About Aluminum LED PCBs, More and more PCB manufacturers are adopting aluminum for making PCBs.
Additionally, the global uptake of LEDs has led to an exponential rise in the popularity of aluminum PCBs.
LEDs are brighter and consume less energy than most conventional lighting systems.
Consequently, manufacturers invest funds in research and development to develop better PCBs. And one such printed circuit board is the aluminum PCB.
Today, we highlight aluminum LED PCBs, their application, and how they differ from standard PCBs.
Table of Contents
- What Is an Aluminum LED PCB?
- Types of LED PCBs
- Difference Between Aluminum LED PCBs and Standard PCBs
- Alternatives to Aluminum PCBs in LEDs
- Challenges Encountered When Assembling LED PCBs
- Final Remarks
What Is an Aluminum LED PCB?
An aluminum LED or aluminum-clad PCB is a printed circuit board with aluminum as the base material. It falls under the metal core category of PCBs with greater strength despite being lightweight.
This aluminum layer is a heat sink, providing efficient heat dissipation for components that generate a lot of heat.
Moreover, the aluminum layer is between a layer of thermal insulation and a layer of copper. The latter provides the circuit traces for the board.
During fabrication, designers add a copper layer using a process called etching. The process removes unwanted copper material from the board. As a result, it leaves behind the desired circuit pattern.
We use aluminum PCBs in high-power applications where efficient heat dissipation is critical. Typical uses include automotive lighting and industrial controls. Furthermore, they have applications in devices requiring high reliability, like aerospace electronics.
Types of LED PCBs
(LED light sources)
There are various types of LED PCBs depending on usage and preference. Generally, most PCBs have specific designs, with most differing on the type of base material.
For instance, some LED PCBs have metal as the base material. Let’s take a closer look at the types of LED PCBs.
Aluminum PCBs are the most popular printed circuit board for use in LEDs.
As we’ve seen, they have a layer of aluminum as the base metal. Consequently, they have better heat dissipation, making them suitable for devices that generate a lot of heat.
FR-4 PCBs are PCBs made of a fire-retardant material known as FR-4. The FR-4 is a type of fiberglass-reinforced epoxy laminate. Generally,
PCB fabricators prefer FR-4 due to its excellent insulating properties. Moreover, the material can withstand harsh weather conditions.
Generally, we use FR-4 PCBs in low-power electronics applications like automotive electronics.
If you’ve seen a green PCB, chances are high that it is an FR-4 board.
The PCBs get their green color from a solder mask layer that safeguards the circuit traces from harm when soldering.
(Flexible LED PCB strip)
PCB manufacturers make flexible PCBs from a flexible material like polyimide. The material allows the PCBs to bend freely to any shape without breaking or losing functionality.
Additionally, they have certain advantages over the more common rigid PCBs. Firstly, they have better flexibility in areas with little space.
As such, you’ll find them in wearable electronics and medical devices.
Secondly, using flexible PCBs eliminates the need for wires and connectors, which can be cumbersome.
Consequently, you can reduce a device’s overall weight by integrating the circuitry into the flexible substrate.
Hybrid PCBs have a metal base and some material with good thermal management. Common materials include having an aluminum substrate and binding it with an FR-4 layer.
These boards are strong and dissipate heat more efficiently than some PCBs. Furthermore, they are cheaper than aluminum PCBs despite sharing some of their features.
However, hybrid PCBs are rigid and not suitable for flexible electronic devices.
We have two types of layered PCBs, single-layer and multi-layer PCBs. Single-layer PCBs have one layer of the substrate.
Typically, they have a metal layer comprising copper or any other excellent conductor. Consequently, they are inexpensive and readily available.
Conversely, multi-layer LED PCBs have more than two layers. The insulators protect the circuit board from the excessive heat that could result when using it.
Chip-on-Board (COB) PCBs
COB PCBs use a method of LED packaging whereby manufacturers put multiple LED chips on a PCB without individual packaging.
Generally, we use COB boards for high-power LED applications that demand a small size and high component density.
Difference Between Aluminum LED PCBs and Standard PCBs
(A printed circuit board with components)
Standard PCBs differ from aluminum LED PCBs in several ways. Foremost, standard PCBs employ dielectric and copper as core materials.
Additionally, they have a substrate consisting of ceramic or another non-metal substrate.
Generally, FR-4 is the most common material for the substrate. On the other hand, aluminum LED PCBs use aluminum as the base metal.
Secondly, aluminum PCBs have substantially better heat conductivity than standard PCBs. Therefore, they are perfect for high-power applications since they can dissipate heat well.
Thirdly, aluminum PCBs generally last longer than standard PCBs as they resist damage from physical stress.
Consider using aluminum as a base metal if you’re designing a system for harsh environments.
Fourthly, we use aluminum PCBs with high-power applications that generate much heat. On the other hand, standard PCBs are more versatile and best for general applications like consumer electronics.
Alternatives to Aluminum PCBs in LEDs
As much as aluminum is an excellent material for PCBs, it has shortcomings. Moreover, the type of PCB with LEDs varies depending on the application and requirements. Consequently, alternatives to aluminum in LED PCBs include:
- Copper PCBs
- Ceramic PCBs
- FR-4 PCBs
- Flexible PCBs
Remember, your choice of material depends on the specific application and requirements.
Challenges Encountered When Assembling LED PCBs
(PCB manufacturing and testing)
The massive adoption of LED lighting has led to an increase in the popularity of aluminum LED PCBs. However, designing LED PCBs comes with some challenges, including:
Thermal management: Light-emitting diodes generate a lot of heat which may damage your device if you fail to manage it properly. The best solution is to conduct a thorough thermal management process during assembly using thermal vias or heat sinks.
Soldering: Soldering can be tricky since LED PCBs often have tiny components and restrictive spacing. Consequently, control the temperature to avoid damaging the LEDs with heat during soldering.
ESD Protection: Electrostatic discharge (ESD) can damage LEDs during assembly. Therefore, use ESD-safe practices to safeguard the LED components from ESD.
What is an aluminum PCB used for?
Aluminum PCBs have excellent heat dissipation capabilities making them suitable for high-heat applications. They provide improved thermal management for electronic components like LEDs and high-power transistors.
Additionally, aluminum is a tougher material in comparison to other base materials.
Consequently, we use it in applications that need moisture-resistant boards with better electrical insulation. These characteristics make aluminum PCBs perfect for harsh weather where dependability is crucial.
Why is aluminum used in LEDs?
Light-emitting diodes or LEDs generate heat when you connect them to an electrical power source. The heat can build up within your device and lower the lifespan of the LED.
Therefore, the LEDs need aluminum PCBs for better thermal management and strength. Other reasons are that aluminum is lightweight and corrosion-resistant.
Why are PCBs used in electronics?
We use PCBs in electronics to provide mechanical support for electronic components. PCBs are an improvement of the traditional wired boards found in older electronics.
With technological advancements, engineers developed PCBs to save on cost and space. Imagine having wires running all over your computer’s motherboard.
It would not only waste a lot of space but also be expensive. Moreover, PCBs reduce noise and interference within devices by providing a consistent signal path.
Aluminum is an excellent material for use in LEDs. It is a very popular base metal as it is cheap and readily available. Likewise, it is long-lasting and resistant to most harsh weather elements.
Consider aluminum if you’re fabricating your printed circuit board for use with LEDs.
Nonetheless, other alternatives have particular features suiting respective applications. Your choice will depend on the specific use of the printed circuit board.