What Is The Difference Between Printed Circuit Board And IC Substrates?(Ultimate Guide In 2024)

There are different characteristics of an integrated circuit (IC) substrates such as advantages of being smaller in size, lighter in weight, less soldered joints and lead wires, durable, reliable, better in performance, and long-lasting, etc.

Furthermore, ICs are offering lower costs facilities and mass production.

ICs are not merely utilized in civilian and industrial electrical and electronic equipment e.g., cassette recorders, computers, and televisions but are also used in space, remote-controlled equipment, communication, and military applications as well.

Using ICs for the assembly process of electrical and electronic equipment will result in increasing the assembly density several thousand times when compared to conventional transistors with stable working and improved efficiency.

The major difference between printed circuit board (PCB) and IC is that ICs are generally referring to as the chip’s integration such as the chips on the motherboard of computers.

The central processing unit can also be known as an IC and its original name is also referred to as an integrated block. The PCB is referring to the board on to which different components are soldered making a working device.

The ICs are being soldered onto PCBs. PCBs are now found in almost every electronic device either small or big.

If any component has an electronic part, it is anticipated that it must have a PCB of different sizes and attributes.

Apart from fixing different parts together, PCB also serves the purpose of electrically connecting different parts of the equipment.

What is a Printed Circuit Board Prototype?

The prototype of the printed circuit board is composed of different steps and processes. Following is the detail of the PCB prototype procedure.

  1. Pattern and Wiring: The wiring tool is for the conduction of different components. A big portion of copper is allocated for power and grounding purposes. The pattern and wiring are both made at the same time.
  2. Dielectric: Dielectric is better known as substrate and is utilized for maintenance of isolation among layers and wirings.
  3. Via or Through-holeVias are for making a connection among two different layers for switching on each other. The bigger vias are utilized as part plugins while the other known as non-plating through-hole is utilized for fixing screws and positioning surface mounting for the process of assembly.
  4. Solder Mask: All of the copper surfaces are not welded with tin. Hence, in surroundings with no tin, certain material is printed for avoiding short-circuiting. The solder mask is divided into different colors depending on the process under consideration. The common colors of solder masks are blue, red, and green.
  5. Silk Screen: The main function of silkscreen is marking position frame and name of every part in order to make it easy for maintenance and assembly process identification.
  6. Surface Finishing: Oxidization of copper surface is very easy in a general environment which is leading to poor quality of soldering. Therefore, the protection of copper is of great importance. Surface finishing is the process of protecting copper surface through immersion Tin, ENIG, HASL, and immersion silver, etc.
  7. Density: The development of PCB’s density has been achieved decades ago through the development of circuit integration and implementation of new technologies in processes.
  8. Reliability: Different inspections, aging tests, and performance tests are making PCBs more reliable. The reliability period increases for over 20 years.
  9. Design: Based on performance requirements of the PCBs such as mechanical, chemical, electrical, and physical performances, the design of PCB is standardized now with higher efficiency and lower time constraints.
  10. Production: The product’s quality and consistency are ensured by modern management through automation, scaling, and standardization.
  11. TestingDifferent testing methods and standards are established for testing of different instruments, equipment, and components used for PCB production.
  12. Assembly: The assembly process of PCB products is very easy and components have been standardized for it. The process of assembly is based on high standards for quality enhancement.
  13. Maintenance: As already mentioned all of the components and processes of PCB manufacturing are standardized. Therefore, any component failure in a PCB can be quickly replaced and system recovery is ensured.

What is IC Substrate?

The IC is an electronic device of micro-scale. Different components such as inductor, capacitor, resistor, and diode are interlinked together through a process and then fabricated chip of semiconductor also known as substrate and then encapsulated within a shell to form a microstructure having all functions working together uniformly.

The components within IC are integrated together. The following are major features of an IC.

IC Substrates

IC Substrates

  1. Small Circuit: As an IC is an integrated circuit; therefore, its design, installation, and debugging processes are simple and uniform.
  2. Cost-effectiveness: When compared to that of discrete components, the circuit performance of IC is very high and pricing is also low.
  3. Reliability: The ICs are highly reliable with improvements in the reliability of the entire circuit and performance along with consistency. The soldering joints are reduced to a greater extent in ICs and virtual welding is also reduced making the IC overall more reliable.
  4. Energy Efficient: ICs have the advantage of being energy efficient. ICs consume less power, have a smaller volume, and have low prices. Ordinary circuits with the same features consume more power than ICs.
  5. Lower Failure: ICs have a lower failure rate than ordinary circuits.

It can be stated that ICs have many advantages over ordinary discrete electronic circuits.

For example, small size, low weight, less wiring, less or no welding joints, durable, long-lasting, reliable, and less expensive. All such advantages make ICs best suited for mass production.

What is substrate like PCB?

Substrate like PCB which is also known as SLP PCB is considered as the next generation PCB with higher density which is requiring spacing/traces equivalent or lesser than 30/30 micrometers in order to reduce the size to further level and getting more space for mounting other components.

Such a PCB is known as the substrate PCB because of its close behavior and look to an integrated circuit board.

IC board can be defined as the advanced circuit board having a chip with different circuitry inside for connection with the motherboard, regular spacing, and tracing with 15/15 micrometers for packaging.

However, the substrate PCB has not yet excelled to the level of an IC board and is yet equipped with passive and active components and none of the SLP boards is yet considered as PCB.

What are the Types of ICs?

The following are some major types of integrated circuits explained in detail.

  1. Package based Classification
  • BGA IC Substrate: Such ICs are best suited to be operated in thermal dissipation. Its electrical performance is exceptionally good and it may dramatically increase the pins on-chip. Hence, such ICs are considered best for IC packaging with more than 300 pins.
  • CSP IC Substrate: Such an IC is formed of a single packaged chip and is light in weight, scaled miniaturized, and is offering almost the same features as an IC. Such IC substrates are commonly utilized in products with memory such as in the telecommunication industry and electronics where a smaller number of pins are required on-chip.
  • FC IC Substrate: Flip Chip or FC IC is a type of packaging acquired through flipping chip which is featuring a lower signal interference ratio, lower losses in the circuit, higher performance, and efficient thermal dissipation.
  • MCM IC Substrate: A multi-chip module or MCM IC substrate is a kind of IC which is integrating a chip with numerous kinds of functions onto a single package. This is resulting the product being optimal in performance because of its various attributes like miniaturization, shortness, thinness, and lightness, etc. As many chips are being packaged over a single package; hence, this type of substrate is not performing efficiently for signal interference, routing, and thermal dissipation.
  1. Material based Classification  
  • Rigid IC Substrate: Such type of IC is made through the epoxy resin, ABF resin, and/or BT resin. The coefficient of thermal expansion of such IC is in between 13 to 17 ppm per degree Celsius.
  • Flex IC Substrate: Such an IC is made through PE or PI resin and has a coefficient of thermal expansion between 13 to 27 ppm per degree Celsius.
  • Ceramic IC Substrate: Such IC is fundamentally manufactured by ceramic material like silicon carbide, aluminum nitride, and aluminum oxide, etc. It bears a lower coefficient of thermal expansion which is around 6 to 8 ppm per degree Celsius.
  1. Bonding Technology-based Classification

The following is a major classification based on bonding technology.

  • Wire bonding.
  • FC bonding.
  • Tape automated bonding.

IC Substrates

IC Substrates

What are the Applications of IC Substrate PCB?

There are numerous applications of IC substrate PCB. Such PCBs are mostly applied over electronic products which are light in weight, thin and have advanced functions.

These PCBs are best suited to be used in smartphones, tablet PCs, laptops, and for networking applications in the telecommunications field, military, aerospace, industrial control, and medical care, etc.

How to Manufacture of IC Substrate PCB?

The IC substrate is serving as the main connection between PCB and IC chip via a network of conductive holes and traces.

The IC substrates have various critical functions comprising protection and circuit support, power distribution, signal distribution, and heat dissipation.

The IC substrates are representing a higher miniaturization level of the PCBs manufacturing process and are also sharing numerous similarities along with the process of manufacturing of semiconductors.

The IC substrate is usually a very thin layer that is easy to be deformed, specifically bulging when the board is having no more than 0.2mm thickness.

For overcoming such a difficulty, different breakthroughs are to be made when it comes to shrinking of the board, a system of layer positioning, and lamination parameters, etc. so that the warpage of substrate and thickness of lamination could be controlled effectively.

The phenomenon of manufacturing of IC substrate PCB comprises various steps; however, the following steps are critical and difficult to follow.

  1. Copper Plating and Patterning: The copper plating technology and patterning are correlated with different technological aspects such as control and circuit compensation technology, uniform control for the thickness of copper plating, and fine line fabrication technology.
  2. Solder Mask: The soldering mask for the IC substrate printed circuit board is consisting of solder mask printing and hole filling technologies. To date, IC substrate printed circuit boards have allowed lesser than 10 micrometers of substrate height difference among pad and solder mask and is not recommended to be more than 15 micrometers at all.
  3. Surface FinishingFor the IC substrate printed circuit boards, surface finishing is emphasized for having a uniform thickness. To date, surface finishing with ENIG and ENEPIG is considered acceptable.
  4. Reliability and Inspection Tests: The inspection and reliability testing equipment used for IC substrate printed circuit boards is very different than ordinary PCBs. The design engineers must be capable of having mastered skills for inspection of the PCBs through dedicated modern equipment.




The integrated circuits can be termed miniaturized electronic circuits. The chips inside the ICs are very small and hence are very difficult to be connected to PCBs directly. However, the connection of ICs to PCBs is very easy.

PCBs are used in almost every electronic device. Hence, a device having an electronic part, there are higher chances that the device has PCB with components mounted on it.

PCB has also connected different parts of equipment apart from holding all components onto a single board. Whereas, ICs are soldered onto PCBs. It can be stated that IC is an integrated circuit on a chip and is a circuit as a whole.

If IC gets damaged, the entire chip is required to be changed. The basic aim of PCB is to connect IC along with other components forming a huge circuit performing a specific function uniformly. PCB has soldered components on it.

When a certain component breaks down, it may be replaced instead of replacing the entire circuit as in the case of an IC.

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