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When you hear the names Aluminum Clad, Aluminum base, Metal Clad Printed Circuit Board (MCPCB), Insulated Metal Substrate (IMS), Thermally Conductive PCBs, etc., do know that the PCB type in question is synonymous to Aluminum PCBs.

From the name, you can already tell that aluminum PCBs contain aluminum as one of the materials. Indeed, these PCBs have a metal core at the base material, with aluminum being one of the critical components. What’s more, there’s the presence of a thin layer of thermal, dielectric material and electrically insulating material.

Why to use aluminum PCB?

Since the emergence of aluminum PCB technology in the 1970s, several industries and individuals have augmented demand for production. Suppose you’re planning on using applications that have heat dissipation and wish to control the temperatures. In that case, Aluminum PCB is the right choice for you.

Aluminum is known for transferring heat away from significant components on the board. In doing so, your PCB is kept free from the dangers of heat damage. Moreover, it is highly durable and can serve you a long time compared to other materials like fiberglass.

What is the structure of aluminum PCB?

An IMS has four significant layers, all of which play different roles and have distinct materials.

Circuit copper layer

This layer consists of an electrolytic copper foil that ranges from 1 to 10 ounces (oz). During its manufacture, the designer etches the copper material to form a printed circuit. Its function is to apprehend the assembly and connect devices for ease in functionality. It being an IMS, the substrate layer carries a higher current. Nonetheless, it still possesses a similar thickness and width to an FR-4 stiffener.

Insulating/ Dielectric layer

The dielectric layer is best known for its thermal conduction. In thickness, manufacturers estimate them to be approximately 50µm to 200µm thick. It has the function of insulating, bonding, and dissipating heat from the board during current flow.t

Metal substrate

Inarguably, this layer defines an IMS by totally distinguishing it from other PCBs. In other words, the insulating layer consists of a metal core made of an aluminum substrate. Factors you should consider when searching for a reliable metal plate are cost-effectiveness, strong point, firmness, mass, thermal coefficient, and most importantly, thermal conductivity.

With that said, an aluminum plate meets all the criteria above. Even better, you can enhance its efficiency in conductivity or mechanical properties by adding other leaves—for instance, copper, iron, and silicon steel plates.

The metal base membrane layer

The base membrane, made of an aluminum alloy substrate, protects the aluminum substrate layer from unnecessary etching and scraping. Depending on the degree of heat, the coating can be lower than 120 or at 250. The layer commonly has a thickness of 1mm.

What are the types of aluminum PCB?

Even though all-aluminum clads work the same way, i.e., in heat dissipation, different types have individual characteristics based on their design and structure. The following are the types of aluminum clads that you should be knowing.

Through-hole aluminum PCB

When we design through-hole aluminum PCB, the manufacturer backfills and pre-drills a single aluminum layer and then applies the laminate material. There will be a formation of a core of multilayer constructions after this process. Afterward, they laminate the thermal materials on the two sides of the board with thermal bonding materials. The final touch involves drilling on the assembly.

Flexible aluminum PCB

A flexible aluminum PCB is a recently marketed circuit board with a polyimide resin integrated with ceramic filters upon purchase.

The two materials’ essence is to increase insulation, flexibility (you can twist or fold the PCB to any shape and retain the form), and thermal efficiency. What’s more, their application is cost-effective since you won’t need to purchase connectors or cables. It’s disadvantageous because you can’t alter or modify the final product once you acquire a specific shape.

Multilayer aluminum printed circuit board

Multilayer aluminum PCBs have multiple-layer of thermally conductive dielectrics. The design constitutes one or more layers of circuitry found in the dielectric with blind vias representing thermal or signal vias.

An advantage to using multilayer IMS PCB is the straightforward and operative solution they offer for heat conductivity in complex products. Contrary to that, they’re costly and can’t easily engage in heat transfer in single layer designs. Their application is often in power supply products.

High thermal conductivity aluminum PCB

In this type of PCB; the insulating layer is an epoxy resin material. The epoxy resin should have excellent thermal conductivity.

High-frequency aluminum PCB

With high-frequency aluminum PCB, the insulating layer has a polyolefin or polyimide material. Other times, it can be woven fiberglass between an epoxy resin. The purpose of the materials is to improve the flexibility of the PCB.

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