With PCBs in items all around us, it’s good to know the temperature ranges they can endure. Can a high temperature cause damage to a PCB? What is the highest temperature it can withstand? Some engineers filled us in on what can happen to PCBs at high temperatures. Keep reading to find out.
Stellar Jackson

Stellar Jackson

Electrical Engineer at .

Heat Leads to Issues

Yes, high temperatures can indeed damage a printed circuit board (PCB). Excessive heat can lead to various issues, including solder joint failures, delamination of PCB layers, and component damage. It’s crucial to consider the PCB’s temperature tolerance in the design phase to prevent such issues.

The highest temperature a PCB can withstand depends on several factors, including the materials used, the type of components, and the specific application. Generally, standard FR-4 PCBs have a temperature tolerance of up to 130-140°C. However, specialized materials, such as ceramic PCBs, can handle even higher temperatures, exceeding 350°C. It’s essential to select the right PCB materials and components based on the intended operating conditions.

Heat Leads to Compromised Solder Joints

A printed circuit board (PCB) is susceptible to damage when subjected to high temperatures. An excessive amount of heat can cause components on the PCB to degrade, distort, or even entirely stop working. It is also possible for the solder joints that connect the components to the board to become compromised, which would result in connection problems.

The highest temperature that a PCB is able to withstand is determined by a number of factors, including the type of material used to construct the board and the components of the board, as well as the particular design and manufacturing parameters. However, the majority of ordinary FR-4 PCBs, which are the type that is used the most frequently, have a maximum temperature rating of approximately 266 to 284 degrees Fahrenheit, or 130 to 140 degrees Celsius.

When constructing or operating electronic systems that contain PCBs, it is essential to take these temperature restrictions into consideration. If you use electronics outside of the temperature range that is specified for them, you run the risk of causing irreparable damage and shortening their lifespan.

Karan Tiwari

Karan Tiwari

Content Manager at .

Karishma Verma

From .

Many Factors Determine the Highest Temperature

As the basis for almost all of the modern electronics we use, printed circuit boards (PCBs) are the heart of contemporary electronics. PCBs are present in many kinds of electronics, like your computer, smartphone, and even your car, and they are essential to the proper operation of these gadgets. However, PCBs have their limitations, just like every other electronic component, and one major issue is the effect of high temperatures.

Let’s explore whether high temperatures can damage a PCB, and if so, what is the highest temperature a PCB can withstand. Understanding these limitations is essential for engineers, designers, and hobbyists working with electronic circuits, as it can help prevent costly failures and ensure the longevity of electronic devices.

Yes, high temperatures can indeed damage a PCB. PCBs are typically made from multiple layers of fiberglass and epoxy resin, with copper traces and components soldered onto them. These materials have temperature limits beyond which they can degrade or become damaged.

    ● Solder Melting Point: One critical consideration is the solder used to attach components to the PCB. Most solder alloys have a relatively low melting point, typically between 180°C to 240°C (356°F to 464°F). Exposing a PCB to temperatures above the solder’s melting point can cause components to disconnect, leading to circuit failure.
    ● Resin and Laminate Properties: The epoxy resin used in PCBs has a higher temperature tolerance, usually in the range of 130°C to 180°C (266°F to 356°F) depending on the specific material used. Beyond these temperatures, the resin can soften, warp, or even char, compromising the structural integrity of the board.
    ● Copper Damage: The copper traces on a PCB can also be affected by high temperatures. Copper has a relatively high melting point of around 1,984°C (3,603°F), so it won’t melt under normal operating conditions. However, prolonged exposure to temperatures significantly above 100°C (212°F) can cause copper to undergo structural changes, potentially leading to cracks or delamination.
    ● Component Sensitivity: Electronic components like integrated circuits, transistors, and capacitors have specific temperature limits, beyond which they may malfunction or become permanently damaged. These limits vary from one component to another, so it’s crucial to consult the datasheets and specifications provided by component manufacturers.

The highest temperature a PCB can withstand depends on several factors, including the materials used, the quality of manufacturing, and the specific components mounted on the board. However, as a general guideline:

    ● Standard FR-4 PCBs: Most standard FR-4 PCBs, which are widely used in consumer electronics, can typically withstand temperatures in the range of 130°C to 180°C (266°F to 356°F) for short durations. Beyond these temperatures, the PCB may experience damage.
    ● High-Temperature PCBs: In applications where higher temperatures are expected, such as automotive or industrial environments, specialized high-temperature PCB materials may be used. These materials can endure temperatures up to 200°C to 230°C (392°F to 446°F) or even higher.

Some of the other factors in the temperature tolerance of a PCB include:

    ● Component Limits: The temperature limits of the components mounted on the PCB are a crucial factor. Some components are designed to withstand extreme temperatures, while others are more sensitive. It’s essential to consider the entire temperature range of the components when determining the PCB’s overall temperature tolerance.
    ● Cooling and Heat Dissipation: The ability of a PCB to dissipate heat also plays a significant role. Adequate heat sinks, thermal vias, and proper ventilation can help keep temperatures within safe limits.
    ● Quality of Manufacturing: The quality of PCB manufacturing can impact its heat tolerance. A well-manufactured PCB with precise layer alignment and controlled material properties is more likely to withstand high temperatures than a poorly made one.
    ● Application-Specific Considerations: The highest temperature a PCB can withstand may vary depending on the application. Some specialized industries, like aerospace and defense, require PCBs that can handle extreme temperatures, often exceeding 230°C (446°F).
    ● Testing and Validation: It’s crucial to subject PCBs to rigorous testing and validation under high-temperature conditions to ensure they meet the specified temperature limits for their intended use.

In summary, high temperatures can indeed damage a PCB, and the highest temperature a PCB can withstand depends on a variety of factors. Standard FR-4 PCBs can typically endure temperatures up to 130°C to 180°C (266°F to 356°F), while specialized high-temperature PCBs can handle even higher temperatures. Component sensitivity, heat dissipation, and the quality of manufacturing all play essential roles in determining a PCB’s temperature tolerance.

Engineers and designers should carefully consider these factors when working on electronic circuits for applications that may involve high temperatures. By doing so, they can ensure the reliability and longevity of their electronic devices, even in challenging environments.

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