Aluminum PCB Flex and Rigid MCPCB Manufacturing At One-Stop

Posted by

Introduction to MCPCB Manufacturing

Metal Core Printed Circuit Board (MCPCB) manufacturing combines the durability and thermal conductivity of a metal base with the electrical functionality of a PCB. MCPCBs are widely used in LED lighting, automotive, power electronics, and other applications that require efficient heat dissipation.

The MCPCB manufacturing process involves bonding a thin layer of dielectric material and copper circuit layer onto a metal substrate, typically aluminum. This one-stop manufacturing solution provides several advantages over traditional PCBs:

  • Excellent thermal management: The metal core helps dissipate heat generated by components.
  • High power density: MCPCBs can handle higher power loads in a smaller footprint.
  • Mechanical strength: The rigid metal base provides structural support and durability.
  • Design flexibility: MCPCBs can be made with flexible dielectric materials for curved or folded designs.

In this article, we will explore the different types of aluminum MCPCB substrates, the manufacturing process, design considerations, and frequently asked questions about MCPCB technology.

Types of Aluminum MCPCB Substrates

Aluminum is the most common metal substrate used in MCPCB manufacturing due to its high thermal conductivity, low weight, and relatively low cost compared to other metals. There are two main types of aluminum MCPCB Constructions:

Rigid Aluminum MCPCB

Rigid aluminum MCPCBs have a solid aluminum base, typically 1.0mm to 3.2mm thick. The aluminum is coated with a thin dielectric layer, usually a polymer such as polyimide or epoxy, followed by a copper foil circuit layer.

The dielectric thickness is a key factor in determining the thermal performance of the MCPCB. Thinner dielectrics provide lower thermal resistance but have lower dielectric strength and may be more prone to failure. Thicker dielectrics offer higher dielectric strength but reduced thermal transfer efficiency.

Common rigid aluminum MCPCB specifications include:

Aluminum Thickness Dielectric Thickness Copper Thickness
1.0mm – 3.2mm 0.003″ – 0.006″ 1 oz – 10 oz

Flexible Aluminum MCPCB

Flexible aluminum MCPCBs use a thin, flexible dielectric material sandwiched between the aluminum base and copper circuit layer. The aluminum base is usually 0.2mm to 0.4mm thick to allow for bending and folding.

The flexible dielectric is typically a polyimide or polyester film with a thickness of 0.051mm to 0.127mm (2-5 mils). The copper foil thickness ranges from 18μm to 70μm (½ oz to 2 oz).

Flexible aluminum MCPCBs offer several advantages:

  • Conformability: Can be bent or folded to fit in tight spaces or curved surfaces
  • Vibration resistance: Flexing absorbs shock and vibration
  • 3D design: Enables compact, three-dimensional circuit layouts
  • Lightweight: Thinner materials reduce overall weight

Common flexible aluminum MCPCB specifications include:

Aluminum Thickness Dielectric Thickness Copper Thickness
0.2mm – 0.4mm 0.051mm – 0.127mm 18μm – 70μm

MCPCB Manufacturing Process

The MCPCB manufacturing process involves several key steps:

  1. Substrate Preparation: The aluminum substrate is cleaned and surface treated to promote adhesion with the dielectric layer.

  2. Dielectric Application: The dielectric material, in liquid or film form, is applied evenly onto the aluminum surface. Liquid dielectrics are cured, while films are laminated using heat and pressure.

  3. Copper Foil Lamination: The copper foil is laminated onto the dielectric layer using heat and pressure to form a strong bond. The copper thickness is selected based on the current carrying and heat spreading requirements of the application.

  4. Circuit Imaging: The copper layer is coated with a photoresist and exposed to UV light through a phototool to transfer the circuit pattern. The photoresist is developed, and the unexposed areas are removed.

  5. Etching: The exposed copper is chemically etched away, leaving only the desired circuit traces.

  6. Soldermask Application: A soldermask layer is applied over the etched circuits to insulate and protect them from oxidation and short circuits. Openings are left for component pads and connection points.

  7. Surface Finish: A surface finish, such as HASL, lead-free HASL, ENIG, or OSP, is applied to the exposed copper pads to prevent oxidation and improve solderability.

  8. Drilling and Routing: Holes are drilled for through-hole components and vias, and the panel is routed or punched into individual PCBs.

  9. Electrical Test: The finished MCPCBs are electrically tested for opens, shorts, and other defects to ensure functionality and reliability.

MCPCB Design Considerations

Designing an MCPCB requires careful consideration of thermal, electrical, and mechanical factors. Some key design guidelines include:

  • Thermal Management: Select the appropriate aluminum thickness, dielectric material and thickness, and copper weight to achieve the desired thermal performance. Use thermal vias to transfer heat from the component layer to the metal substrate.

  • Copper Thickness: Use thicker copper for high current traces and heat spreading areas. 2 oz or higher copper is common for power applications.

  • Dielectric Selection: Choose a dielectric material with the appropriate thermal conductivity, dielectric strength, and CTE (coefficient of thermal expansion) for the application. Filled dielectrics offer higher thermal conductivity but may be more brittle.

  • Soldermask and Legend: Use a white soldermask to reflect light in LED applications. Include clear legends for component placement and identification.

  • Mounting Holes: Include mounting holes and cutouts as needed for attachment to heatsinks, housings, or other mechanical structures.

  • Flexible Bend Radius: For flexible aluminum MCPCBs, design the bend radius to be at least 10 times the total thickness of the MCPCB to avoid damaging the traces or dielectric.


1. What are the advantages of using aluminum MCPCBs?

Aluminum MCPCBs offer several advantages over traditional FR-4 PCBs:

  • Better thermal management: The aluminum substrate helps dissipate heat from power components.
  • Higher power density: MCPCBs can handle higher current loads in a smaller footprint.
  • Mechanical strength: The rigid aluminum base provides structural support and durability.
  • Flexible options: Flexible aluminum MCPCBs can conform to curved surfaces and tight spaces.

2. What is the typical lead time for MCPCB manufacturing?

The lead time for MCPCB manufacturing depends on the complexity of the design, quantity ordered, and the manufacturer’s capacity. Typical lead times range from 2-3 weeks for standard designs to 4-6 weeks for custom or high-volume orders. Rush services may be available for an additional fee.

3. What is the minimum order quantity (MOQ) for MCPCBs?

The MOQ varies by manufacturer but is typically higher than for standard PCBs due to the specialized materials and processes involved. MOQs can range from 50 to 500 pieces depending on the size, complexity, and material requirements of the MCPCB.

4. Can MCPCBs be used for high-voltage applications?

Yes, MCPCBs can be designed for high-voltage applications by selecting a dielectric material with a high dielectric strength and using appropriate copper thicknesses and clearances. However, the maximum voltage rating will depend on the specific materials and design parameters used.

5. How do I select the right aluminum thickness and dielectric material for my MCPCB?

The choice of aluminum thickness and dielectric material depends on the thermal, electrical, and mechanical requirements of your application. Factors to consider include:

  • Power dissipation: Higher power requires thicker aluminum and/or a higher thermal conductivity dielectric.
  • Dielectric strength: Higher voltage applications need a dielectric with a higher breakdown voltage.
  • Flexibility: Flexible designs require thinner aluminum and a flexible dielectric material.
  • Cost: Thicker aluminum and specialty dielectrics will increase the cost of the MCPCB.

Consult with your MCPCB manufacturer to select the best materials for your specific application and budget.


Aluminum MCPCBs offer a one-stop solution for applications requiring high thermal performance, mechanical strength, and electrical functionality. By combining a metal substrate with a thin dielectric layer and copper circuit, MCPCBs can dissipate heat efficiently while providing a durable and flexible circuit platform.

When designing an MCPCB, it is important to consider the thermal, electrical, and mechanical requirements of your application and select the appropriate materials and specifications. Working with an experienced MCPCB manufacturer can help ensure a successful design and manufacturing process.

As technology continues to advance, the demand for high-performance, thermally-efficient circuit solutions will only grow. Aluminum MCPCBs are well-positioned to meet this demand, offering a versatile and reliable platform for a wide range of industries and applications.