Many people who have been building electronics projects for years are familiar with FR-1. This is because it’s the most common substrate. It comes in different colors and sizes such as 160x60mm, 320x240mm, 400x200mm, 450x295mm, 610x390mm and more. Some even come in white color. You might have seen some big Arduino shield manufacturers like Rayming PCB & Assembly using FR-1 for their projects. But what makes this substrate stand out from other kinds of substrates is that you can buy it pre-cut.
FR1 PCB is the most common form of copper PCB, and it has different colors available. Whether you’re just getting into electronics or have a long history with them, FR-1 will be one of your primary substrates. This is because it’s affordable and easy to work with. Compared to other substrates, making your microcontroller circuits on FR-1 is easier. This is because you don’t have to worry about desoldering wires first. The fine copper lines on FR1 PCB will hold your soldered parts, keeping them in place until you’re ready to solder another part. If you’re new to electronics, it’s easy for you to solder your components to the FR-1 PCB without much effort. If you’re an experienced electronic engineer, there’s still a lot of information on FR-1 PCB that you can use.
Benefits of Using FR1 PCBs
There are quite a few benefits that come with using FR-1. You can print your electronic projects on FR-1 PCBs to give them a personalized touch. It’s also suitable for hobbyists and students because it’s cheap and easy to work with. One more benefit is that you can fabricate other electronic components onto the PCBs. We can say this is so because we don’t have to worry about the solder holding it down anymore, so we won’t have wires getting in the way of our projects. You will be able to save money by not buying many components. They include resistors/capacitors, power supplies/motors, etc. You also save time by not having to make the circuit board.
1. Mechanical Drilling:
You can drill holes as large as 8 mm in FR-1, and it will still hold the board together. However, the substrate will break if you drill too deep or try to drill a too large hole. This can be problematic if you want to drill many holes, so you’ll have to think ahead of time. You need to know how many holes you want to make and how big they will be, so the board doesn’t break apart.
X-acto blades are great for cutting through FR-1 PCBs because they’re sharp and easily pass through without breaking them apart. They’re also cheap, so there’s no reason not to use them for this project.
2. Cost Efficiency:
The cost of FR-1 PCBs is cheap, especially when you buy the pre-cut sizes like 200x75mm and 220x70mm. You can easily find these two sizes on eBay, Amazon, AliExpress at a much lower price than buying each one individually. If you’re doing more than one project at a time, then it makes sense to buy pre-cut ones because they’re more cost-efficient in the long run.
3. Reduced Time:
The time it takes to make a project on FR-1 is also reduced compared to other substrates. You don’t have to solder wires first before creating your circuits. The FR-1 PCBs are pre-cut, which means you’ll need to know the size you want, and that’s it. The only problem you might run into is the drilling of holes. We already covered this earlier, though.
Because the circuits on FR-1 aren’t that complex, they take up less space. As a result, you can easily fit them in a small box or enclosure to make your projects more compact. This is an advantage because compact projects are suitable for portability and easy storage.
What are the Drawbacks of FR1 PCB?
Some drawbacks come with using FR-1, but they’re not too bad.
1. Resin Overlay:
FR-1 PCBs have a thin resin overlay, and they can easily get damaged if you do not handle your project properly. When cleaning the PCB or removing components from the substrate, you should refrain from using a strong solvent. Examples include acetone/xylene/isopropyl alcohol. The resin on FR-1 is also sensitive to UV light, so you should store your boards in an opaque container after use.
The best way to clean an FR-1 PCB is with soap and water, then wipe them off with a paper towel. Of course, this is only acceptable if you don’t use solvents on the PCB.
As we mentioned earlier, FR-1 PCBs don’t have soldered components because it’s already pre-soldered. In addition, they don’t have soldered components on their board. This is because they would be hard to solder in the first place since they’re already pre-sensored. So if you want to add components such as LEDs, resistors, etc., you’ll need to do your soldering process. There’s more information on upgrading your substrate, but we won’t get into that for this project.
3. How to Take Off Components:
Removing components on FR-1 is also a problem if you don’t know-how. You’ll need to use low-temperature solder, preferably 63% tin/37% lead. However, you don’t want to use too high a temperature when working with this substrate because it will damage the resin. So you’ll need some way of keeping the temperature low, which means using a hot air gun for the process instead of a soldering iron.
If your substrate gets too hot, it can fuse, making taking components off an issue again. This is also related to overheating, so try not to overheat your board when working with them.
FR1 PCBs come in how many Layers?
There are two types of FR-1 PCBs. They’re the 1-layer and the 2-layer. If you’re wondering how many different types of FR1 PCBs there are, then this is what you need to know. There’s only one type of 1-layer, but there are a few different types of 2-layer FR1 PCBs. Most people use a 2-layer board because it can be helpful for more complex projects than a 1-layer board.
3 Layers vs. 4 Layers
As its name suggests, the 3 layer FR1 PCB has 3 layers with an internal ground plane on each layer. However, the 4 layers one has the ground plane on the top and bottom, so you have to connect them on each side. Therefore, we also call the 3-layer FR3, while the 4-layer is called FR4.
A 1-layer board can be used with simple circuits, LEDs, LCDs, and photovoltaics projects because they don’t have many components. However, you should not use 1 layer boards for controlling high currents or voltages. Likewise, you should avoid using 2 layer boards if you’re starting because they have more complex circuitry than 1 layer PCB.
Applications of FR 1 PCB
Despite their appearance, FR-1 PCBs can be helpful in various projects. The only difference is the complexity of the circuit. In addition, they have good performance because they have a silk screen coating on top. It makes them anti-static and anti-corrosive. It also makes it more durable and flexible than regular prototyping boards.
You can use FR-1 PCBs to create your hobby projects and commercial projects such as IoT wearables (such as fitness trackers). You could also use them for robotics, insects, Arduino projects, smart home solutions, industrial products, or even portable electronics like smartphones and tablets.
Different Types of FR 1 boards
There are many different types of FR-1 PCBs you can buy from online retailers. Below is a list of different types that you can choose from.
1. Green Boards:
Green boards are the pre-cut variety that is more expensive than plain FR-1 PCBs. However, you can get them in different shapes, thicknesses, and sizes from 80x60mm to 200x120mm and even larger sizes at the expense of costing more money. These boards need to be etched, but they’re still easy to work with because they have solder pre-applied on the board itself already.
2. Clear Boards:
These are also prefroted, but they’re cheaper than the green ones. They’re also available in various sizes, shapes, thicknesses, and lamination options. These boards have an overall neutral color with a non-conductive coating, making them safe for use in different projects.
3. Wooden Boards:
Wooden boards are made from wood instead of plastic. It makes them look more like the real thing rather than prototyping boards made from plastic or FR-1 PCBs used explicitly for electronics projects.
4. PCB Board:
PCB Boards are like a hybrid of both FR-1 and FR4 boards because they have two layers instead of 3 layers. If you’re using this type of PCB, you might want to make a minor change since you won’t be able to check your circuit on the top layer.
FR 1 PCBs are a great choice when it comes to prototyping. They can help you save money and time, especially when starting your electronics projects. First, however, you’ll have to learn how to work with FR-1 PCs. This is because there are a few differences in the manufacturing process compared to traditional PCBs.