PCB thickness refers to the density of a complete Printed Circuit Board. Standard PCB thickness depends on several factors: the substrate used, copper thickness, weight, number of layers, and the operational environment.
There is no official standard PCB core thickness as they serve different roles in different capacities, and various industries have unique needs.
However, consumers prefer specific sizes, and it’s become standard practice among PCB manufacturing companies to adhere to this.
But have you ever wondered how manufacturers figure out the thickness of PCBs? A lot of thought goes into each stage of the assembly process.
In the end, the customer gets a perfectly functioning board. The equipment manufacturing PCBs continues to improve, and the process is more fascinating than ever.
Therefore, all techies must understand the ins and outs of standard PCB thickness.
Table of Contents
- What Is the Ideal PCB Thickness?
- What Factors Affect PCB Thickness?
- How Do You Choose the Right PCB Thickness?
- Can You Get Custom-Made PCBs?
What Is the Ideal PCB Thickness?
Contract manufacturers produce a standard PCB thickness of 1.57 mm. That’s approximately 0.062 inches. In the earlier days of board fabrication, many companies manufactured bakelite sheets to this specification.
Therefore, we can refer to this as the ideal standard PCB thickness. Today, companies manufacture boards smaller and larger than this standard, but the 1.57 mm standard remains the most common thickness for circuit boards.
The advancement of technology has led to a range of different PCB thicknesses. There is the 0.031in (0.78mm ) circuit board, the 0.062in (1.57mm), and the 0.093in (2.36mm) standard PCB thickness.
You can have boards with other thickness levels. They’re based on custom designs suited for your fabrication and assembly services. The numbers listed here are guidelines.
Moreover, many design and manufacturing factors exist when determining the ideal PCB thickness.
What Factors Affect PCB Thickness?
PCB Design Factors
Thinner boards are lighter and more flexible than their thicker counterparts. However, they will also break more easily. A good example is flex PCBs. They’re thin to maintain flexibility.
Applications that don’t need flexibility would use a slightly thicker board to uphold structural integrity.
Transparent flexible circuit board detail with the printed copper layer
Thicker boards are sturdier but carry more weight and space inside a device.
These features can prove problematic for devices with limited spatial capacity or lightweight applications. Therefore, the end use of the circuit board determines all of these factors.
The number of circuit board layers influences standard PCB thickness as well. This number depends on factors like the board signal type, signal layers, and ground planes needed to prevent EMI (electromagnetic interference).
PCB Manufacturing Factors
The fabrication of the copper traces of your board, from the surface to internal circuits, is one of the major PCB manufacturing factors influencing thickness.
Layer fabrication starts with a laminate sheet that copper entirely covers. If these layers are too thick, technicians will have to etch them.
The etching describes removing excess copper from traces and other circuit board areas, such as annular rings and component pads. Manufacturing processes like etching and plating rely on the thickness of this internal copper layer.
It is why thicker copper layers impact the manufacturability of circuit boards, which influences the cost and quality of the final product.
Flex PCB with a copper layer
Drill hole manufacturing processes are the most complex factor. Moreover, when drilling through holes, fabricators must not exceed the thickness of the board.
The depth capabilities and diameter of lasers and milling machines also limit them. Therefore, manufacturers can only achieve small-diameter holes if the boards are thick enough.
Significant Cost Factors
Everyone wants a cost-effective product that will serve the needs of their desired applications. Standard-thickness boards will lower manufacturing costs and delays than thicker or custom-made boards.
On the other hand, unique materials, complex internal circuitry, and manufacturing conditions can quickly drive up PCBs’ cost (and thickness).
How Do You Choose the Right PCB Thickness?
Most of the time, a standard PCB thickness is best for your applications. But some scenarios may require a customized PCB thickness.
In the end, the density of your PCB will affect many cost-determining factors. Here are the top 3 things to consider when choosing your final design and manufacturing choices:
Equipment Applications and Capabilities
The manufacturer should have the ability to manufacture the board thickness you need.
If your application requires certain features you can only achieve with advanced design techniques, it’s best to research manufacturers that can meet your expectations.
Furthermore, remember that any advanced methods will result in higher costs.
Evaluate whether a thicker board or custom board is cost-effective for your business. As we said earlier, standard-thickness boards will cost less in delays and manufacturing costs when compared to custom-thickness boards.
Assess the cost versus the benefit. If you want a higher than standard thickness, it’s worth the trade-off compared. Therefore, the changes needed will accommodate a custom-thickness board.
Economies of scale/cost reduction
Process Lead Time
Standard PCB core thicknesses require little to no adjustment, but custom thicknesses need costly changes.
Moreover, manufacturers may have to change equipment settings and processes to accommodate the unique needs of the custom design.
Such modifications take time, delaying the onset of manufacturing and potentially increasing project turnaround times. Any complex design feature will increase the time needed for manufacturing.
Can You Get Custom-Made PCBs?
PCBs are manufactured in panels or sheets; consumers can buy them in standard sizes. Your chosen manufacturer probably has these sizes in stock or can quickly obtain them from another source.
But when it comes to custom-made PCBs, things get slightly trickier. Restrictions in equipment processing capabilities may restrict the manufacturer from producing custom-made PCBs.
Even the delay or back-order time to acquire them could affect the procedure.
Furthermore, if your design demands an irregular board thickness, you may be restricted by the manufacturer’s equipment capabilities.
Again, you may need more time to acquire the panels or sheets from the manufacturer. It would be best to keep these factors in mind before getting a custom-made PCB.
How Thick Is a Standard PCB?
Most contract manufacturers agree that the standard PCB thickness is 1.57 mm, or approximately 0.062 inches.
What’s the Minimum Thickness for a Printed Circuit Board?
Standard circuit boards have a thickness of 1.5mm. The minimum thickness is 0.2 mm for the majority of circuit boards.
Printed circuit board closeup
Why Does PCB Thickness Matter?
The thickness of a circuit board affects the cost of a project and the timeline of its completion. PCB thickness also matters when it comes to application.
Some devices need sturdy boards that can withstand harsh conditions. Others need PCBs with a high degree of flexibility.
What Determines PCB Thickness?
Several factors determine PCB thickness. However, the primary feature is the materials used. The substrate, solder mask, silkscreen, and laminate all contribute to the size and thickness of the final product.
You’ve got many options to choose from in terms of PCB thickness. Again, options that extend far beyond what’s considered standard.
A standard-thickness PCB means a faster and less expensive manufacturing process. Custom thicknesses cost more, but you’re assured of getting the functionality and efficiency you need for your unique applications.
Regardless of your choice, however, you should always partner with a PCB supplier that meets your needs and offers expert advice.