Single Layer vs Multi-Layer PCB Electronic Assembly

 Anthony Pearce
  Aug 22, 2018

Finding the right electronic contract manufacturer or ECM for your electronics project is critical. While choosing an ECM for your printed circuit board fabrication and electronic assembly services may seem like a straightforward task, careful consideration must be taken. You need the perfect partner for your prototypes. The wrong ECM could result in major headaches like extended turnaround times and unnecessary costs. It could even lead your project to come to a screeching halt.

Avoiding this means doing your homework. You first need to understand the difference between a single layer and multi-layer PCB assembly. Knowing the difference and will help you select an electronics manufacturing partner based on their knowledge and ability to fabricate and assemble the appropriate PCB for your project.

What is a PCB?

PCB stands for a printed circuit board. PCBs are used by the majority of the population in all kinds of devices on a daily basis. It contains tracks, lines, and paths to electrically connect different electronics components. Holes are drilled to place components once the electronic tracks - typically copper - are laid. Components are then placed and soldered on these holes to adhere to the boards.

They are specially designed for each and every circuit and are found in various daily consumer devices like your cell phone and Fitbit, to complex government weather radar systems and municipal traffic lights.

The circuits are produced with a base layer called a substrate. This is a thin layer of conducting material placed on the outside of an insulating board. Separate components are located on the surface of the substrate & soldered to the connected circuits. The construction of the PCB can be done in different ways. The most common are single-layered and multi-layered.

Single Layer PCBs

Single layer PCBs is where it all started. This printed circuit board includes just one layer of a substrate, a conductive layer (usually made of copper), a protective solder mask, and a silk screen. The conductor pattern is on one side of the board. The components are on the other side. They're usually used for simple products and devices like radios, calculators, and LED lights.

PCB Assembly

Components of a single layer PCB can be attached to the board in various ways. In general, there are two methods an engineer will choose to attach the components. They will use either the surface mount method or the through-hole method. The engineer then uses solder to attach the components to the board by following a schematic pattern.

Once the soldering is complete and components are installed, the PCB is ready to be used in a device. The PCB is then tested under the normal conditions in which it will operate.

Advantages of Single Layer PCBs

Single layer printed circuit boards are common and simple. Due to their simplicity, single layer PCB’s are cheaper to produce than other types of boards. They do not need as much time to design and make, and they require fewer resources to manufacture. All of this means they can be ordered at high volumes with quick turnaround.

Multi-layer PCBs

Multi-layer PCBs have multiple layers on one board to be used in more sophisticated devices. Double-layer boards are made of one layer of a substrate and two layers of copper or another conductive material.

Multi-layer boards are basically several double-layer PCBs put together. Layers of insulation are placed between them. They have multiple conductor patterns within them and a much larger surface area for wiring.

The extra layers on multi-layer PCBs give designers alternate configuration options that allow them to make very thick and highly compound designs. The extra layers serve to provide the circuit with power. This is why they can be used in devices that are much more technical and advanced than their single-player counterparts.

Multi-layer PCB Assembly

Manufacturing multi-layer circuit boards are pretty straightforward. However, the process does require a high level of attention to detail. Engineers must ensure all layers are correctly lined up to the required drilled holes despite any deformations caused by the heat and pressure. Because more than one layer is being used, the correct materials must be chosen, the build sequence must be precisely followed, and the orientation of each sheet must be correct.

A specialized hydraulic press with heated plates is also required for manufacturing multi-layer PCBs. The PCBs are squeezed with pressure and then heated to seal the bond.

Advantages of Multi-Layer PCBs

Multi-layer PCB's may be more expensive to produce due to sophisticated nature, but their benefits more than offset for the cost. Some complex devices require more connections provided by multi-layered PCBs. They are also more powerful, durable, and lightweight than traditional PCBs.

This allows them to be used in devices such as computers, smartphones, microwaves, air conditioning units, medical equipment, GPS systems, industrial machines, alarm systems, and much, much more.

Single Layer vs Multi-Layer PCB Electronic Assembly

Anthony Pearce

Anthony Pearce is a freelance writer and multi-media storyteller. He has used, blogs, social media, and video to educate and inform. Anthony has written on various topics ranging from landscaping, electronics & technology, and home remodeling & repair.

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