Printed circuit boards, or PCBs, are everywhere in our technology-based society. Everything from computers to medical equipment to cars contains these PCBs in one form or another. However, not all PCBs are the same— many of them use different designs or materials to suit a unique purpose. The base material is especially important for the circuit board, which helps determine how effectively the circuit board transfers heat.
Some applications require specific properties in their circuit boards. This is especially true for temperature-sensitive applications, one of which is LED lighting. The LED lighting industry is expanding rapidly in response to increased interest in the more efficient and cost-effective lighting method, but much of the functionality of LED lights depends on the temperature of its system. For many companies, the solution to this problem is in aluminum-based PCBs.
To help you understand why the LED lighting industry uses PCBs, we’ve outlined the nature of PCB base layers, the attractive qualities of aluminum PCBs and why they work well in the LED lighting industry.
About Aluminum PCBs
Most common among metal-core printed circuit boards is the aluminum PCB. This type of printed circuit board is built on top of an aluminum alloy base, instead of a fiberglass base. The alloy usually consists of a combination of magnesium, aluminum and silumin, altering the properties of the metal to best suit the needs of the application.
All aluminum PCBs consist of the following layers:
- The Base Layer: The base layer of the PCB is the aluminum alloy sheet upon which the rest of the PCB builds. This alloy is typically designed to provide maximum electrical insulation and thermal conductivity.
- The Thermal Insulation Layer: This layer is extremely important in the design of the PCB. Consisting of a ceramic polymer, this layer protects the PCB from mechanical or thermal damage by offering thermal resistance and viscoelastic properties. This works by absorbing the heat created as the current moves through the circuits and transferring it to the aluminum layer — there it disperses.
- The Circuit Layer: This layer contributes most to the end function of the board, containing the copper foil circuits needed for the PCB to function.
These layers occur in any number of variations, with one or several thermal and circuit layers depending on the particular application. The layers listed also lend a number of different benefits to aluminum PCBs, which can be of use to several key industries.
Aluminum PCB Types
There are numerous ways the layers above can be altered to create new PCB designs. Each of these variations results in slightly different qualities of the PCB, making it more suitable for some industries and applications over others.
Some types of Aluminum PCBs include:
- Flexible Aluminum: This relatively new material uses ceramic fillers and polyimide resin to provide excellent insulation and flexibility, all while retaining the aluminum’s impressive thermal conductivity. These PCBs can be formed to connect directly where they are needed. This eliminates the need for cables, connectors and fixtures, which can add to the end cost of the product. Once they are bent, however, they are meant to stay there — these PCBs are not designed to flex constantly.
- Hybrid Aluminum: Just as it sounds, a non-thermal material fused to an aluminum base metal creates hybrid aluminum. Usually, the material is a circuit board made with conventional FR-4. By fusing these layers together, the circuit board can dissipate heat more effectively, as well as increase rigidity. These hybrids also tend to be less expensive than entirely aluminum products. The downside, however, is the loss of flexibility.
- Multilayer Aluminum: In high performance power-supply applications, multilayer aluminum PCBs are generally the best. These PCBs consist of layers of thermally conductive dielectrics. While this multilayer approach can handle high performance, they tend to be less efficient when it comes to transferring heat However, overall these PCBs tend to be effective for basic heat dissipation in more complex designs.
- Through-Hole Aluminum: For more complex constructions, the aluminum base of a PCB can be pre-drilled and back-filled with dielectric before being laminated with thermal materials. These are highly complex, and tend to be labor-intensive projects meant for particularly complicated or specific projects.
Of these aluminum PCB types, flexible and hybrid varieties tend to see the most use in industries like the LED lighting industry.
The Applications of Aluminum LED PCBs
The above benefits make LEDs with aluminum-based printed circuit boards very desirable for a number of applications and industries. Some of the more prominent applications of Aluminum PCB LEDs include:
- Telecommunications: Telecommunications equipment often uses LED indicators and displays, and because of the surrounding machinery, the improved heat transfer ability of aluminum-based LED PCBs is extremely useful in this application. Improved durability and decreased weight also make these aluminum PCB LEDs quite desirable within telecommunications applications. Not only that, but aluminum PCBs are commonly used in other components of telecommunications equipment as well, including filtering appliances and high-frequency amplifiers.
- Automotive: You can also find aluminum PCB LEDs in cars on indicators, in headlights and brake lights, and other applications. The durability, longevity and relatively low price makes these aluminum PCBs ideal within the automotive industry. Their applications don’t end at LEDs either – aluminum PCBs are commonly used within electronic regulators and power controllers.
- Computer: LED displays and indicators are becoming increasingly common within computer applications, and the heat sensitivity of computer machinery makes aluminum PCB LEDs the ideal solution. In addition to LED applications, computer parts like power devices, floppy drives and CPU boards are commonly use aluminum PCBs because of their ability to handle and transfer heat.
- Medical: Lighting tools used in surgeries and medical examinations commonly use high-powered LED lights, and these LED lights often use aluminum PCBs. This is primarily due to the durability and heat transfer capabilities of aluminum PCB LEDs — this ensures medical equipment is functioning properly regardless of the number of patients cycling through a medical office. In addition to lighting tools, medical scanning technology often uses aluminum PCBs as well.
Choose MOKOPCB as Your aluminum PCB Provider
If you’re looking for an aluminum PCB manufacturer for your next LED project, you can place your confidence in MOKOPCB.
Based out of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, MOKO is a leading provider in printed circuit boards of all kinds. We have an experienced team that can handle orders of any size and importance, all while providing you with speedy and professional service. Even better, you can benefit from our “no minimum order” policy, so you can use MOKOPCB for both your prototyping and production needs!
At MOKOPCB, our goal is to redefine customer service — not only do our practices live up to ISO and IPC standards, but we guarantee service that is fast, inexpensive and defect-free! Our quality manufacturing process can make you custom boards with any number of layers, all without sacrificing quality!