Printed circuit boards (PCBs) are fundamental components of practically all modern electronic devices. A PCB serves as the “foundation” on which integrated circuits and other electronic components are physically mounted and electrically connected. Choosing the right laminate material is crucial in PCB design and manufacturing to ensure optimal performance and durability of the final product.
Arlon Electronic Materials (Arlon) is a major global manufacturer of high performance laminate and prepreg materials used in the production of PCBs. For over 60 years, Arlon has been at the forefront of developing innovative solutions and materials for PCB fabrication. This article provides an in-depth look at Arlon’s extensive range of laminate and prepreg products and how they enable the manufacture of advanced PCBs for cutting-edge applications.
Overview of Arlon Materials for PCBs
Arlon’s laminates and prepregs are engineered composite materials consisting of a base woven glass or other fiber reinforcement fabric, impregnated with a thermoset resin matrix. The resin systems offered by Arlon include epoxy, polyimide, cyanate ester among others. By carefully formulating the resin chemistry and tailoring the composition and structure of the materials, Arlon is able to produce laminates and prepregs with exceptional mechanical, electrical, and thermal properties needed for optimal PCB performance and reliability.
Some of the key requirements and design considerations for PCB laminate and prepreg materials include:
- Dielectric Constant and Loss Tangent – Determines electrical performance and signal integrity at high frequencies
- Thermal Conductivity – Dissipates heat efficiently from components
- Coefficient of Thermal Expansion (CTE) – Matches expansion characteristics of copper and components to prevent stresses
- Glass Transition Temperature (Tg) – Maintains mechanical stability at elevated temperatures during assembly and operation
- Decomposition Temperature (Td) – Withstands high temperatures during fabrication and allows lead-free assembly
- Moisture Absorption – Low moisture uptake prevents electrical leakage and reliability issues
- Processability – Good adhesion, drillability, and dimensional stability during PCB fabrication
- Flame Resistance – High resistance to burning is critical for safety
- Cost – Balances performance and cost-effectiveness
Arlon’s range of high performance laminates and prepregs are tailored to meet these demanding PCB requirements, enabling the fabrication of advanced circuits for specialized applications. The next sections provide an overview of Arlon’s key products.
Arlon’s Signature High Performance PCB Materials
Arlon‘s materials technology leverages over six decades of experience and innovation in high performance resin systems, reinforcement fabrics, and composite engineering. The company’s extensive PCB materials portfolio includes specialized products for high-speed digital, high frequency RF/microwave, high-power and other demanding applications. Here are some of Arlon’s signature laminate and prepreg products:
55N is a high-flow, low-loss epoxy laminate material designed for performance-driven multilayer boards requiring excellent high frequency signal integrity from MHz to GHz frequencies. With a dielectric constant of 3.4-3.6 at 10 GHz and low dissipation factor, 55N enables controlled impedance transmission lines and superior signal quality in high speed digital and RF circuit boards. 55N is available in a broad range of glass fabric styles and resin content options to accommodate various board thicknesses.
CLTE-XT laminates provide precisely tailored X and Y-axis coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE) properties to match copper and silicon ICs. This enables reliable PCB performance under temperature fluctuations and transitions. CLTE-XT laminates significantly reduce thermally-induced stresses and interconnection failures in large, high-density multilayer PCBs with components mounted on both sides. They are well-suited for mission-critical aerospace, defense, telecom, and industrial electronics applications.
TC600 laminates use a proprietary thermoset polyimide resin system impregnated on continuous fiberglass fabrics. They offer an optimal balance of electrical performance, dimensional stability, processability, and high temperature capabilities. With a glass transition temperature above 260°C, TC600 laminates withstand lead-free soldering, high temperature assembly, and other extreme thermal conditions. The NASA Goddard Space Flight Center has extensively qualified and utilizes TC600 for high reliability space flight electronics applications.
Arlon 85N is an epoxy-based RF/microwave laminate material designed for performance up to mmWave frequencies. With a low dielectric constant of 3.4 and tight dielectric constant and loss tangent properties, 85N enables PCB designs with precise impedance control and low loss for optimal high frequency signal integrity. 85N’s low Z-axis CTE provides reliable plated through hole (PTH) connections under temperature cycling. This material is ideal for Ka band applications such as automotive radar.
Arlon’s Cirlex laminates utilize a woven glass fabric impregnated with a modified polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) resin system. Cirlex provides an ultra-low dielectric constant of 2.1-2.3 for minimal signal loss and distortion in high frequency RF circuits up to 30 GHz. Cirlex is also naturally flame resistant and offers thermal and chemical stability for robust performance in harsh environments. These properties make Cirlex an optimal choice for satellite communications, radar, wireless infrastructure, and other RF designs.
Flexible printed circuits (FPCs) impose unique demands with dynamic flexing requirements. Arlon FPC products include single- and double-clad liquid crystal polymer (LCP) films and laminates. LCP offers high strength and modulus combined with outstanding dimensional stability over a wide temperature range. With ultra-low moisture absorption, Arlon’s LCP-based FPC materials ensure reliability of flexible circuits in demanding applications.
This covers only a sample of Arlon’s expansive PCB materials line engineered for specialized requirements across numerous end markets. Arlon also offers quick-turn prototyping services to accelerate customers’ laminate evaluation and PCB development cycles.
PCB Materials for High Speed Digital Applications
Digital electronic devices have experienced explosive growth in speed and performance driven by advanced ICs, memories, FPGAs, graphics processors, and other components. This creates significant challenges in transmitting signals across PCBs while minimizing loss and interference. Arlon’s portfolio includes several materials optimized for high speed digital circuits:
Arlon 55N – As introduced earlier, 55N’s low dielectric constant, low loss, and tight impedance control support multi-gigabit data rates across PCB interconnects.
Arlon 38N – With a dielectric constant of 3.8, 38N balances cost-effectiveness with strong electrical and thermal performance for high layer count, high density interconnect boards.
Arlon AL-45 – AL-45 leverages an allylated polymer resin system for ultra-low skew and matched propagation delays in differential signal pairs. This enables terabit data transmission speeds with excellent signal integrity.
Arlon TC350 – A thin polyimide laminate, TC350 provides outstanding thermal conductivity and a high 260°C Tg to withstand soldering while minimizing thermal stresses.
Arlon Si-Clad 440 – Pairs an epoxy laminate with a silicon nitride passivation layer. The nitride layer serves as a solder dam to contain solder fillets during component attach for fine pitch BGAs, flip chips, and other devices.
High Speed Digital Laminate Properties
|Dielectric Constant @ 10 GHz
|Loss Tangent @ 10 GHz
|> 25 Gbps
|10 – 25 Gbps
|> 10 Gbps
|10 – 25 Gbps
|Arlon Si-Clad 440
|1 – 10 Gbps
Table 1: Representative properties of Arlon high speed digital laminates
These low loss materials enable precise impedance control and high bandwidth signal transport across PCB traces and through vias while minimizing signal degradation. They are essential for harnessing the capabilities of cutting edge semiconductors, memories, graphics engines, and other ICs for advanced electronics.
Laminates Optimized for High Frequency RF/Microwave Applications
Radio frequency (RF) PCBs operating at microwave frequencies have very stringent requirements for low dielectric constant, low loss, and stable electrical properties. Arlon’s RF/microwave laminate portfolio is unmatched, providing tight material property consistency and reliability under wide temperature excursions for optimal circuit performance through mmWave frequencies.
Arlon 85N – As discussed earlier, with a dielectric constant of 3.4 and loss tangent under 0.004 up to Ku/Ka bands, 85N delivers precision impedance control and low loss through mmWave frequencies.
Arlon AD1000 – AD1000 leverages a ceramic-filled, low-flow epoxy resin system balanced for improved thermal conductivity while achieving a dielectric constant under 3.5 above 40 GHz.
Arlon AD300 – AD300 provides ultra-low X-Y CTE for reliable plated through holes up to 77 GHz combined with low loss, low moisture absorption, and high thermal conductivity.
Arlon TC350 – TC350 thin polyimide laminates combine a stable dielectric constant of 3.5 and loss tangent below 0.015 up to Q-band with 260°C thermal capabilities.
RT/duroid® 6002 – With a dielectric constant of 2.94 and loss tangent below 0.0012 through Ku/Ka bands, 6002 is optimal for low loss microwave circuits requiring thermal stability.
High Frequency RF/Microwave Laminates Properties
|Dielectric Constant @ 10 GHz
|Loss Tangent @ 10 GHz
|DC – 65+ GHz
|DC – 110 GHz
|DC – 77 GHz
|DC – 50 GHz
|DC – 40 GHz
Table 2: Properties of Arlon RF/microwave laminates
By leveraging these low-loss, thermally stable materials, PCB designers can achieve optimal signal integrity and take full advantage of emerging RF semiconductor and communication technologies up to mmWave 5G networks, automotive radar, satellite communications, and military electronic warfare and radar systems.
High Reliability Materials for Defense and Aerospace
The defense and aerospace industries require PCB laminate and prepreg materials that can withstand temperature extremes, humidity, vibration, shock, and other environmental hazards. Arlon’s high-reliability products are qualified to meet rigorous military and avionics specifications for elite applications.
Arlon TC350 – With its 260°C glass transition temperature and excellent electrical and mechanical properties, TC350 polyimide laminates meet the demands of high-performance military electronics per MIL-S-13949H specifications.
Arlon SI – Silicon-impregnated laminates including SI-6-4-2 and SI-9-2-3 improve resistance to combustibility for aircraft PCBs meeting FAR 25.853 and OSU-65/65 requirements.
Arlon CLTE – CLTE laminates provide matched X-Y CTE properties and low Z-axis expansion to minimize thermomechanical stresses in high-layer-count aerospace and defense boards.
Arlon QM100 – QM100 cyanate ester laminates withstand over 700 thermal cycles from -55°C to 125°C with near hermetic properties for space applications.
Arlon’s aerospace and defense customers benefit not only from advanced materials, but also from the company’s vertically-integrated, certified domestic manufacturing facilities ensuring secure U.S. supply chains.
Materials for High Power and High Voltage Applications
Many industrial, energy, automotive, and scientific systems depend on electronics operating at hundreds or thousands of volts and amps. This requires insulating PCB materials with exceptional dielectric strength, thermal conductivity, and resistance to electrical arcing.
Arlon AN55A – With a dielectric strength exceeding 100 kV/mm, AN55A epoxy laminates manage high voltage gradients in applications like lidar, pulsed lasers, accelerators, and scientific instrumentation.
Arlon TC500 – TC500 polyimide laminates offer high breakdown voltage plus thermal stability for power supplies, motor drives, battery management systems, and converters in EVs, industrial equipment, and smart grids.
Arlon HTX – Combining polyimide films and insulation papers, HTX prepregs provide turn, helical, and open coil winding insulation for electric motor and transformer designs.
Arlon SF – Synthetic flouropolymer (PTFE) resins including SF370HR offer high temperature resistance and low loss for antenna feeds, waveguides, and other high power RF components.
Arlon DLS – Direct copper laminated busbars with DLS polyester materials enable compact power distribution with high current capacity up to 1500 A.
PCB Materials for Automotive Applications
Modern vehicles incorporate a proliferating array of safety, infotainment, connectivity, assisted driving, and powertrain control electronics. This results in automobile PCBs facing severe temperature cycling, vibration, humidity, and reliability demands. Arlon’s automotive-grade materials ensure manufacturing quality and field performance of vehicle electronics.
Arlon 55NT – 55NT maintains stable electrical properties through -55°C to 125°C temperature excursions for engine control units (ECUs) and critical vehicle systems.
Arlon DCL – Direct copper lamination (DCL) busbars with specially engineered thermoplastics replace bulky cabling for higher efficiency power distribution networks up to 900V.
Arlon TC350 – With high thermal conductivity and 260°C Tg, TC350 is optimal for power modules and converters in hybrid/EV drivetrains and battery management electronics.
Arlon AD1000 – Ultra-low loss AD1000 supports high performance radar sensors and vehicle-to-vehicle/infrastructure communication modules up to 80 GHz.
Arlon 85HP – Cost-effective epoxy laminate 85HP balances electrical, thermal, and mechanical requirements of interior modules and body controllers.
Automotive OEMs and system suppliers depend on Arlon for consistent high-quality PCB materials to avoid field failures in mission-critical vehicle systems operating under harsh conditions.
Arlon Supporting PCB Innovation Across Industries
This overview covers only a portion of Arlon’s extensive laminate and prepreg portfolio engineered to meet the evolving demands of electronics across industries. From cutting-edge smartphones, IoT devices, and networking gear, to high speed digital computing, to sophisticated aerospace and defense electronics, Arlon’s materials portfolio enables the PCB innovation powering new technology.
The company’s specialized materials science resources are focused on continually developing next-generation high performance, high reliability, and highly integrated solutions. By leveraging six decades of experience and continually innovating laminate and prepreg technologies, Arlon enables its customers to push the boundaries in PCB design and fabrication.
Arlon maintains vertically integrated domestic manufacturing operations encompassing resin synthesis, glass fabric production, and composite laminate manufacturing. This gives customers the assurance of consistent quality and security of supply that are critical for the most advanced PCB applications.
Arlon’s Laminate Solutions Summary
- Arlon offers one of the industry’s broadest portfolios of specialized PCB laminates and prepregs engineered for optimal electrical, thermal, and mechanical performance.
- Key resin chemistries include epoxy, polyimide, PTFE, ceramic-filled, and others tailored for the application requirements.
- Arlon’s 60+ years of R&D experience translates to high performance, reliable materials proven through customer success across electronics sectors.
- Vertical integration provides consistent material quality and secure U.S. supply chains to enable customers’ innovative PCB advancements.
- Ongoing innovation focuses on enabling cutting-edge PCBs for high speed digital computing, high frequency RF/wireless, automotive electronics, aerospace/defense, industrial equipment, and more.
PCB fabricators and designers can be confident selecting Arlon laminates and prepregs for their most demanding next-generation PCB projects.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about Arlon’s range of high performance PCB laminate solutions:
What are some of Arlon’s newest laminate and prepreg products?
Some of Arlon’s latest material innovations include:
- AD1000 – Ultra-low loss laminate for mmWave antenna and 5G applications
- CLTE-XT – Unrivaled X/Y CTE matching to prevent via fractures and pad lift
- TC350 – High thermal polyimide for power modules and thermal management
- QM100 – Cyanate ester laminates with near-hermetic properties for space and aerospace
- DCL Prepreg – Enables compact, efficient direct copper laminated busbars
How can I obtain samples of Arlon laminates for prototyping?
Arlon provides fast sample and quick-turn prototyping services to help designers and fabricators evaluate new materials. Simply submit a sample request through your local sales contact and Arlon can typically deliver material samples in 1-2 days.
What thickness ranges are available?
Arlon laminates are produced in thicknesses from as thin as 1 mil to over 125 mils, with various glass fabric styles from 106 to 1080 and fiberglass to polyester. Prepregs are offered from 2 mil to 30 mil ply thicknesses. Thinner and thicker materials can be engineered on request.