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What is a Metal Core PCB (MCPCB)?

A Metal Core Printed Circuit Board (MCPCB), also known as a thermal PCB or metal backed PCB, is a type of PCB that has a metal material as its base for the heat spreader portion of the board. The thick metal (almost always aluminum or copper) is covering 1 side of the PCB. Metal core can be in reference to the metal, being either in the middle somewhere or on the back of the board. The purpose of the core of an MCPCB is to redirect heat away from critical board components and to less crucial areas such as the metal heatsink backing or metallic core. Base metals in the MCPCB are used as an alternative to FR4 or CEM3 boards.

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Metal Core PCB Materials and Thickness

The metal core of the thermal PCB can be aluminum (an aluminum core PCB), copper (copper core PCB or heavy copper PCB) or a mixture of special alloys.

The most common is an aluminum core PCB. Other materials, like brass or steel, are sometimes considered but not recommended. These metals are very hard and cutting the PCB into smaller pieces can pose problems. Other considerations in selecting metal PCB materials are the chemicals in manufacturing and whether the metal will react to them.

The thickness of metal cores in PCB base plates is typically 30 mil - 125 mil, but thicker and thinner plates are possible.

MCPCB copper foil thickness can be 1 - 10 oz.

Metal Core PCB with Aluminum Core

Advantages of MCPCB

MCPCBs can be advantageous to use for their ability to integrate a dielectric polymer layer with a high thermal conductivity for a lower thermal resistance.

Metal core PCBs transfer heat 8 to 9 times faster than FR4 PCBs. MCPCB laminates dissipate heat, keeping heat generating components cooler which results in increased performance and life.

Heavy Copper Core PCB