Efficiency in product design can feel like a balancing act. When dealing with high currents, what options do PCB makers have to maintain a relatively small track size? These PCB appreciators let us in on the secrets to keeping PCBs efficient. Keep reading to learn their tricks.
Sudhir Khatwani

Sudhir Khatwani

Founder at .

Use Thicker Copper

Tackling high currents on tiny PCB tracks is a bit like threading a needle while wearing gloves: tricky, but doable. First up, we’re beefing up the copper thickness. Think of it as adding more lanes to a highway to handle more traffic. More copper means more current without the meltdown.

Heat’s the next hurdle. You know how your phone gets warm when you’re on a long call? Now, imagine that for PCBs with high currents. So, we spread out that warmth with wider paths and these things called thermal reliefs. And about those vias (the little tunnels in the board): making them bigger or adding more helps share the current, kind of evening out the load.

Oh, and a shout out to the unsung heroes: the materials we use. They’ve come a long way, and now we’ve got ones made just for this high-power stuff. All this, mixed with a ton of testing, is how we make sure things don’t go haywire.

Optimize the Track Cross-Section by Widening It

PCB manufacturers employ a range of strategies. One approach is to optimize the track cross-section by widening it, which increases the current-carrying capacity and improves heat dissipation. Additionally, using thicker copper tracks further enhances their ability to handle high currents.

Techniques like thermal vias and copper pours can be implemented to enhance heat dissipation and minimize temperature rise. Careful consideration of materials, such as selecting low-resistance copper alloys, also contributes to efficient current management.

It is worth noting that PCB layout design plays a crucial role in managing high currents. Following industry guidelines and employing design modifications like proper trace width calculations and reducing impedance can ensure optimal performance.

Dennis Sanders

Dennis Sanders

Founder and CEO at .
Jan Chapman

Jan Chapman

Co-Founder and Managing Director of .

Use a Short Trace to Maintain Power

Efficiency decreases as trace length increases because longer traces encounter more resistance. When a lot of current flows through, a lot of power is wasted, and the lost power causes a lot of heat, which reduces the lifespan of the circuit board. The design should go for a short trace in order to minimize power loss as much as feasible while still maintaining the functionality and lifespan of the PCB.

PTH and BBV Techniques

PCB makers are able to manage high currents with small tracks thanks to the use of different materials, designs, and fabrication methods. To ensure that a printed circuit board can handle high current levels, designers typically incorporate thicker copper traces in their boards, as well as wider via holes which help reduce resistance.

Furthermore, PCB makers have developed special techniques for creating vias which have multiple layers and are filled with a conductive material, such as copper or silver. These techniques, known as plated through holes (PTH) and blind/buried vias (BBV), help reduce the thermal resistance of the via and increase its ability to carry high currents.

PCB makers also utilize different materials for their boards in order to manage high currents with small tracks. Materials such as FR-4 and polyimide are often used to create PCBs which can better handle higher temperatures and currents. In addition, special metal core substrates (MCPCB) can be employed for high power applications, as these boards provide superior heat dissipation compared to conventional materials.

Fred Hoffman

Fred Hoffman

Founder & Chief Editor at .

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