A printed circuit board (PCB) uses conductive tracks and other features produced from copper sheets of layers that are laminated between non-conductive substrate sheet layers. It uses these tracks to support and connect electronic components. Almost every device contains a printed circuit board. While they may look simple, printed circuit boards are intricate electronic devices that are composed of hundreds of electronic components. They neatly provide mechanical support and electrical connection to components that comprise a device circuit.
Printed circuit boards are most commonly laminated to copper because copper is a highly conductive material. The photochemical process etches predetermined patterns out of the copper layer. The etches result in conducting lines called tracks. Tracks act as circuit wires. Other features include vias and solid conductive areas. They are responsible for electromagnetic shielding and interconnecting multi-layer boards.
1-Layer PCB (Single Layer)
Components: Single-layer PCBs, also called single-sided boards, only have components on one side of the board. They contain a standard conductor pattern on the other side. Containing only one layer of conductive material, the rest of its components are left to spread out.
Usage: Single-layer PCBs are used for basic appliances. Simple electronics like printers and cameras contain single-layer PCBs. They are also used in digital calculators, vending machine circuits, photocopy and printer machine circuits, and radio and stereo equipment.
2-Layer PCB (Double Layer)
Components: Double-layer PCBs are two copper layers. Solder mask, a copper layer, core, a copper layer, and another solder mask are placed between the two copper layers to help mechanically support and electrically connect components on either side of the board. Vias are drilled through the board and lined with copper to connect circuits from one side of the board to the other.
Usage: The applications of double-layer PCBs differ greatly from that of single-layer PBCs. 2-Layer PCBs tend to function at the hearts of more complex machines. 2-Layer PCBs are used in medical devices, automotive machines, consumer electronics such as mobiles, laptops, and kitchen appliances, and high-powered industrial electronics. Interestingly, 2-Layer PCBs manufactured from industrial-grade materials are durable, able to withstand harsh conditions like chemicals, serious crashes, rough handling, and moving machinery.
4-Layer PCB (Multi-Layer)
Components: 4-layer PCBs are structured similarly to 2-Layer PCBs. They feature four copper layers, which are laminated together with alternating substrates. 4-Layer PCBs, also referred to as multi-layer PCBs, are composed of solder masks, a copper layer, substrate, copper layer, substrate, a copper layer, copper layer, and solder mask. The outer layers are called signal layers. Inner layers serve as ground and supply planes, which protect from electromagnetic interference (EMI) in circuit RF components. Like double layer PCBs, the 4-Layer PCBs feature vias. 4-Layer PCBs are for those who have complex circuits that have emissions capacity.
Usage: 4-Layer PCBs are often used in consumer electronics, computer electronics, and telecommunications like signal broadcasts, GPS, and satellite. They are also used in the industrial, military and defense, automotive, and aerospace industries.
Gerber Labs PCB Products
Gerber Labs offers PCB prototypes, as well as circuit board components. We are a trusted collaborator dedicated to keeping your project on track and budget. We offer best-in-class circuit boards, resistors, potentiometers, capacitors, connectors, diodes, and LEDs.
Circuit boards: Gerber Labs prides itself on creating two and four-layer circuit boards to help build prototypes. Our circuit boards range in complexity, quality, materials, price points, and capability.
Resistors: Resistors are found in every type of printed circuit board. They resist or block the flow of electricity.
Potentiometers: A potentiometer is a form of variable resistor that you can manually adjust, meaning that you can regulate and change the flow of current in it. Our portfolio of potentiometers includes our line of Citec potentiometers, available with eyelet or PCB termination type.
Capacitors: Electronic circuits use capacitors to provide blocking of direct current and passage of alternating current. Power supply output is filtered in analog filter networks. Radios tuned to particular frequencies use resonant circuits.
Connectors: Components in your circuit connect using connectors. They have a plastic exterior with multiple pins. Gerber Labs offers a variety of connectors in different shapes and sizes, as well as adaptors that allow different types of connectors to work together.
Diodes: One-way electrical components that indicate directions are essential switches in electronics. They are responsible for converting AC power to DC power, as seen in electronics with rechargeable batteries. Diodes can be used to suppress spikes in voltage, acting as a built-in surge protector.
LEDs: At Gerber Labs, we sell quality light-emitting diodes or LEDs. They are very common and are often used to display when a device is turned on. LEDs emit light when they are exposed to a positive voltage. The color changes based on the current volume that goes to the positive and negative sides of the diode.
Gerber Labs offers prototyping services for industry-grade, 2-layer and 4-layer rigid boards. At 170 TG, our rigid boards are considered high TG PCBs. This means our PCB raw material is highly heat resistant, resulting in high-quality performance. High multi-layer PCBs demand substrate material with high heat resistance, resulting in PCB reliability and better functionality within complex electrical machines. Higher heat resistance causes improved stability and more chemical and moisture resistance.
Our double and multi-layer PCB prototypes use top-performing materials to ensure optimal quality and maximal functionality. Our circuit boards feature copper layers, solder mask composite, and substrate. Vias are drilled through the layers and bound with copper to connect circuits from one side of the board to the other. Tracks are also produced from laminated copper sheets for prime conductivity.
All PCB prototypes are delivered in protective packaging. Protective packaging keeps the printed circuit boards from experiencing drops and shocks. Once received, you’ll need to store them in a low-humidity climate-controlled place.
When a Gerber Labs PCB is built, components it houses are directly mounted on the board. During assembly, components are placed into vias and soldered in place. The surface of all our PCB boards features non-conductive material that protects the board from electric overstimulation. Directly beneath the protective, non-conductive surface is the highly conductive layer. Gerber Lab PCB boards integrate etched tracing in the place of bulky wires.
Size & Quantity
The amount of copper in each printed circuit board changes according to its size. You have the option of printing individual circuit boards or multiple circuit boards on a single panel. The more layers you add to your circuit board request, the more complex the design will be.
Double-layer printed circuit boards have two copper layers. The layers of the double-layer PCB are as follows: solder mask, a copper layer, core, copper layer, solder mask. Like all of our printed circuit boards, double-layer PCBs have holes drilled in them and have copper bonding that allows connectivity between components.
Opting for a 4-layer printed circuit board would follow a similar sandwich layer model, the would include four laminated copper layers as opposed to just two.
The layers in double-sided circuit boards are slightly more complex. Choosing to use a double-sided is only truly beneficial if you are building a very complex electrical machine.
Pricing involves a number of factors, including a Bill of Materials (BOM), which is a list of everything needed for your PCB to be manufactured. This is typically generated automatically by circuit board design software. It may even offer alternative materials that would allow you to save on costs.
Next, you’ll need to consider whether your PCB is single or double-sided. Double-sided circuit boards cost more to manufacture and produce. However, it may be worth the price, as you’ll be able to fit more components in a smaller space for complex circuit board designs. If your circuit board design is not as complex, a single-sided printed circuit board would be your best option.
Four-layer circuit boards cost more than 2-layer circuit boards and 2-layer circuit boards are more costly than one-layer circuit boards.
Your minimum trace width is the shortest distance between two conductors on your board. Smaller minimum trace widths are more complex and result in higher costs. Also consider your minimum hole size, the smallest hole in your circuit board. Hole sizes that fall below standard size may be more costly.
Additional factors to consider when estimating cost are the number of circuit boards your project requires and what materials you plan to use to complete it. Closely consider your base material, exterior finish, components, the thickness of copper, packing, and storage. Also, consider whether or not you’ll need specialized testing for your PCBs.
Be sure to check the Gerber Labs website periodically so you don’t miss any service promos we may be offering.
Whether you are building a STEM project for your high school robotics team or are working on an innovative, world-changing prototype, Gerber Labs is here for you. We are a reliable collaborator, providing top-choice circuit boards and components.
Ready to get working on your project? Contact us today!