What is a Metal Core PCB?

A metal core printed circuit board (MCPCB) is a type of printed circuit board in which the heat carrier section of the panel is made of metal. The main purpose of using a metal core is to dissipate heat away from the components that are a major source of it. MCPCB is also known as insulated metallic substrate (IMS) PCBs and thermal PCBs.

Metal core PCBs are usually made of three materials which are aluminum, copper, and steel alloy. Each of these materials has its own unique properties, and choosing the right material depends on the type application. Aluminum has excellent heat dissipating and transferring ability, and is cost-effective. Copper performs better than aluminum, but is more expensive. Steel alloy has lower thermal conductivity than the other metals, but is stronger and more rigid.

What are the Advantages of a Metal Core PCB

The robustness of the materials used in the fabrication of a metal core PCB gives it multiple advantageous features. These are:

  • Highly Durable: Since metal core PCBs are made of rigid metal materials, they are highly durable.

  • Cost-effective: Because of the affordability and the simplicity of the materials they use, MCPCBs can be manufactured at lower costs than other types of printed circuit boards.

  • Component Cooling: MCPCBs are specifically designed to dissipate heat and maintain the temperature of components. This temperature regulation feature helps to improve their performance.

  • Reduced PCB Size: MCPCBs are compact and generally small in size. This allows them to fit in confined and narrow spaces inside devices.

  • Faster Heat Dissipation: MCPCBs dissipate heat as much as eight to nine times faster than other types of printed circuit boards.

What are the Common Applications of Metal Core PCBs?

Because of their durability, compactness, and ability to dissipate heat efficiently, MCPCBs are used in a wide range of applications including hybrid/electric motor control, photovoltaic systems, power regulators in automobiles, audio amplifiers, semiconductor thermal insulation boards, and others.

What is a Single Layer Metal Core PCB?

A single layer metal core PCB consists of a single layer of thermally conductive, electrically insulating dielectric material laminated with copper. It has a metal base that is either aluminum or copper alloy, dielectric layer, and copper conductor layer. The thickness of the copper layer can range anywhere between 1 to 20 ounces. It is commonly used in audio equipment, automotive and industrial relays, LED lighting, sensor products, and packaging equipment.

What is a Two (Double) Layer Metal Core PCB?

A two layer MCPCB has a metal core at the bottom and two layers of conductor on the top which lie on the same side of the metal core. The metal core in this type of printed circuit board is generally metals such as aluminum, copper, and iron alloys. Its dielectric layer lies between a copper layer and the bottom metal core. Common applications of two layer MCPCBs include power modules, audio equipment, power controllers, electronic regulators, transmitter circuits, high-frequency amplifiers, and others.

What are Chip-on-Metal Core PCBs?

A chip-on-metal core printed circuit board (COB MCPCB) is a type of circuit board that contains a microchip called a die. When the microchip touches the metal core, it dissipates heat forming an electrical interconnection with the trace on the board. This eliminates the need for a dielectric layer. A chip-on-metal core PCB has the same thermal conductivity as that of other metal core circuit boards. Common applications COB MCPCB includes electronic lighting, high power LED, power supply and others.

What is a Double-sided Metal Core PCB

A double-sided metal core PCB is a circuit board that contains an additional metal layer on the bottom of the substrate. It is widely used in advanced high technology applications such as line reactors, industrial controls, regulators, power supplies, converters, HVAC systems, hard drives, UPS systems, and others.