Single Layer Vs. Multi-Layer PCBs: Differences Explained

PCBs have come a long way since they first came on the scene. Now, they're used in virtually every device we use on a daily (or constant) basis. But how much do you really know about the design of a printed circuit board? For instance: what's the difference between a PCB with a single layer design and one that has multiple layers? Why are multi-layered boards made in only even-numbered pairs? And what are some of the advantages associated with these board designs?

About Single Layer PCBs

This PCB is the OG -- the one that started it all. They have the conductor pattern on one side and the actual components on the other. They contain a substrate layer, a conductive layer (typically made of copper), a protective solder mask, and a silk screen. They're typically used for simple devices and are a bit less expensive for PCB assembly services to produce.

Advantages of Single Layer PCBs

As mentioned above, these single-sided PCBs are a bit cheaper to make. That's because they don't need as much time to design and produce and require fewer resources to do it. Because they're common and simple, this type of printed circuit board assembly can be performed by any number of designers; you won't need specialized PCB assembly services to obtain the product you want. They can also be ordered at high volumes with very few issues and can obtain them in a relatively short amount of time. That said, they operate at slower speeds and lower capacities, which is why they're not an appropriate choice for more complex electronic devices. But for household appliances, radios, calculators, and LED lights, they work just fine.

About Multi-Layer PCBs

Multilayer PCBs have, as you might have guessed, multiple layers on one board. Double-layer boards have one substrate layer and two layers of conducive material (one on each side of the substrate). Multilayer boards basically put together several double-layer PCBs together with insulation in between them. That's why the most common multi-layer PCBs have four, six, eight, and 10 layers. They can be made to have over 42 layers; the largest multi-layer PCB had 129 layers! Because they have multiple conductor patterns within them, they're able to have more area for wiring -- and can therefore be used for more technical devices.

Advantages of Multi-Layer PCBs While it's true that PCB assembly services will charge more and require more time to produce these multi-layer PCBs, there are some distinct benefits to using them in all kinds of electronic devices. Complex projects may simply require more connections, which only multiple layered PCBs can provide. These PCBs are generally thought to be of extremely high quality because they require a bit more expertise to design and produce. They're also more powerful, more durable, and more lightweight than traditional PCBs. Multi-layer PCBs are used in computers, smartphones, smartwatches, microwaves, air conditioning units, X-ray machines, medical equipment, GPS systems, automotive and aerospace applications, industrial machines, weather analysis tools, alarm systems, and so much more.

When it comes down to it, single layered PCBs are not necessarily inferior to multi-layered PCBs; it's simply that these boards are used for different applications. Both have an established place in today's world and we rely on both types frequently. Of course, when the time comes to choose a PCB assembly service, you'll want to make sure your supplier specializes in the type of board you truly need. To learn more about our PCB design services, please get in touch with us today.

Posted on Aug. 1, 2018 Copyright © 2018 Advanced Assembly