Properties of RF PCB Microwave Materials
RF microwave PCBs are often fabricated from advanced composite materials with special dielectric constant (Er), loss tangent and coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE) properties.
High-frequency circuit materials with low stable Er and loss tangent allow high-speed signal impedance to pass through the PCB. These materials are mixed in the same stack for optimum performance and economy.
Extremely stable in high temperature environments, PCB applications used in high humidity environments require careful selection of substrates, especially moisture or sealing materials.
RF PCB Specialized Processing Equipment
Much of the processing of microwave/RF PCBs can be done on standard manufacturing equipment. However, strict design requires high-end equipment. We have plasma etching equipment to ensure that the quality of the vias is at the highest level. Plasma etching uses plasma or etchant gases to remove substrate material in vias and to coat the surface. Laser Direct Imaging (LDI) equipment allows us to meet trace width and front-to-back registration requirements compared to more traditional photo exposure tools. Laser drilling equipment is required for many different materials because mechanical cutting can leave burrs, loose fabrics, or discoloration from heat. This also enables us to provide our customers with the highest quality micropores.
RF Microwave PCB Design & Fabrication Considerations
The selection of RF materials is critical and based on performance requirements. RF microwave PCBs are designed to operate at specific frequencies and require some kind of board to support these frequencies.
In almost every case, the PCB designer will consult the board manufacturer. Once a material has been selected, the PCB engineer uses it to construct a schematic, which refers to the electrical-level design of the board’s purpose and function.
Your Expert RF PCB And MicrowavePCB Manufacturer
RF PCB (also named Radio frequency PCB or Radio frequency printed circuit board)and Microwave PCB, is designed to operate high frequency signals with small wave length, surely related to radio frequency, The laminate materials for building RF PCB and Microwave PCB are with very specific characteristics, such as dielectric constant (Er), loss tangent, and CTE (co-efficient of thermal expansion), these laminates have more advanced composites compare to normal FR-4 material.
RF PCB: 4 Layers, 2.0mm thickness, 1 Oz, ENIG
In PCB industry, however, any high frequency PCBs that operates above 100MHz are considered as RF PCB( radio frequency PCB, RF print circuit board), and any PCB operates above 2GHz we call it a Microwave PCB.
Radio-frequency (RF) and microwave PCBs were firstly used in military applications, and then become more and more popular in a medical application such as wireless handheld equipment, and then in nowadays industrial applications such as advanced communications systems for base stations, radar, and global positioning products.
RF PCB: 4 Layers + Copper base, 5.6mm thickness,1 Oz, ENIG
RF PCB and microwave PCB require special skills that your normal manufacturing (with standard PCB technology) partner may not be able to handle. We can properly design your RF PCB and microwave PCB projects with proper high-frequency laminates with tight turnarounds, provide detail information of material options and DFM considerations, and also produce with high-quality controls to ensure performance of your products life cycle.
IEEE standard designate RF(radio frequency) is from 20KHz to 300GHz, and Frequencies ≥ 1 GHz are called microwave(1MHz=1000KHz,1GHz=1000MHz), This is roughly between the upper limit—audio frequencies and the lower limit —infrared frequencies.
|Wavelength||ITU designation||IEEE bands|
|Extremely low frequency||ELF|
|Super low frequency||SLF|
|Ultra low frequency||ULF|
|Very low frequency||VLF|
300 kHz – 3000 KHz
1 km – 100 m
|Very high frequency||VHF|
300 MHz – 3 GHz
1 m – 10 cm
|Ultra high frequency||UHF|
UHF, L, S
|Super high frequency||SHF|
S, C, X, Ku, K, Ka
1 cm – 1 mm
|Extremely high frequency||EHF|
Ka, V, W, mm
300 GHz – 3 THz
1 mm – 0.1 mm
|Tremendously high frequency||THF|
|Layers Counts||2-20 layers|
|Materials||Low loss / low Dk, higher performance FR-4, PPO, Teflon, hydrocarbon/ceramic filled|
|Highlights||Controlled impedance, low loss materials, miniaturization|
|Dielectric thickness||0.1mm – 3.0mm|
|Copper weights (finished)||½ to 6 ounce|
|Minimum track and gaps||0.075mm / 0.075mm|
|Maximum dimensions||580mm x 1010mm|
|Metal core thickness||0.4-2mm post bonded|
|Surface finishes available||HASL (Lead-free), OSP, ENIG, Immersion Tin, Immersion silver|
General materials we are familiar with to build RF PCB and Microwave PCB, are still fromt op companies such as Rogers、Arlon、GIL Taconic、Metclad、Isola、Polyclad，Asaki、Hitach、ehemical、Chukok..etc, but there are also China local companies coming into market such as Shengyi, taixing, wangling..etcwe can offer you to choose,we know that different applications may have different demands and budgets, Venture is happy to help you choose the proper material that suit for your application and meet your budget, for details pls feel free to contact our engineer.
Popular Materials for RF PCB and Microwave PCB
|Rogers||RO4003C, RO4350B, RO4360, RO4533, RO4535, RO4730, RO4232, RO4233, RO3003, RO3006, RO3010, RO3035, R03203, RO3206, RO3210, RO3730, RO5780, RO5880, RO6002, RO3202, RO6006|
|Taconic||TLY-5A, TLY-5, TLY-3, HT1.5, TLX-0, TLX-9, TLX-8, TLX-7, TLX-6, TLC-27, TLE-95, TLC-30, TPG-30, TLG-30, RF-30, TSM-30, TLC-32, TPG32, TLG-32, TLG-34, TPG-35, TLG-35, GF-35, RF-35, RF-35A, RF-35P, RF-41, RF-43, RF-45, RF-60A, CER-10|
|Arlon||AD255 C03099, AD255 C06099, AD255 C04099, AD300 C03099, AD300 C04099, AD300 C06009, TC600, AD250 C02055C, TC350, MCG300CG, DCL220, CUCLAD 217LX, CUCLAD 250GX, ARLON 55NT|
|Wangling, Taixing||F4BK225, F4BK265, F4BK300, F4BK350, F4BM220, F4BM255, F4BM265, F4BM300, F4BM350|
We have developed good partnerships with key distributors of RF PCB and microwave PCB materials suppliers such as Rogers, Arlon, Nelco, and Taconic, in order to meet customers’ urgent demand, we continuously carry inventory of below materials, although costs of these specialized materials are high. Below the table are popular RF PCB material we always have in stock.
Frequently stock materials for RF PCB and Microwave PCB
|Rogers||RO4000 series:RO4350B, RO4003C||Thickness (mm) : 0.2, 0.254, 0.308, 0.508, 0.762, 0.813, 1.524|
|RO5000 series:RT5780,RT5880||Thickness(mm) : 0.2, 0.254, 0.308, 0.508, 0.762, 0.813, 1.524|
|Taconic||TLY-5, TLY-8, RF-30, RF-35, RF-60A, CER-10||Thickness(mm): 0.254, 0.508, 0.8, 1, 1.6|
Your Leading RF PCB Supplier in China
Venture has become a leading RF PCB and microwave PCB manufacturer that focuses on high-frequency PCB fabrication. You can rely on Venture with your radio frequency and microwave products because we have the engineering team, equipment, and experiences in dealing with RF(radio frequency) and microwave laminates.
RF PCB: 1.2 Meter Antenna board
For RF PCB and Microwave PCB materials that we do not have in our own inventory, we will contact material distributors and sourcing partners, we can receive materials within 1-5 work days if distributors have in stock, if not pls wait for our sales to inform you the exact materials arriving schedule.
RF PCB: 6 Layers, 3.0mm thickness, 1 Oz + plating copper, ENIG
Venture is the perfect place for your RF PCB and Microwave PCB requirement; we are trusted by thousands of electronic engineers all around the world through our 100% quality guaranteed policy. Pls check below our RF PCB and Microwave PCB capabilities
Through our 2 hours rapid response services from our 24/7 sales and tech support team, and excellent after-sales service, we will be your best RF PCB and Microwave manufacturer in China. At Venture we can answer any RF Pcb and microwave PCB questions that you may have, pls feel free to contact us anytime.
RF PCB: The Ultimate FAQ Guide
In case you have any question about RF PCB, you will probably find the answer here.
We have compiled answers to all questions clients ask us every day about radio frequency printed circuit boards.
Here are some of them:
What is RF PCB?
Radio frequency printed circuit boards are those boards that operate above 100MHz.
In the recent times, these PCBs have become increasingly common.
However, within the PCB industry, any of these boards that work from 2GHz and above is categorized as a Microwave PCB.
What are the Advantages of using RF PCBs?
RF PCBs are revered for their ability to transmit communication signals. This is because they have advanced composites.
This is made possible with their advanced composites, which have specific characteristics in terms of dielectric constant, loss tangent loss, and CTE.
These characteristics inform high-speed signals which travel through PCBs with insignificant impedance compared to those experienced in FR4-PCB materials.
Unlike other PCBs, these materials can be mixed in a uniform stack-up. This increases performance parameters and reduces production costs.
These boards also exude a lot of stability when operating under high temperatures. This allows for the placement of fine pitch components.
With the low CTE materials, you are assured of the alignment of multiple layers, including the features which they represent in complicated PCB layouts.
RF PCB Layout
Are there Limitations when Working with RF PCBs?
Compared to standard PCBs, RF and Microwave PCBs’ design process is complicated.
This is attributed to the fact that several problems can arise in receiving and subsequently transmitting radio signals.
Secondly, a comparison between standard PCBs and RF PCBs indicate that RF PCBs signals are sensitive to noise.
Therefore, they need tighter impedance tolerance. Ground plans and generous bend radius is used as a way of controlling impedance on the traces.
What are the Applications of RF PCBs?
Some of the main applications of radio frequency printed circuit boards include:
Wireless communication system
Wireless applications such as TV remotes rely on radio frequency PCBs to transmit commands to televisions as per the user’s tastes.
Another example of wireless technologies that use RF PCBs is walkie-talkies.
In security operations, there is a need for security agents to reliably receive and transmit information. This is common in the military and among police officers.
Recent years have seen an increase in uptake and use of smartphones. These devices are relied on for various wireless applications.
For instance, mobile phone hotspots relay shared information between devices. For radio frequencies to be relayed effectively, these devices rely on RF PCBs.
Sensors are today used in various applications. Some of these include automated doors and gates.
Sensors are necessary for such applications to function effectively. These sensors are developed from RF printed circuit boards for wireless communication.
4)Robotics and Security
Robotics technology and security systems such as military radars and communication devices also rely on RF PCBs.
Of course, these are some of the main applications of radio frequency printed circuit boards.
What are the Materials used in the Manufacture of RF PCB?
When you are designing RF PCBs, there are several considerations that one should make.
These considerations include dielectric constant, dissipation factor, and coefficient of thermal expansion.
It would help if you also considered the thermal coefficient of dielectric constant and thermal conductivity.
For the most desirable dielectric properties, high-frequency materials such as polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) are preferred in the manufacture of RF PCBs.
In general, the most relied on RF materials are usually a combination of PTFE, ceramics, and hydrocarbons.
There are also instances in which different types of glass are used.
For the best quality RF PCBs, PTFE is used in combination with micro-glass fiber.
This has excellent electrical properties, although with high CTE.
Similar results can also be achieved by combining PTFE with woven glass.
However, there are instances in which you could be desiring to retain quality at a lower cost. You can accomplish this by using ceramic-filled PTFE.
When using ceramic filled with hydrocarbon, you will realize that it is easier to build. However, you should expect a lowered reliability of the signal.
Additionally, PTFE ceramics have a lower rate of moisture absorption. When the woven glass is incorporated, the moisture level becomes higher.
When you add hydrocarbons to PTFE ceramic, you will realize an increase in moisture absorption. This makes it an excellent choice in striking a balance between cost and resistance in humid surroundings.
FR 4 Material for PCB
Controversies have characterized the use of FR4 in the manufacture of RF PCBs. This is against the backdrop of the fact that it is the cheapest option.
There are engineers who think that it is an unsuitable material.
However, there are arguments that it can be used in manufacturing less demanding and low-frequency RF applications.
Arguably, it has the worst loss tangent material making it unsuitable for both high-power and broadband applications.
You can consider this when the budget is tight, and the intended device to be made from the RF PCB is low power and low frequency.
For bonding, FEP, ceramic-filled PTFE are commonly used in RF PCBs. This is because they have lower lamination temperatures.
Another consideration that one needs to make is the re-melt temperature, especially if you anticipate that the board will work in intense thermal conditions.
What is the Manufacturing Process for RF PCBs?
Just like any other printed circuit board, RF PCBs are usually fabricated from copper.
In the process, copper is plated to PTFE then carved away, which helps in exposing the design of the board.
Step 1: The Design
The first step in RF printed circuit board manufacturing is the design process. This involves the creation of a blueprint of the board.
You can achieve this by engaging a capable computer software of your choice.
It would be best if you used a trace width calculator in attaining accurate details for both the inner and the external layers.
Step 2: Printing the Design
After designing your RF PCB, you will use a plotter printer to print the design. The printed film avails all the details of the layers to be used on the board.
You have to use different colors for the outer and inner layers of the board. Usually, non-conductive are represented with clear ink.
Ensure that black ink is used in indicating conductive copper traces and circuits.
Similar colors are also used in the outer layers, although their meaning is revised.
Step 3: Creating the Substrate
RF PCB starts taking shape in this step. Since you are manufacturing RF PCB, you will use polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) as your insulating material.
This will help hold the components on the structure.
To begin forming, you will start bypassing the materials through an oven. This will semi-cure the content.
You can then proceed to pre-bond copper on either side of the layer. You can now etch away to reveal the design of the printed film.
Step 4: Printing the Inner Layers
In this step, you will print the design obtained from the previous steps onto the laminate.
To effectively achieve this, you will have to use a photo-sensitive film that you have made from photo-reactive chemicals.
These will automatically harden upon exposure to ultraviolet light. This is called resist. With this, you can easily align the blueprints and the actual print of the board.
At this point, you are free to drill vias, which are essential in the alignment process.
Step 5: Ultraviolet Light
After alignment, you should take both the resist and laminate through ultraviolet lights. This helps in hardening the photoresist.
The light will help you identify copper pathways. The black ink will help prevent hardening in areas destined to be removed later on.
Proceed to wash the board with an alkaline solution. This process will help in eliminating excess photoresist.
Step 6: Removing Unwanted Copper
In this step, you will be removing unwanted copper that could still be remaining on the board.
To achieve this, you will need a chemical solution just like you used the alkaline solution in the previous step.
This will help eat away all unwanted copper. The hardened photoresist will remain intact.
Step 7: Inspection
At this stage, you will need to inspect the cleaned layers before alignment. You will rely on the initially drilled holes/vias to help with the alignment of both the inner and the outer layers.
With an optical punch machine, you will be able to drill the pins through the holes. This will help keep the layers aligned.
After this process, you will rely on another machine to inspect the board. This will eradicate the possibilities of defects.
If you don’t address these mistakes at this stage, then you won’t have an opportunity to correct it in the later stages.
Step 8: Laminating the Layers
In this stage, you will be fusing all the layers. As you begin the process, you will have to hold the various layers with metal clamps.
The epoxy resin layers have to go into the alignment basin. A layer of the substrate follows this. Also, the next layer is made of copper foil then another layer of epoxy resin.
The last layer is the press plate, which is made of copper.
Step 9 – Pressing the Layers
Using a mechanical press will help put the layers together. When you punch the pins through the layers, they will remain appropriately aligned.
After you have gotten this right, then you can move the board to the laminate press. This involves the application of heat and pressure to the layers.
The epoxy will then melt inside the prepreg, and with the pressure applied on it, the layers will fuse.
Step 10: Drilling
Using a computer-aided drill, you will generate holes which then expose the substrate, including the inner panels.
Any traces of copper detected in this stage are removed.
Step 11: Plating
After completing the previous stage, you can now plate the board. With a chemical solution, you will be able to fuse all the layers.
You can then take the board through various chemicals. The chemicals will also coat the panel with a thin copper layer.
Thin copper will also seep into the holes you drilled earlier on.
Step 12: Outer Layer Imaging
In this step again, you will have to apply a layer of photoresist just like you did in step 3. The application is made on the outer layer before imaging.
You can now harden the photoresist using ultraviolet light. The ultraviolet light will remove the undesired photoresist.
Step 13: Plating
This step is similar to the process in action 11. Here too, you will be plaiting the panel with a thin layer of copper.
When you are done with this, you will layer a thin tin guard to the board. The tin will protect the copper on the outer layer from etching.
Step 14: Etching
Use the same chemical solution used in the previous etching stage to remove all the unwanted copper beneath the resist layer.
With the tin guard layer, copper is protected. You will establish PCB connections at this step.
Step 15: Solder Mask Application
Ensure that you clean all the panels before you apply the solder mask. Proceed to apply epoxy with solder mask film.
In most cases, the solder mask is green in color. You can then remove all unwanted solder mask using ultraviolet light.
Step 16: Silkscreening
In this step, all the critical information about the board is printed on it. From this stage, the board will go through the last coating and curing process.
Step 17: Surface Finish
It would help if you plated the PCB with the solderable finish.
Step 18: Testing
Engage an electrician to perform electrical tests on the board.
This will help you in establishing whether all the functions of the PCB are in conformance with the blueprint design.
How can you Mount Components on RF PCBs?
There are two main methods used in mounting RF PCB components. These include Through-Hole Mounting (THM) and Surface Mounting Technology (SMT).
Through-hole mounting has been preferred in recent times. With the use of this technology, it is possible to connect all the components to tracks in the inner layer of RF PCBs.
The components are also easier to replace. However, there is always a need for a larger space to mount the components.
It is also near impossible to place the components manually.
Unlike in THM, with surface mount technology, no holes are drilled on the board to create connections.
The leads of the components create direct connections between the tracks. This is reflected in both the board and the components.
This is achieved by the aid of a pick and place machine that places the components on the PADs, which are covered with solder paste.
The components are smaller compared to the THM components.
As such, RF PCBs whose boards have been mounted using the SMT method have a provision for higher density. You will also be able to place components on either side of the board
How do RF PCBs compare to other PCBs?
The first feature that distinct RF PCB from other PCBs is the fact that they operate above 100MHz. Standard PCBs cannot operate under similar conditions. Unlike different PCBs, RF PCBs also incorporate wireless technology.
Unlike standard PCBs, one has to focus on attributes such as operating frequency and temperature ranges.
Another important consideration that one will have to put in place is the current and the voltage requirements, which differ significantly from that of other PCBs.
Unlike other standard PCBs, RF PCBs cannot be single-sided. The minimum number of layers for this PCB is two, and the highest is 20.
This deviates from the norm.
RF PCBs are also sensitive to factors such as noise and impedance. They are also vulnerable to electromagnetism compared to standard PCBs.
During the RF PCB fabrication process, it will be essential to focus on eliminating such factors.
With all these factors put into consideration, the manufacturing of RF PCBs proves to be one of the most complex processes.
What are the types of RF PCBs?
Some of the most common types of radio frequency PCBs include:
1. Double-sided RF PCBs
These are RF PCBs with two conductive layers. They are the simplest type of RF PCBs, as there are no single-sided RF PCBs.
Double sided RF PCB
These are RF PCBs with more than two conductive layers. For RF PCBs, the highest number of layers is usually 20. You have to ensure that you confine your development to these limits for purposes of efficiency.
Single layer vs multiple layer PCB
What is the Recommended Thickness for RF PCBs?
There is a recommended range within which you have to confine the thickness of your RF PCB. Anything between 0.1 – 3.0mm is considered effective.
What is the difference between RF PCBs and Microwave PCBs?
Any PCB design with a frequency range above 100MHz is considered an RF PCB.
However for a PCB to be categorized as a microwave PCB, then it must have a frequency above 2GHz.
What is the maximum number of layers for RF PCBs?
The maximum number of layers for RF PCBs is 20 layers
Muliti layer PCB
What are vias?
Vias are usually copper cylinders which are formed in holes drilled during the fabrication process for a PCB.
These vias are essential in joining traces both electronically and thermally. They are also used in joining together different layers of a PCB.
What is the Importance of Vias in RF PCBs?
With RF PCBs, you can be assured that transmissions between the layers will be more effective when you incorporate vias.
The most effective mechanism to use is to use at least two via holes for every transition point. This is an effective mechanism in minimizing via inductance loading.
How does RF PCB compare to Amplifier PCB?
Amplifier PCBs usually increase the version of the input signal fed into it. However, RF PCBs do not amplify signal input.
RF PCBs also operate at frequencies above 100MHz. This is not the same case with amplifier circuit boards.
There are instances in which RF PCB technology is incorporated in the manufacture amplifier PCBs.
This is done, especially when the amplifier PCB is expected to operate above 100MHz frequencies.
This kind of amplifier PCB converts low power radio frequency into high power signals
What is Current Path in Radio Frequency PCB?
Current path usually has two paths which return power to source. In RF printed circuit boards, the direct path is usually over copper wire.
What are the Layout Guidelines for RF PCBs?
The first layout consideration is to ensure that you use vias for transmission inline layer changes.
When doing a multilayered RF PCB, you want to move the transmission line between these layers. You will have to use two via holes for every transition point as a way of minimizing inductance loading.
One factor that you have to be sure of is that the transmission vias have to match transmission lines on the width.
This will help cut the transition inductance by about 50%.
The second layout guideline that you will have to follow is to add line bends and corner compensation.
There are those instances that you will be changing the direction of the transmission lines. In these instances, you will have to use the bend radius.
This is usually three times the center conductor width. With such parameters in place, the impedance will remain steady as currents navigate the bend.
If you are not able to curve the bend gently, then you can opt for right-angled trace. However, you will have to incorporate an angled miter.
This is equally an effective mechanism in reducing impedance fluctuations.
Another layout consideration that you will have to make concerns routing on bias and ground layers. For system bias layers, there is always a need to consider the current path.
When you add signal layers between bias and ground layers, a more significant return path is created.
This will result in noise coupling on the signal layers. For the best outcome, ensure that there are no signal layers between the bias and the ground return layers.
What are the Design Considerations for RF PCBs?
For you to effectively design your RF PCB, there are several considerations that you will have to make. We discussed these design considerations as a result of this.
i.Dynamic Dielectric Constant
This is the ability of a material to store electrical energy in an electric field. It usually depends on the direction.
As such, it depends on the material’s axis. In RF PCBs, there is the likelihood that it will shift due to the high frequencies.
You will have to understand the frequency range of the tested material. You will also have to consider the testing method applied and the values available for frequency ranges.
It would help if you also considered the conditions which match the targeted application.
ii.Coefficient of Thermal Expansion (CTE)
This explains how the size of an object varies with change in temperature.
It also measures thermal robustness.
This has an impact on both drilling and assembly of RF PCB. When developing a multilayered RF PCB, you are going to use different materials with varying CTE rates.
If by any chance, a lower layer grows faster compared to the upper layer, then alignment becomes a hindrance in the drilling process.
To avoid such problems, you have to use a material with the lowest CTE, which can handle the physical impact of the drilling process and assembly.
This does not have much impact on lower frequency designs. However, for high-frequency designs, you have to think through how best to address it.
Loss tangent is determined by the molecular structure of the material used in the manufacturing process.
With high frequency, signals are lost as they get burned off as heat. To eradicate this in RF circuit boards, you can make the components dense.
This will help generate heat when the board is in operation.
Spacing might prove to be a complicated process in RF applications. These complications are attributed to crosstalk and skin effect.
In crosstalk, the board interacts with itself. This is characterized by the board bleeding over into nearby components resulting in coupling.
For the skin effect, resistance for the trace increases, and resistive losses occurs. This leads to additional heat to the circuitry.
Several factors drive such developments. These include trace width and length. With an increase in frequencies, the problems persist. You can address this by minimizing distances.
This is dependent on the environment within which your device will be operating.
If your board is going to operate in air-conditioned room, then there is no need to worry.
However, the board is going to be subjected to environmental fluctuations; then this should be a priority in the design process.
vi.Cost vs. Performance
Some of the materials in the market have the best performance qualities. However, such materials can prove to be very expensive.
In your design process, you will have to strike a balance between the cost implications of electrical performance and thermal robustness.
What is Radio Frequency PCB’s Dielectric Constant?
This is a measurement of the RF PCB’s ability to store electrical energy. It usually depends on direction and changes with the axis of the material.
In high-frequency conditions, there is the ability the high-frequency conditions will shift.
It is essential to test the frequency range of the material used.
You should also check out the testing method used and whether there are values available for the frequency ranges. You should also include the conditions which match the target application
What is RF PCB’s Coefficient of Thermal Expansion?
This refers to variations that are likely to occur to the size of the object on exposure to various temperatures.
CTE also helps in measuring thermal robustness. This impacts significantly on thermal robustness. This impacts significantly on the drilling and assembly stages.
You are bound to have different materials when working on multilayered boards. Some layers are bound to grow faster than the others.
This will make alignment of the layers a big challenge when drilling.
Why is FR4 not Recommended in the Manufacture of RF PCBs?
In the manufacture of RF PCBs, the FR4 substrate is usually considered a less effective alternative. This is against the fact that FR4 is the cheapest option in the manufacture of virtually all PCBs. FR4 is unlikely to receive and transmit high frequencies owing to the temperatures involved.
FR4 materials’ loss tangent is worse off in the material.
However, some manufacturers suggest that FR4 can still be used in the manufacture of FR PCBs. This has to be when manufacturing lower frequency RF applications.
What are the Bonding Materials used in the Manufacture of RF PCBs?
No board will ever be complete if bonding materials are not used. There are several bonding materials that you can use for your RF PCBs.
Some of these materials include ceramic-filled PTFE and LCP. FEP is also a common bonding material used in the manufacture of RF PCBs.
There are several considerations that you will have to make. The lamination temperatures have to be low.
You will also have to watch out the re-melt temperatures if the board needs to undergo intense thermal conditions.
Both FEP and LCP are preferred for their low lamination and laminate temperatures. With these, you will not have to worry about the soldering and thermal stressing.
If you intend to have something more thermally robust, then you will have to use ceramic filled PTFE.
What is RF Module?
In general terms, this refers to any small electronic device that transmits or receives radio signals, especially between two devices.
These communications are done wirelessly. This means that all RF modules rely on RF PCBs.
How do Radio Frequency PCB Manage to the Heat?
For effective thermal management in RF PCBs, you will have to remove all sensitive areas of the design.
These are areas that are likely to suffer damage or reduced functionality due to heat. You can achieve heat management by increasing the number of heat sinks.
You should also try and understand the flow of heat in the device.
Maintaining the design at a lower operating temperature will result in improved performance. Having made the heat sinks, generated heat will be absorbed here and dispersed into the ambient air.
This chooses materials used in the RF board a key determinant in thermal management.
How should one Address Loss Tangents in RF PCBs?
The choice of material usually determines the measure of loss tangent for RF PCB materials. Materials with higher loss tangents result in higher power loss.
High-end materials are the most effective solution to loss tangent in RF PCBs. Ceramic filled PTFE is one of the materials that you can use in addressing loss tangent.
Is there Special Software used in Designing RF PCBs?
There are several software used in designing RF PCBs. Altium is one of many of these software. It incorporates all the tools required into a single user interface.
This translates into improved design success and reduces the time needed for the design. It also provides a productive workflow for those board designers.
What are the Standard Qualities to look out for in RF PCBs?
When picking PCB materials, there are several considerations that you must implement.
The first standard quality that you should look out for is the impedance stability of the material. Also, the second standard quality you should consider is signal loss tolerance of the materials used.
The third consideration should be the operating temperature of the board. This includes both the temperature expansion and stability under various temperature fluctuations.
Having categorized operating temperature as a factor, it will be essential to check on the heat sinking ability.
This determines how the RF board will be able to dissipate heat.
Which Features should you Consider when Identifying RF PCB Manufacturer?
When working with a radio frequency printed circuit board manufacturer, you should consider the following:
When you are looking out for a manufacturer, first assess whether the manufacturer makes prototypes.
This is a critical step in fabrication. It helps you avoid mistakes and financial losses in the final product.
You don’t want to engage a company with no experience in manufacturing RF PCBs. Experience usually comes with perfection.
Such manufacturers are also liked to be using the latest technology and machinery in production.
This minimizes the chances of failure of the RF board. Seek the services of a manufacturer who is experienced for the best outcome.
Before you venture into getting a manufacturer, you should have a rough idea of what it will cost you.
You can get to learn about market prices by checking out individual manufacturers’ websites. This will help you determine the average price for the manufacturing process.
·Packaging and Shipping
You should also ensure that the manufacturer you have identified can package and ship the completed board to you.
RF PCBs are very sensitive. When mishandled, there is the likelihood that they will malfunction. This automatically translates into financial losses for you.
Ensure that you engage a company that will ensure your products are handled correctly.
What Factors should you Consider when Selecting Materials for RF PCBs?
Here are some of the most vital parameters you should evaluate:
·Dielectric Constant, Ɛr
For virtually all PCB materials, this is the starting point. For radiofrequency PCBs, it is even more critical due to the complexity of the board.
The values between 2 and ten are the most desirable for radiofrequency boards’ applications.
·Dissipation factor, Df, tanδ
This is also referred to as tangent delta or loss tangent. It is usually a measure of how much electrical losses are expected in a particular PCB material.
For the delivery of maximum amounts of energy from the antenna’s resonant structure, the loss has to be minimized on the feedlines.
The best way to go about this is to use a PCB material with low Df. This is listed with multiple values depending on the test frequencies.
As frequency increases, the dissipation factor also increases.
With the values of the frequencies, you will be able to establish the loss performance of the material.
·Thermal coefficient of Ɛr (TcDk)
You will have to consider the thermal coefficient of the material used.
In some instances, small changes in thermal coefficient value is likely to result in a change in the frequency responses.
Since RF PCBs are subjected to fluctuating temperatures, use materials with thermal coefficient values of less than 50 ppm/°C.
This is also associated with the dielectric strength of the material used in the circuit. It might not be a significant factor when dealing with low-power circuit boards.
However, for high power applications, including RF PCBs, need this.
·Coefficient of Thermal Expansion (CTE)
This measure usually indicates how a circuit material expands and contracts when subjected to various temperatures.
Also, this is one of the primary criteria in determining materials you will be using in the fabrication process.
·Glass Transition Temperature (Tg)
You will also have to consider the glass transition temperature.
This is the temperature within which the PCB’s substrate can transition from glass to softened state that can be deformed.
When the material is cooled down, I able to return to its initial state.
·Decomposition Temperature (Td)
This is the temperature at which the RF PCB material mechanically decomposes.
It is essential to ensure that the materials used can sustain the temperatures that the board will be operating under.
This is because if a content reaches decomposition temperatures, then it won’t be reversible.
This refers to the ability of the material to resist water absorption, especially when immersed in water.
Moisture absorption usually affects the thermal and electrical properties of the materials. Ensure that you understand the surrounding within which the board is going to work.
Are RF PCBs recommended in manufacture of High Voltage Appliances?
RF PCBs are recommended in the manufacture of high voltages applications.
Unlike other standard PCBs, their substrate is not manufactured from FR4, which cannot sustain high temperatures.
Substrates used can maintain these temperatures. This is because several considerations are made in the process.
They include the dielectric constant, dissipation factor, thermal coefficient, electrical strength, and coefficient of thermal expansion.
Others include glass transition temperature, decomposition temperature, and moisture absorption.
High voltage PCB
Why is Roger PCB materials used in RF PCBs?
The choice of whether to use RF4 material or Roger Material depends on the intended application.
For a low cost, FR4 will be okay; however, for high reliability, on the other hand, you will need Roger Material.
Several factors make Roger materials the best option in manufacturing RF PCBs.
·Decomposition Temperature (T D)
If a PCB is exposed to a high temperature above what it can sustain, it will decompose. The board is likely to lose up to 5% of its mass.
Roger PCB materials can withstand higher temperatures.
·Co-efficient of Thermal Expansion (CTE)
This refers to the extent to which a PCB expands when exposed to temperatures that are above the glass transition temperature.
Roger products usually have higher CTE. This makes it possible for the RF PCBs to withstand temperature fluctuations.
This refers to the amount of charge that a material can store. With higher dielectric constant value, you can be assured that the circuit board will store enough charge.
Materials with higher dielectric constant usually yield smaller circuits.
You need the Roger materials since they sustain high operating frequencies owing to their stable dielectric constant.
Effective PCBs should not absorb any moisture even when submerged in a liquid. Roger’s materials are the best in this aspect. They have the lowest absorption rates.
What is the Importance of Copper in the Manufacture of RF PCBs?
Thick copper usually aligns that width of the traces of PCBs.
This determines the amount of current such a circuit can carry. Further, this can be used in impedance calculations of high speed and RF circuitry.
Why are Filler Materials used in the Manufacture of RF PCBs?
Filler materials are essential in providing additional materials for filling up gaps left during fabrication of RF PCBs. It is also essential in avoiding cracking.
Which Features make Woven Glass unsuitable in manufacture of RF PCBs?
Often, woven glass is incorporated into printed circuit boards. This is done to improve the structural strength of the board.
As such, it improves the mechanical stability of the laminate.
However, for the case of RF PCBs, woven glass is regarded as unsuitable.
This is because woven glass can have potentially impacted negatively on electrical performance. This can have detrimental effects on high-frequency circuits. This is referred to as glass weave effect.
What is RF coupling?
This refers to interstage coupling method for RF PCBs. This is done between resonant stage, other resonant stages and amplifiers. It is also done between mixers and attenuators or mixers. To effectively achieve this, one inductor is put near the other. The two are then left to interact with each other.
What are Double Sided RF PCBs?
This could pass to be the most popular RF PCB. It is the simples among all the layered RF PCBs. This board usually has two conductive sides.
Why are RF PCBs Hard to Design?
RF PCBs can pass as some of the most complex circuit boards ever. This is because radiofrequency have a different operating mechanism compared to lower frequency PCBs.
For PCBs with low frequencies, there is a resistive effect. However, in high rates, impedance and capacitance become dominant factors.
At higher frequencies also, electrons are forced into the surface of the conductor. This is contrary to standard PCBs through which electrons travel.
In higher frequencies also, electronic and magnetic properties move in a conductor. The magnetic forces usually translate into noise in the nearby conductors.
This can hamper the operations of the printed circuit board. There is hence a need to alleviate them for the RF board to function effectively.
This means that the miniature transmission lines have to be designed into circuit boards with specific physical sizes.
The design should also ensure that the spacing can accommodate high-speed signals.
The source impedance matches also have to load the impedance as carefully as possible.
For you to implement all these effects, you will require a skilled application of mathematics. This applies to not only the board design but also includes the mounted components.
The installed components include accommodation for voltages, currents and time constants among others.
How can you Minimize the Effect of RF in PCB Interconnect Design?
You can best address this by performing impedance matching.
This usually involves effective management of the insulation material and isolation of active signal and ground lines.
What Component Parameters are Essential in Designing RF PCBs?
When designing RF PCBs, you have to take into consideration the capacitors.
RF PCBs rely on capacitors with the value of 10nF.
However, you have to be sure that the capacitor you pick on will be able to meet the demands of the board you are working on.
The construction of the circuit itself also tends to differ from the norm. Each of the structures of the physical circuits has some iota of parasitic resistance.
This also includes the inductance and the capacitance. All these factors must be included in the design.
You also have to be careful when identifying active components such as transistors. This is because they have parasitic elements.
Their intrinsic properties are also bound to change drastically with the frequency. The transistor might have different input impedance in two different frequencies..
What are the Most Common challenges in Designing RF PCBs?
When dealing with RF PCB design, you should pay attention to the following:
Most PCB manufacturing companies understand scaling from the FR4 perspective. In FR4, the internal layers lose some mass during curing on heat lamination.
The circuitry is then scaled-up by known percentages. This is done in anticipation of the restoration of the layers when the lamination cycle is complete.
However, for RF PCBs, this is different. High-frequency laminates tend to be softer than FR4.
In the same measure, you will have to predict the loss and compensate it well before the board undergoes other processes.
This means that you will have to establish separate scale factors for every type and even thickness for repeatability.
If this is not done, then the performance of the finished circuit board might be compromised.
Ensure that you use the manufacturer’s baseline scaling recommendations for consistency.
For the bonds between the layers to be effectively formed, then you have to do the appropriate surface preparation.
This is very critical, especially when using PTFE. If you are too aggressive, then soft material is likely to be deformed.
With significant deformity, registration will be poor, and the PCB will be rendered useless. If deburring is not done correctly can polish the substrate.
This affects adhesion for the multilayered RF PCB.
Replacing the materials in this event is likely to be costly and can cause delays in the production process.
There is a need to be careful from the onset of the process. This will help prevent these undesired outcomes.
Before you plate the hole through with copper, all the holes in FR4 PCBs are usually treated to remove debris.
This is also done to remove surface irregularities and epoxy smear. This helps in ensuring that the plaiting adheres to the hole walls.
Before plating through with copper, all holes on an FR4 PCB must be treated to remove debris, surface irregularities, and epoxy smear.
It is to ensure the plating will adhere to the whole walls.
However, PTFE/Teflon usually require different methods of hole preparation.
As you begin the process, you will have to put into place parameters that will prevent the substrate from smearing.
After you have treated the holes after drilling, you will have to use different gases in the plasma cycle.
If the holes are not prepared on time, then the likely outcome is weak interconnections that will fail. Ensure you employ the correct parameters for reliability.
iv.Thermal Expansion Rates
CTE is essential for reliability. When the CTE is low, then the plated holes are likely to fail. This is attributed to the repeated flexing of the copper that usually forms the internal layer interconnections.
What Factors should you Consider when using Roger Materials in RF PCB?
You should consider:
Your budget for the RF PCB board usually determines the kind of materials that you will use in the fabrication process.
Circuit design, which drives: required impedance stability
The design of the circuit also determines Roger’s materials to be used in the manufacturing process. This is because it determines the impedance stability.
·Signal Loss Tolerance
You will also have to consider the signal loss tolerance when using Roger materials in your radio frequency PCB.
Operating temperature (Temperature expansion, stability over temperature, etc.)
The operating temperature of the RF PCB is regulated by the type of material used.
Roger materials are essential in regulating expansions and contractions occasioned by fluctuations in temperature.
Roger materials are also critical in ensuring stability in these situations.
How should you Source for RF PCBs?
The initial step in sourcing for RF PCBs is the preparation of a detailed BOM.
This is usually a comprehensive list of all the materials required for the assembly of the board. When this list is not prepared appropriately, then there is the possibility that the PCB might malfunction altogether.
This is because the RF PCB’s demands are many compared to other PCBs.
After preparing the BOM, ensure that all the components purchased are obtained from recommended suppliers.
This is the only way of ensuring that the components obtained are genuine.
Alternatively, you should engage an RF PCB manufacturer to source for the elements on your behalf from trusted suppliers.
- What are rigid RF PCBs?
Rigid radio frequency PCBs are solid and inflexible. These rigid boards can be used in manufacturing both double layered and multilayered RF PCBs.
This type of RF PCB is preferred in the manufacture of complex machinery.
Why is Visual Inspection important in RF PCBs?
Visual inspection is an essential process in the manufacturing and assembly processes.
At various stages of these processes visual inspections are conducted to ensure that the board conforms to the initial design.
If the board deviates from the design, visual inspection helps in detection. This informs timely correction of the defects.
What makes RF PCBs Expensive compared to Standard PCBs?
The cost of RF PCB has to differ from the prices other regular boards. This is because of the cost implication of the materials required.
The differences in terms of cost and performance can be attributed to the difference in materials used.
Why is Surface Mount Technology preferred in RF PCBs assembly?
Surface mount technology is preferred in RF PCBs for its ability to save on weight. It also helps in saving real estate and is an important measure in reducing noise.
Compared to through-hole components SMT components are lighter. This is the reason for significant decrease in weight.
SMT components will hence occupy only a half of what would be occupied by through-hole components.
Is High Frequency Board same as RF PCB?
High frequency PCB
High frequency boards are circuits which carry high frequency signals. Usually, they carry signals above the 1GHz.
Radio frequency boards equally carry frequency signals. However, RF PCBs operate above 100MHz.
Microwave PCBs on the other hand carry up to 2GHz. This means that high frequency boards’ performance is in between RF PCBs and Microwave PCBs. This makes it equally expensive compared to RF PCBs.
What is the recommended Via Hole Diameter in RF PCBs?
In RF PCBs, manufacturers recommend a via hole diameter of 0.040 inch. This is about 1.00mm.
In which Circumstances should you Choose Microwave PCB and not RF PCB?
There is always one main difference between RF PCBs and Microwave PCBs. This is difference in the radio frequency.
While RF PCBs operate above the 100MHz, Microwave PCBs on the other hand operate above 2GHz.
This means that when you intend to make a device that will operate on frequencies above 2GHz, then you will need microwave PCB and not RF PCB.
What are the Surface Finishes for RF PCB?
There are several surface finishes recommended for RF PCBs. One of these is gold, which is the most suitable for the top plating.
However, there is always a setback, especially when it to be put directly on copper. There is a need for a barrier layer.
This is usually provided by nickel in ENIG. However, this is also very resistive to RF PCBs. This is because, with an increase in frequency, resistivity increases.
For this reason, preference moves shifts to ISIG or ENIPIG. These provide highly conductive outer skin resulting in a perfect signal path.
How does RF PCB Design compare to Mixed Signal PCB Design?
Mixed signal PCBs usually integrate both analog and digital circuits on a single semi-conductor.
However, for RF PCBs, only digital circuits are used. This is because radio frequency PCBs have the mandate of receiving and transmitting digital frequencies.
How do you Specify RF PCB?
RF PCB Design
RF PCBs receive and transmit frequencies above 100 MHz. the minimum number of layers for these boards is 2 (two).
The highest number of layers on the other hand is 20 (twenty). Materials to be used for RF PCBs are also unique compared to other PCBs.
You will have to use high frequency FR-4 for low frequency boards.
The most effective substrate material however is ceramic-filled PTFE.
Factors to consider when sourcing for RF PCB materials include controlled impedance, low loss materials and miniaturization. The preferred profile methods include v-scoring and routing.
The recommended dielectric thickness for RF PCBs range between 0.1mm – 3.00mm. These qualities will help you distinct RF PCBs from other standard circuit boards.
As you can see, RF PCBs play an important role in today’s electronics industry.
The good news is that this guide has captured everything you need to know about radio frequency printed circuit boards.
So, it is now time to hear from you – in case you have any question, our team is here to help.