The Masses of the Printed Circuit Boards

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Introduction to PCB Masses

Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs) are essential components in virtually all electronic devices we use today. From smartphones and computers to medical equipment and automotive systems, PCBs form the backbone of modern electronics. One of the critical factors to consider when designing or manufacturing a PCB is its mass. The mass of a PCB can significantly impact its performance, durability, and overall cost.

In this article, we will dive deep into the world of PCB masses, exploring the various factors that influence the mass of a PCB, the importance of accurate mass calculations, and the techniques used to optimize PCB mass for various applications.

Factors Affecting PCB Mass

Several factors contribute to the overall mass of a PCB. Understanding these factors is crucial for designers and manufacturers to create PCBs that meet the specific requirements of their intended application.

PCB Size and Thickness

The size and thickness of a PCB are two of the most significant factors affecting its mass. Larger PCBs naturally have more material, resulting in a higher mass. Similarly, thicker PCBs, which are often used in high-power applications or for increased mechanical strength, also have a higher mass compared to thinner PCBs.

PCB Size Typical Thickness Approximate Mass
Small (50mm x 50mm) 1.6mm 10g
Medium (100mm x 100mm) 1.6mm 40g
Large (200mm x 200mm) 1.6mm 160g

PCB Material Composition

The materials used to manufacture a PCB also play a significant role in determining its mass. The most common PCB substrate material is FR-4, a glass-reinforced epoxy laminate. However, other materials like aluminum, ceramic, or polyimide may be used for specific applications, each with its own density and mass characteristics.

Material Density (g/cm³)
FR-4 1.85
Aluminum 2.70
Ceramic 3.90
Polyimide 1.42

Copper Layer Thickness and Count

PCBs typically feature one or more layers of copper foil, which are used to create the conductive traces, pads, and planes. The thickness of the copper layers and the number of layers in a PCB can significantly impact its overall mass.

Copper Thickness (oz) Thickness (μm) Typical Applications
0.5 oz 17.5 μm Low-power, high-density designs
1 oz 35 μm Most common thickness for general-purpose PCBs
2 oz 70 μm High-current or power applications
3 oz 105 μm Very high-current applications, e.g., welding equipment

Component Masses

The components mounted on a PCB also contribute to its overall mass. The type, size, and quantity of components used can vary greatly depending on the specific application and design requirements. Some common components and their approximate masses include:

Component Approximate Mass
SMD Resistor (0805) 0.01g
SMD Capacitor (0805) 0.01g
SOIC-14 IC 0.2g
QFP-100 IC 1.5g
Through-hole Connector (2×5) 2.0g

Importance of Accurate PCB Mass Calculations

Accurate calculation of a PCB’s mass is essential for several reasons:

Design Optimization

By understanding the factors that contribute to a PCB’s mass, designers can optimize their designs to meet specific mass requirements. This may involve selecting appropriate materials, adjusting layer thicknesses, or minimizing the number of components used.

Manufacturing Cost Estimation

The mass of a PCB can directly impact its manufacturing cost. Heavier PCBs require more material, which can increase the overall cost of production. By accurately calculating the mass of a PCB during the design phase, manufacturers can provide more precise cost estimates and help clients make informed decisions.

Shipping and Logistics

The mass of a PCB also plays a role in shipping and logistics. Heavier PCBs may incur higher shipping costs and require more robust packaging to ensure safe transport. Accurate mass calculations help manufacturers and clients plan for these factors and minimize potential issues during shipping.

PCB Mass Calculation Techniques

There are several techniques used to calculate the mass of a PCB, ranging from simple estimations to more precise methods.

Empirical Formulas

One of the simplest ways to estimate the mass of a PCB is by using empirical formulas based on the PCB’s dimensions and the average density of the materials used. For example:

PCB Mass (g) = Length (cm) × Width (cm) × Thickness (cm) × Average Density (g/cm³)

While this method provides a rough estimate, it does not account for the specific materials used or the presence of components, which can lead to inaccuracies.

CAD Software Calculations

Many PCB design software packages, such as Altium Designer or KiCad, include tools for calculating the mass of a PCB based on the design files. These tools take into account the specific materials used, layer thicknesses, and component masses to provide a more accurate estimate of the PCB’s mass.

Physical Measurement

For the most accurate determination of a PCB’s mass, physical measurement using a precision scale is the best method. This is typically done after the PCB has been manufactured and assembled, as it accounts for any variations in material properties or component masses that may have occurred during production.

Optimizing PCB Mass

In some applications, minimizing the mass of a PCB is crucial for performance, cost, or logistical reasons. There are several strategies designers and manufacturers can employ to optimize PCB mass:

Material Selection

Choosing lighter materials, such as thinner copper foils or lower-density substrates, can help reduce the overall mass of a PCB. However, it is essential to ensure that these materials still meet the electrical and mechanical requirements of the application.


Reducing the size of a PCB can significantly lower its mass. This can be achieved through the use of smaller components, higher-density layouts, or advanced manufacturing techniques like embedded components or multi-chip modules.

Layer Optimization

Minimizing the number of layers in a PCB or using thinner layers can help reduce its mass. However, this must be balanced against the potential impact on signal integrity, power delivery, and electromagnetic compatibility (EMC).

Component Selection

Selecting lighter components, such as smaller package sizes or lighter materials, can contribute to a lower overall PCB mass. Designers should work closely with component suppliers to identify the most suitable options for their specific application.


  1. Q: What is the most common material used for PCB substrates?
    A: FR-4, a glass-reinforced epoxy laminate, is the most widely used material for PCB substrates due to its excellent electrical and mechanical properties, as well as its cost-effectiveness.

  2. Q: How does the number of copper layers affect PCB mass?
    A: The more copper layers a PCB has, the higher its mass will be. Each additional layer of copper foil adds to the overall mass of the PCB.

  3. Q: Why is accurate PCB mass calculation important for manufacturing cost estimation?
    A: The mass of a PCB directly impacts the amount of material required for its production, which in turn affects the manufacturing cost. Accurate mass calculations enable manufacturers to provide more precise cost estimates to their clients.

  4. Q: What is the most accurate method for determining the mass of a PCB?
    A: Physical measurement using a precision scale is the most accurate method for determining the mass of a PCB, as it accounts for any variations in material properties or component masses that may have occurred during production.

  5. Q: How can designers optimize PCB mass without compromising performance?
    A: Designers can optimize PCB mass by selecting lighter materials, miniaturizing the design, optimizing the number and thickness of layers, and choosing lighter components. However, these strategies must be balanced against the electrical and mechanical requirements of the application to ensure optimal performance.


The mass of a PCB is a critical factor that influences its performance, cost, and logistical considerations. By understanding the various factors that contribute to PCB mass, designers and manufacturers can make informed decisions to optimize their designs and production processes.

Accurate PCB mass calculations are essential for design optimization, cost estimation, and efficient shipping and logistics. Techniques ranging from empirical formulas to CAD software calculations and physical measurement can be used to determine the mass of a PCB, depending on the required level of accuracy.

Optimizing PCB mass involves careful consideration of material selection, miniaturization, layer optimization, and component selection. By striking the right balance between mass reduction and performance requirements, designers and manufacturers can create PCBs that are lightweight, cost-effective, and well-suited to their intended applications.

As the demand for lighter, more compact, and more efficient electronic devices continues to grow, the importance of understanding and optimizing PCB mass will only increase. By staying up-to-date with the latest materials, manufacturing techniques, and design strategies, the electronics industry can continue to push the boundaries of what is possible with PCBs, creating innovative solutions that meet the evolving needs of consumers and businesses alike.