Printed circuit boards or PCBs help in keeping electronic components safe and secure, while offering a means of interconnecting them so that the entire circuit functions as the designer intended. Printed Circuit Boards in the USA are available in various types, most notably:
- Single Sided
- Double Sided
PCB fabrication in the USA has progressed to a high level of excellence. Depending on the application, each of the above PCB types are also available as:
- Rigid PCBs
- Flexible PCBs
The cost of a PCB board in the USA depends on its size, the number of layers it has, and its method of construction. To understand the different advantages offered by PCB manufacturing in the USA, it is necessary to know some details of PCB construction.
Printed Circuit Board Construction USA
Printed circuit boards typically consist of a core or substrate that provides the PCB its rigidity or strength. A cloth of glass fiber reinforced with epoxy forms the core. The core also has thin copper sheets bonded on its sides, forming a copper clad. A double-sided board has copper sheets on both sides of the core, while the core of a single-sided board has only one copper sheet.
In their simplest construction, multi-layered boards can be thought of as multiple copper clads bonded together with insulation of pre-preg in between. PCB manufacturers in the USA use various materials in their boards to give them the necessary rigidity or flexibility the application needs. Therefore, printed circuit boards offer various advantages depending on their type and construction.
Benefits of Single-Sided PCB Boards USA
Single-side PCB boards in the USA are the cheapest and simplest types of printed circuit boards. With only one layer of copper, they can have NPTH or non plated-through-holes in them. They also cannot have vias, but single-sided PCB boards in the USA are suitable for both surface mount components as well as through hole components. Some major benefits of single-sided PCB boards in the USA are:
- Low costs, especially for high volume orders
- Simple construction
- Low probabilities of manufacturing issues
- Easy to manufacture
- Suitable for simple designs
- Suitable for low-density designs
- Faster lead times
The costs are low as the material for the construction of single-sided PCB boards in the USA are readily available. Almost all PCB manufacturers in the USA fabricate single sided boards. The simple manufacturing methods necessary for fabricating single-sided boards makes them non-expensive.
As single-side boards have only one copper layer and a substrate, their construction is the simplest of all types of boards. PCB fabricators must bond only one copper sheet to the core to form a single-sided board.
Low Probabilities of Manufacturing Issues
As the construction and manufacturing processes are very simple, fabricating a single-sided board offers very low probabilities of manufacturing issues. Therefore, PCB manufacturers in the USA can offer very high quality single-sided boards at low cost.
Easy to Manufacture
Etching a single-sided board is the only complicated process the fabricator must undertake, provided the board holds only surface mount components. For through-hole components, an additional process is necessary—drilling holes for mounting the leaded components.
Suitable for Simple Designs
With only one layer of copper, a single-layer board offers only a limited number of channels to a designer for routing the traces between components. Therefore, single-sided boards are aptly suitable for simple designs with low component count.
Suitable for Low-Density Designs
As a single-layer board cannot be plated through holes or vias, it is not possible to implement high-density circuits. In terms of cost and performance, it is difficult to surpass single-layer boards for their suitability for low-density designs. In fact, most high-power circuits with heavy copper designs use single-layer boards.
Faster Lead Times
Simple and uncomplicated construction, easy fabrication, and low probability of issues results in faster lead times. Most PCB manufacturers in the USA offer lead times of one day for fabricating single-layer boards.
Disadvantages of Single-Layer Boards USA
Along with their several advantages, single-layer boards have their disadvantages as well. To list a few of the disadvantages:
- Not possible to include PTH or vias
- Not suitable for circuits of medium or high complexity
- Not suitable for circuits of medium or high density
To overcome the above, designers must use double-layer printed circuit boards.
Advantages of Double-Layer Printed Circuit Boards USA
Compared to single-layer boards, one of the biggest advantages of double-layer boards is they can be plated through holes or vias. Vias are a means of connecting the two layers of copper. Presence of vias effectively doubles the number of channels the designer can use for routing the traces between components. Consequently, double-layer boards are suitable for use with circuits of medium density. Other advantages of double-layer printed circuit boards in the USA are:
- Low costs
- Simple construction with PTH and vias
- Low probabilities of manufacturing issues
- Ease of manufacturing
- Suitable for designs of medium complexity
- Suitable for medium-density designs
- Faster lead times
Even though double-layer printed circuit boards in the USA are more expensive than single-layer boards are, the cost difference is not very much. This is because the fabrication techniques for both types of boards are not very different, and the cost difference is mainly because of the extra layer of copper.
Although there are now two layers of copper, the construction is not very different compared to that of the single-layer board, except for the possibility of adding PTH and vias. Nevertheless, the construction is much simpler compared to that of multi-layered boards.
With the presence of a second layer of copper, vias, and PTH, the double-layer PCB offers far more probabilities of manufacturing issues, as compared to that of a single-layer board. However, the number of issues is still far lower than those one can expect in manufacturing multi-layer boards.
Ease of Manufacturing
For manufacturing a double-layer board, the PCB manufacturer in the USA has to etch two layers of copper as against one for the single-layer board. However, most manufacturers accomplish the etching process for both sides in the same bath, so the ease of manufacturing is almost the same. Drilling for through holes and vias is the same process for both types of boards. Addition of vias and PTH increases the complexity of the manufacturing process somewhat.
This is one of the two areas where the double-layer board scores over the single-layer types. The possibility of vias and the presence of a second layer increases the number of channels available to the designer while routing traces. As a result, designers can fit circuits of higher complexity on a double layer board as they can in a single-layer board of the same area.
Vias and a second layer of copper also increase the surface area available to the designer to almost double that available in a single-layer board. As a result, it becomes easier to break out traces from high-density components.
Most PCB manufacturers in the USA offer very similar lead times for single- and double-sided boards. This is because the manufacturing processes in both cases are very similar.
Although the cost for a double-sided PCB is marginally higher than that for a single-sided PCB, the cost is still substantially lower than that for a multi-layered board.
For simple circuits or circuits with medium complexity and density, using single- or double-sided PCB boards in the USA works out cheaper in the long run. Unless there is a space constraint forcing the designer to consider using a multi-layered board, the project can benefit from the lower cost and complexity of a single- or double-layer board.