, etc.

These PCBs offer numerous benefits in design and are compact-sized.

Multilayer Metal Core PCB

Multilayer Metal Core PCB

As for its complexity, the manufacturers need much advanced technology, high skills, and experience to produce multi-layer metal core PCB.

Here are some applications that use multi-layer metal core PCB:

  • Atomic Accelerators
  • Equipment for the space program
  • Satellite Systems
  • File Servers
  • Heart Monitors
  • Signal Transmission Systems
  • Nuclear Detection Systems
  • Weather Analysis devices
  • Fiber Optic Receptors

Which Types Of Metals Are Used In A Metal Core PCB?

Three types of metals are used at the base of metal core PCB or MCPCB. They are Aluminium, Copper, and Iron alloy.

Aluminum is the most prevalent metal for metal core PCBs, especially in the LED light industry, because of its low cost. Copper provides better performance but is expensive. Iron alloy or steel is more rigid than copper and aluminum, but the thermal conductivity is less.

Which base to choose depends on you and the application you are working on.

Aluminum PCB

The formation of Aluminium PCB is

Circuit layer (Copper Layer) + Dielectric Layer or Insulted Layer + Aluminum Layer.

ALuminium core PCB

ALuminium core PCB

Cost: The price depends on the PCB thickness and thermal conductivity. If you purchase from a US factory, the price will increase. China factory prices are lower. We provide a very competitive price for aluminum metal core PCB.

Copper Core PCB

The formation of Copper Core PCB is as follow:

Copper Layer + Insulted Layer + Copper Substrate.

Copper Core MPCB

ALuminium core PCB

Iron-Based PCB  

The formation of Iron-based PCB is:

Copper Layer + Insulted Layer + Steel Substrate.

Manufacturers use two types of steel as the metal base: stainless steel and regular steel.

How Thick Are The Dielectric Layer And The Metal Core?

Thickness Of Metal Core Layer

Typically aluminum is 1.0mm to 3.2mm thick in a metal core PCB. You will find a heat sink with a metal base to dissipate the heat away and save the components.

The thickness depends on the circuit board and the application type for which you will use the metal core PCB.

Thickness Of Thermal Conductivity  Or Dielectric Layer

The usual dielectric layer’s thickness ranges from .075mm to .2mm (.003 inch – .008 inch).

How thick or how thin the layer will depend on the current and voltage.

Thickness Of Metal Core PCB

Thickness Of Metal Core PCB

In a metal core PCB, the dielectric layer is the most important as it has to maintain the electronic insulation even though it is thermal conductive in nature.

This thickness is crucial in an MCPB because it has to be thick enough to prevent the copper circuit from shorting out and, at the same time, thin enough to maintain high thermal performance.

How Much Thermal Conductivity Does A Metal Core PCB Have?

Metal Core PCBs can work in a high-temperature environment. That’s why metal core PCBs come with high thermal conductivity. The Typical values of metal core PCBs conductivity range from 1W/mK to 7W/mK.

How Can You Improve Thermal Management In A Metal Core PCB?

Here are some tips on how you can improve thermal management in a metal core PCB:

  • Construction or design: it’s better to separate signal conductors and high power. Enlarge the copper thickness and use additional thermal vias.
  • Heavy Copper PCBs: Copper has an excellent thermal conductor. Heavy coppers like 10oz, 20oz, 30oz enhance heat dissipation.
  • Aluminum-Based PCB: The thermal conductivity of aluminum base PCB is 1W/m·K to 3 W/m·K. Aluminum can disseminate heat pretty quickly.
  • Copper-Based PCB: Copper has more thermal conductivity than aluminum ranges from 4W/m·K to 7W/m·K. This base disseminates heat much more efficiently than aluminum-based PCB.

Which Applications Use Metal Core PCB?

The LED light industry is the primary consumer of metal core PCB. However, you will find metal core PCBs in many other applications from various industries that use metal core PCB.

LED Light Industry Use Metal Core PCB

LED Light Industry Use Metal Core PCB

You can use metal core PCBs in different form factors, and the substrate metals can come in a wide variety and different thicknesses. Here are some applications that use metal core PCB:

  • Automotive’s system LED applications
  • Backlight unit applications
  • Sound system applications
  • Photovoltaic
  • Traffic system application
  • Various power converters, such as telecom, power supplies, voltage regulator, industrial, etc.
  • Hybrid/electric motor control applications

What Benefits Do  Metal Core PCBs Provide?

Thermal Conductivity

CEM3 or FR4 is not good at heat conductor. If the heat conduction of the base materials used in PCB is less, that can damage the components of the PCB board. That’s when metal core PCBs become handy.

MCPCBs have excellent thermal conduction properties, which protect the components from being damaged.

Heat Dissipation

Metal Core PCB provides excellent heat dissipation capability. A metal core PCB can remove heat from ICs very efficiently. The thermally conductive layer then transfers the heat to the metal base.

Scale Stability

Metal core PCB provides more dimensional stability than other types of PCBs. The aluminum metal core changes its size to 2.5 ~ 3%  after the temperature reaches from 30° Celcius to 140 – 150°Celcius

Less Distortion

As the metal core PCBs come with good dissipation and thermal conductivity properties, they are less susceptible to distortion that can happen for induced heat. Because of this property metal core, PCBs are the first choice for power applications that need high switching.

Thermal Expansion

You must know that every object expands and shrinks when it is exposed to heat and cool. The MCPCBs come with excellent thermal expansibility. That means metal core PCBs are well capable of overcoming thermal expansion and contraction problems. This feature makes the equipment more durable and long-lasting.

Are There Any Downsides Of Metal Core PCBs?  

Every PCB has its own advantages and disadvantages. Like them, metal core PCBs also have some drawbacks. They are :

  • Weight: Metal core PCBs weigh higher than regular FR4 PCBs. Therefore, the applications become slightly heavier.
  • Expansive: Compared to typical FR4 PCBs, metal core PCBs are expensive. You can not blame that, as the manufacturing process is far more complex than regular PCBs.
  • Component Mounting Process: If you compare it to a regular board, the component mounting process for metal core PCB is pretty complex

What Is The Manufacturing And Fabrication Process Of Metal Core PCB?

Here are the steps of the manufacturing and fabrication process of metal core PCBs:

Step 1: First, you have to design the PCB with appropriate software to provide the blueprint you want to manufacture. After finishing the metal core PCB design, you will send it to your manufacturer.

Step 2: This step is to print the metal core PCB design. Here manufacturers use black ink to detonate copper traces and clear ink to identify non-conductive areas. In the outer layer, they use the reverse process.

Step 3: At this step, the manufacturer pre-bonds copper to a laminate piece, which works as the structure for PCB. For revealing the blueprint, they etch away the copper. You have to strengthen the resistance with ultraviolet light.

Then you have to wash the board with an alkaline solution. This way, you can remove the rest of the photoresist.

Step 4: Now, it’s time to remove all unnecessary copper. You have to use a powerful solution for washing the board. And then do the alignment.

You can use an optical inspection machine to make sure there are no flaws.

Step 5: Now, it’s time to laminate the PCB layer. The external layer is copper foil made. You have to press the PCB layers with metal clamps.

Step 6: Here, you will drill the board. Use an X-ray machine to locate the drill spots. For more precise drilling, use a computer-aided drill.

Step 7: After completing the drilling, it’s time to plant the board. Use a series of chemicals to wash the PCB to cover the PCB with a thick copper layer. This will also cover the holes you drilled in the previous step.

Step 8: Now it’s time to imagine and plant the external layer. You can protect the copper by adding a coat of Tin on the metal core PCB’s outer layer.

Step 9: You will do the final etching to the outer layer. After washing the unwanted copper, your metal core PCB is prepared for solder masking.

Step 10: Now, you can apply a solder mask to the PCB and then use ultraviolet light. You have to remove the solder maks’s marked portion. Then bake the final piece of solder mask in an oven.

Step 11: Use a silkscreen to finish the PCB. Use a surface finish material in this process to protect the components and the copper.

You should perform electrical tests before starting cutting. Use a suitable method to cut the board.

Watch the video on aluminum POB printing

Why Use Surface-Mounted Components In Metal Core PCB?

You should only use surface-mounted components instead of plated through design in your design. As you know, the bottom layer of a metal core PCB consists of a thick metal piece, so if you use plated through-hole, that will create a short.

Metal Core PCB surface mounting

Metal Core PCB surface mounting

You don’t need vias in Metal core PCBs to disseminate heat from the board. The whole bottom part of the metal core PCB is built with metal with efficient thermal conductivity. So, you don’t need vias to cool down the board.

Because of the metal base, most metal core PCBs need minimal drilling. Sometimes a few large mounting holes are required.

Metal Core And FR4 PCB- What Are The Differences?

Metal core PCB Vs FR4 PCB

Metal Core PCB Vs FR4 PCB

Here is the difference between metal core PCB and FR4 PCB

Factors Metal Core PCB Epoxy Glass or FR4 PCB
Conductivity Metal Core PCBs have higher thermal conductivity (1.0W to 4.0W) Low conductivity. Usually, it is around .3 W.
Plated Through Hole No plated through holes for single-layer PCB. Surface mount components. Use plated through holes
Thermal Relief Comes with their own thermal relief. No need for the plating process and via drilling deposition Uses vias to transfer heat. Many processes are required for a longer drill cycle.
Solder Mask White solder mask for LED boards and applied to top only Green, blue, red, black different color solder masking are applied
Thickness Thickness variation is limited because of the dielectric sheet and backing plate thickness. Comes in a wide range of thickness. Uses various materials and multiple-layer counts.
Machining Process V-score has to use saw blades with a diamond coat. Otherwise, the machining process is the same as FR4. Needs standard machining process(i.e., drilling, v-scoring, routing, counterbore, countersink, etc. )

Why Is Metal Core PCB Ideal For The LED Industry?

LED industry use metal core PCBs for various applications because:

  • For their stability, metal core PCBs are best for high-density applications.
  • Metal core PCBs are more efficient in dissipating thermal heat compared to FR4 PCB.
  • Metal core PCBs are not vulnerable to heat distortion.

How To Find Out Metal Core PCB Quality?

Heat Dissipation

Metal core PCBs are famous for heat conductivity. If the MCPCB is made of a conventional substrate you should realize that they are poor conductors.

High-quality metal core PCBs have higher dissipation capabilities.

Thermal Expansibility

You should consider thermal contraction and expansion seriously. Good metal core PCB always comes with a minimal thermal expansion rate. In the time of increased temperature, it becomes more resilient.

MCPCB heat pad

MCPCB heat pad

Magnetic Shielding

If electromagnetic interference happens, metal core PCB can shield the components. Metal core PCBs have copper and aluminum cores and therefore provide an excellent magnetic shield.

Does Metal Core PCB Design Need A Heat Sink?

Single-layer metal core PCB does not need a heat sink to disseminate heat. Bur multi-layer metal core PCBs come with a heat sink. The heat sinks of multi-layer PCBs cool the internal layers.

Is It Mandatory To Run A Proof Test For Metal Core PCB?

Yes, it is. You should run a proof test for metal core PCB; otherwise, you can not identify the flaws. Problems arise in the production phase mostly. If you don’t run the proof test, you can end up with a flawed board.

You can use various testing procedures for detecting the problems. For instance, you can identify most flaws with the help of a visual automated inspection machine.

In some cases, manual inspections are also very crucial.

You should perform the tests in every phase of the production. Moreover, you should also test the diodes, capacitors, and resistors.

How Can PCBMay Help You?  

PCBMay is the leading PCB manufacturer in China. We offer original PCB design, PCB assembly, and PCB fabrication.

Metal core PCB is not as straightforward as FR4 PCBs and needs lots of experience for high-quality products. With more than 15 years of experience, we provide metal-core PCBs with the highest standard.

We use state-of-the-art technology and highly-skilled engineers and workers to manufacture our PCBs. Because of this quality, our PCBs are used in more than 60 countries worldwide.

We hope after reading this article now you know many things about metal core PCB. Are you planning on a project or want to know more about this topic? We are more than happy to answer any questions. Just send us a message, and we will be in touch with you shortly.

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