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Metal Core PCB (MCPCB)


At ELE PCB Ltd., we pride ourselves on providing exceptional customer support throughout the entire IMS PCB manufacturing process. Our dedicated team of experts is available to assist you with design consultations, technical inquiries, and any other questions or concerns that may arise during your project. We strive to exceed your expectations and ensure a smooth, hassle-free experience from start to finish.

ELE's Fabrication Capabilities of MCPCB/IMS PCB

Maximum Panel size1500mm*560mm
Copper thickness0.5oz, 1oz, 2oz, 3oz
Substrate Core Thickness0.4mm, 0.6mm, 0.8mm, 1.0mm, 1.2mm, 1.5mm, 2.0mm, 3.0mm, 3.2mm
Finished Board Thickness0.4mm To 5.0mm
Copper foil thickness35um~240um (1OZ~7OZ)
Min. line width/space4mil/4mil (0.1mm/0.1mm)
Thickness Tolerance+/- 10%
Min. Finish hole size0.2mm
Hole position tolerance(+/-)0.076mm
Max. working voltage2.5k VDC (0.075mm Dielectric) 3.75k VDC (0.15mm Dielectric)
Aluminum MachiningDrilling, Tapping, Milling, Routing, Die-Punching, break-off tab available
Profile toleranceRouting outline tolerance: +/-0.13mm;
Punching outline tolerance: +/-0.1mm
Surface FinishingHASL, HASL Lead free, Immersion gold (Silver Tin), OSP
Solder mask colorWhite, LED light special White, Black, MATT Black, others Available
Legend colorBlack, White, others Available
Test Flying probe E-test; Fixture E-test;
CertificationSGS; ISO9001; UL(E337137); ROHS; TS16949

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Table of Contents

Metal Core Printed Circuit Boards (MCPCBs), also know as IMS PCB, have become an increasingly popular option for power electronics applications that require efficient heat dissipation. 

Unlike traditional FR4 PCBs, MCPCBs have an insulated metal layer, usually aluminum, as the core layer that provides superior thermal conductivity. This makes MCPCBs ideal for high-power applications, such as LED lighting, power supplies, and power converters, where efficient heat management is crucial for long-term reliability and performance. 

This article will explore the construction, types, applications, and manufacturing of MCPCBs, as well as the outstanding manufacturer, ELEPCB, when it comes to choosing an MCPCB solution for your application.

What Is an MCPCB?

MCPCBs have a thermal conductivity that is between 5 and 10 times higher than that of traditional FR-4 epoxy glass-based PCBs, and they also have a thickness that is between 5 and 10 times lower than that of conventional architectures. This allows metallic PCBs to dissipate heat more efficiently. Because of the very effective transmission of thermal energy, metal printed circuit boards may employ very thin layers of copper, which helps to cut down on both prices and the overall thickness of the solution. 

Construction of MCPCB

Metal printed circuit boards are made up of 3 layers: a dielectric layer that can provide high thermal conductivity (and, as a result, high dissipation), an insulated metal substrate layer, and a copper film that has a high heat dissipation capacity and is used for circuit lithography because of its mechanical strength. 

Aluminum and copper are the two materials that are utilized most frequently in the process of metal layer manufacturing; however, under some circumstances, stainless steel may also be utilized. Copper has better performance and electrical qualities than aluminum, but its price is significantly more than that of aluminum. It is possible for the metal layer to be made up wholly of metal, or it may be made up of both metal and fiberglass (FR-4). 

Typical structure of a MCPCB
Typical structure of a MCPCB

After then, metallic printed circuit boards can be either single-sided or double-sided, but the multilayer version is not as commonly used since it is more difficult to manufacture. 

In the case of a multilayer MCPCB, the layers must be evenly distributed about the inner metal layer. For instance, in a PCB that has 12 layers, the metal layer would be positioned in the middle of the stack-up, with 6 layers above and 6 levels below it.

3 Types of MCPCBs

MCPCB types are broken down in to single to multilayered PCBs. There types are discussed below.

Single Layer Metal Core PCBs

A single, thin layer of thermally conductive but electrically insulating dielectric material is laminated with copper to create single layer metal core PCBs. It is made up of an aluminum or copper alloy metal base, a dielectric layer, and a copper conductor layer. The copper coating might be anything between 1 and 20 ounces thick. Due to the high thermal conductivity of single layer PCB, created heat may be transferred quickly and efficiently. Single layer MCPCB is suitable for straightforward, low-density designs.

Double-Sided Metal Core PCBs

The use of double-sided Metal Core PCBs is widespread in high-tech applications. Both manufacturing circuits and circuit prototypes use these PCBs. On a typical printed circuit board, a metal layer is positioned over a non-conductive substrate. However, the bottom of the substrate has an additional metal layer on the double-sided MPCBs. 

Multilayer Metal Core PCBs

Multilayer MCPCBs have a similar structure to FR4 Multi Layers, but they are far more difficult to manufacture. They has two or more conductive layers separated by a thermally conductive dielectric. The metal substrate is located at the bottom of the structure, and SMT components can only be mounted on one side.

Core Materials for MCPCB

Aluminum, copper, and steel alloys are all possible metal core materials for thermal PCBs. Aluminum is utilized the most frequently because it has high heat-dissipating qualities and is less expensive than copper. Copper, on the other hand, is said to perform better. Three materials used to create these circuit boards are as follows: 

Aluminum Base

The aluminum PCB has strong heat transfer and heat dissipation capabilities. Aluminum core PCBs are frequently utilized in LED devices since they are lightweight as well. Aluminum substance is economical. 

Aluminum MCPCB
The Aluminum MCPCB

Copper Base

A copper core board performs better than an aluminum one. Although copper is more expensive than aluminum, buyers typically pick aluminum instead. The copper also weighs more than aluminum and requires a more difficult milling procedure.

Steel Alloy Base

Compared to the other two materials described above, steel alloys are more robust but have a lesser heat conductivity. Each material has advantages and disadvantages of its own, and the choice of material is solely based on the application. 

Steel Alloys Base MCPCB
Steel Alloys Base

Advantages of MCPCB (Compared to Traditional FR4 PCB)

Metal core PCBs provide superior capacitive coupling, increased power density, and strong electromagnetic shielding in addition to efficient thermal dissipation. 

Here are the top 6 advantages of MCPCB.

  • Thermal Dissipation

One PCB alternative with a higher heat conductivity is MCPCBs. They avoid potential circuit damage and can manage high-density circuits with higher power levels by keeping the heat as far away from the power components as feasible. One of the most popular materials for this kind of substrate is aluminum because, in addition to having good electrical qualities, it is also affordable and recyclable. Compared to PCBs constructed with FR-4, metal core PCBs transfer heat 8 to 9 times faster. To establish the shortest path from the heat source to the supporting metal plate, the dielectric layer must be extremely thin. It typically has a thickness of between 0.003 and 0.006 inches. A test on an MCPCB with an integrated 1W LED, for instance, revealed that its temperature stayed very near to the ambient temperature of 25°C, although the same power LED installed on an FR-4 board attained a temperature that was 12°C higher than the ambient one.

  • Better Strength and stability

Concerns about heat dissipation have been highlighted by the recent and rapid growth of LED technology, particularly with high-power LED lights. The circuit may have stability and reliability issues as a result of these LEDs because they are typically positioned directly on the PCB. Heat dissipation can impair the operation of electronics that use a lot of power if the proper technique is not used. This issue is successfully resolved in these applications by the use of metal PCBs. Aluminum adds strength and resistance to the printed circuit board without adding weight, and it also ensures a high level of longevity.

Advantages Of MCPCB
Examples of aluminum PCBs used in LED lighting
  • Dimensional Stability

As external circumstances change, the size of a printed circuit board made of metal will remain more stable than one made of more conventional material, like FR-4. PCBs containing metal layers (such as aluminum) have had a relatively slight size variation, ranging from 2.5% to 3.0%, when heated between 30°C to 150°C.

  • Lower Weight and Higher Recyclability

PCBs with metal substrates are more conductive, more durable, and lighter than conventional PCBs constructed of epoxy materials. They are also more environmentally beneficial because the metals they employ, like aluminum, are non-toxic and simple to recycle.

  • Longer Lifetime

Compared to materials like ceramic and fiberglass which are frequently used in the production of PCBs, aluminum offers superior strength and longevity. It is a very strong metal that might lower the danger of unintentional breakage that might happen during different production phases, during assembly, or during typical use of the finished product.

  • Cost-Effectiveness

While MCPCB/IMS PCB can have higher upfront costs compared to traditional PCBs, their long-term benefits often outweigh the initial investment.6

Applications of MCPCB

LED illumination, motor control in electric and hybrid vehicles, power supply, converters, voltage regulators, are only some of the primary uses for MCPCBs. In a broader sense, this technology is appropriate for use in applications that call for a significant amount of energy and, as a result, produce a significant amount of heat. If the printed circuit board needs rapid cooling, the typical FR-4 substrate should be replaced with a metal PCB instead.

Application of MCPCB in LED technology

Metal Core PCBs (MCPCBs) are commonly used in a variety of high-power electronics applications, including:

  1. High-power LED Lighting: MCPCBs are used to improve the efficiency and lifespan of high-power LED lighting systems. The metal core provides better thermal conductivity, allowing heat to be efficiently dissipated from the LED chips, reducing thermal stress and increasing the reliability of the lighting system.
  2. Power Supplies: High-power power supplies generate significant heat, which can impact their performance and longevity. MCPCBs provide a solution to this by efficiently dissipating heat away from the power supply components, improving their reliability and performance.
  3. Power Converters: Power converters, such as DC-DC converters, generate heat during voltage conversion. MCPCBs provide a solution to this by efficiently dissipating heat away from the converter components, improving their reliability and performance.
  4. Automotive Electronics: Electric vehicle powertrains and other automotive electronics generate significant heat, which can impact their performance and longevity. MCPCBs provide a solution to this by efficiently dissipating heat away from the components, improving their reliability and performance.
  5. Telecom Equipment: High-power radio frequency (RF) electronics generate significant heat, which can impact their performance and longevity. MCPCBs provide a solution to this by efficiently dissipating heat away from the components, improving their reliability and performance.
  6. Industrial Electronics: High-power industrial electronics, such as motor drives and control systems, generate significant heat, which can impact their performance and longevity. MCPCBs provide a solution to this by efficiently dissipating heat away from the components, improving their reliability and performance.

Other applications, such as motion control and solar panel applications, are excellent for incorporating MCPCBs. The primary usage of MCPCB is in high-temperature electrical goods or applications requiring heat dissipation, such as LEDs, high-power electric lights, etc., in addition to power supply equipment, audio equipment, cars, and other applications.