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PCB Raw Materials Types, Specification and Manufacturers


The raw materials that make up a printed circuit board dictate many aspects of its performance, manufacturability and reliability. PCBs integrate a wide array of specialized substrates, resins, reinforcers, foils and coatings together into a high performance electronic circuit platform.

This article provides an in-depth overview of key PCB raw materials including:

  • The composition and properties of major PCB material types
  • Characteristics of common PCB substrates and laminates
  • Reinforcing fibers, foils and conductive layers used
  • PCB coatings like solder masks and legends
  • Specifications for critical material properties
  • Leading global manufacturers of PCB raw materials
  • Recent developments in materials for advanced PCBs
  • How material selection affects PCB design and fabrication
  • Examples of selecting optimal materials for applications

Understanding PCB material options allows electrical engineers to make informed selections to fulfill cost, performance and manufacturing goals.

Major Types of PCB Raw Materials

Fr4 Laminate
Fr4 Laminate

The core raw materials in a PCB include:

Substrate – The base dielectric material forms the core and prepreg layers. Common options:

  • Woven fiberglass reinforced epoxy (FR-4)
  • Ceramic-filled PTFE composites (Rogers RO3003)
  • Cyanate ester epoxy blends (Panasonic Megtron 6)
  • Polyimide films (Dupont Kapton)

Reinforcing Fabric – Woven fiberglass cloth adds mechanical strength. Options:

  • Standard E-glass (~10um fiber diameter)
  • Ultra-thin E-glass (0.5-3um diameters)
  • Quartz glass (for low loss)
  • Non-woven mats

Metal Foil – Thin copper foils form circuit traces. Two types:

  • Rolled annealed copper
  • Electrodeposited copper

Final Finishes – Coatings protect and facilitate soldering:

  • Organic Solderability Preservatives (OSP)
  • Immersion Silver (I-Ag)
  • Immersion Tin (I-Sn)
  • Electroless Nickel Immersion Gold (ENIG)

Solder Mask – Primary PCB coating:

  • Liquid photoimageable solder mask (LPSM)
  • Dry film solder mask

Bonding Films – Adhesives for laminating multilayers:

  • B-stage epoxy
  • Acrylic
  • Phenolic butyral

Via Fill Material – Fills holes in HDI boards:

  • Plating resins
  • Conductive pastes
  • Laser direct structuring (LDS) materials

These comprise the major raw materials integrated into PCBs during fabrication. Next we examine key properties and characteristics.

Properties of PCB Raw Materials

The properties of the raw materials profoundly impact PCB performance. Some key considerations include:

Electrical Properties

Physical Properties

  • Coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE)
  • Glass transition temperature (Tg)
  • Decomposition temperature
  • Moisture absorption

Mechanical Properties

  • Flexural strength
  • Compressive strength
  • Tensile strength
  • Fracture toughness

Chemical Properties

  • Water absorption
  • Solvent resistance
  • Thermal oxidative stability
  • Flame retardance

Manufacturing Properties

  • Bonding compatibility
  • Platability
  • Solderability
  • Drillability
  • Coplanarity

Material selection requires optimizing this multidimensional property space for the application.

PCB Substrate Materials Types

Alumina Substrate
Alumina Substrate

One of the first material choices is the substrate laminate or dielectric. Common options include:


  • Glass fabric reinforced epoxy resin
  • Flame retardant (FR) rating
  • Low cost, widely available
  • Good manufacturability
  • Dk ~4.5, Loss tangent 0.02
  • Tg 130-140°C

High Frequency Laminates

  • PTFE or ceramic filled hydrocarbon resin systems
  • Engineered for stable and low loss RF properties
  • Tight dielectric tolerances
  • Examples: Rogers RO3003 (PTFE), RO4350B (hydrocarbon)

High Thermal Conductivity Laminates

  • Ceramic or carbon filled polymers
  • Thermal conductivities up to 4X better than FR-4
  • Manage high power densities
  • Examples: Ventec VT-5A, Panasonic Megtron6-CA-HE

High Temperature Laminates

  • Withstand over 280°C during assembly and operation
  • Polyimide, cyanate ester, Quartet resins
  • Demanding aerospace and automotive applications

Metal Core Boards

  • Dielectrics bonded to aluminum or copper substrate
  • Vias transfer heat to metal core
  • Excellent thermal management

The substrate constitutes a major portion of the finished PCB material composition.

Reinforcing Fabrics for PCBs

Most PCB substrates incorporate reinforcing woven glass fabrics. Varieties include:

Standard Woven E-Glass

  • Widely used with excellent strength and cost
  • Yarn diameter around 10 um
  • Square weave pattern common

Ultra-thin Glass Fabrics

  • Yarn diameters from 0.5 to 3 um
  • Enables finest PCB features <5um
  • Handles lead-free assembly temperatures

Quartz Glass Fabrics

  • Lower dielectric losses for high frequencies
  • Moderate strength with limited drapability
  • Costs more than standard E-glass

Non-woven Fabrics

  • Mats with randomly distributed fibers
  • Isotropic properties and reduced stresses
  • Applications like antenna substrates

The fiber weave style, density, and electrical properties determine optimal applications.

Metal Foils for PCBs

Copper foils form the conductive traces that distribute signals across a PCB. Types include:

Rolled Annealed Copper Foil

  • Produced by rolling and annealing electrolytic copper
  • Lower cost
  • Rougher surface limits fine features
  • 1⁄4, 1⁄2, 1 and 2 oz thicknesses common

Electrodeposited Copper Foil

  • Electroplated onto drum produces smooth surface
  • Tighter thickness tolerance
  • Supports finerfeatures and spaces
  • More expensive
  • 1⁄4, 1⁄2, 1, 2 and 3 oz options

Heavier Copper Foils

  • 3 to 6 oz foils for high current power boards
  • Reduces resistive losses

Very Thin Copper Foils

  • 9um (1/4 oz) down to 3um foils
  • Allows smaller vias and fine features for HDI
  • Prone to breaks and tears requiring handling care

Foil selection balances cost, manufacturability and PCB impedance needs.

PCB Coatings and Finishes

aluminum substrate pcb

Protective coatings and metallic finishes play key roles:

Solder Mask

  • Epoxy overcoat prevents solder bridging
  • Also insulates and protects PCB
  • Liquid photoimageable (most common)


  • Epoxy ink identifies components
  • Legends and logos

OSP (Organic Solderability Preservative)

  • Organic coating protects copper from oxidation
  • Allows soldering after months of storage

Immersion Silver

  • Coats copper to prevent oxidation
  • Silver layer allows solderability

Immersion Tin

  • Thin tin coating avoids oxidation
  • Lower cost than silver

ENIG (Electroless Nickel Immersion Gold)

  • Nickel corrosion barrier + gold outer layer
  • Gold enables wire bonding

These finishes protect, solder, bond and identify the completed PCB.

PCB Bonding Materials

Bonding films and adhesives laminate multilayer boards:

B-Stage Epoxy

  • Glass fabric reinforced epoxy prepregs
  • Flows under heat and pressure
  • Bonds layers while providing insulation

Acrylic Adhesive

  • Thermoplastic acrylic bonding film
  • Some flexibility after cure for stress relief
  • Fast curing for quick lamination

Phenolic Butyral

  • Thermoplastic resin film
  • No fabric reinforcement
  • Low flow for bonding inner layers

Fluoropolymer Adhesives

  • Maintains dielectric properties at high GHz frequencies
  • Example: Rogers RO4400TM series bondplys

Bonding materials critically impact interconnect reliability in multilayer PCBs.

Via Fill Materials

Filled vias in high density interconnect (HDI) boards avoid stub resonance:

Copper Plating Resins

  • Plated copper deposits filled with polymer
  • Cured to form solid via plugs

Conductive Pastes

  • Silver, copper or carbon filled pastes
  • Dispensed then cured or sintered

LDS Materials

  • Laser activates polymer for subsequent copper plating
  • No additional hole filling steps

This provides continuity of ground connections and avoids stub effects.

PCB Material Manufacturers

Some leading global manufacturers of PCB raw materials include:

Substrate Laminates

  • Isola
  • Rogers Corp
  • Taconic
  • Panasonic
  • Park Electrochemical Corp
  • DuPont

Reinforcing Fabrics

  • Owens Corning
  • Saertex
  • Valuetex
  • Technic Glass

Metal Foils

  • Oak Mitsui
  • Furukawa Electric Co

Solder Masks

  • Taiyo Ink Mfg. Co
  • Tamura Corp
  • Coates Screen
  • Peters Group

Bonding Films

  • Rogers Corp
  • Park Electrochemical Corp
  • Arisawa Mfg. Co

These companies and others supply the materials that make up finished circuit boards.

Recent Advances in PCB Materials

materials for microwave PCB

Ongoing R&D targets new material capabilities:

Thermally Conductive Dielectrics

  • Enables improved thermal design and cooling of high power PCBs

Flexible Substrates

  • Withstand millions of dynamic bending cycles

Tighter Dielectric Tolerances

  • Reduce impedance variability for multi-GHz applications

Lower CTE Materials

  • Minimize thermal stresses and warpage

Hydrophobic Substrates

  • Repel moisture and fluids for harsh environments

Biocompatible Materials

  • Non-toxic, inert materials for medical electronics

Higher Glass Transition Temperatures

  • Withstand lead-free soldering and temperature cycling

Advances in materials science support new PCB capabilities and applications.

Impact of Materials on PCB Design and Fabrication

Material selection impacts many aspects of PCB implementation:

  • Materials compatibility with fabrication processes
  • Drillability, platability, reliability, reparability
  • Dielectric properties influence layout density, signal speed
  • Coefficients of thermal expansion affect multilayer registration
  • Glass transition temperatures limit assembly temps
  • Thermal conductivity guides power plane design
  • Cost and lead times drive prototype vs. production material choices

Collaboration between designers and manufacturers ensures optimal material usage.

PCB Material Selection Examples

Here are some examples of choosing substrates for specific applications:

High Speed Digital Interface

  • Requires impedance control up to 5GHz
  • Selected low-loss laminate: Megtron 6-m with Dk of 3.8
  • Paired with low-loss prepreg: Megtron 6-p

16 Layer Telecom Switching Board

  • Complex board with tight alignment tolerances
  • Selected: Getek PCB substrate with low Z-axis CTE

Electric Vehicle Power Inverter

  • High thermal loads up to 150°C junction temps
  • Selected ceramic-filled fluoropolymer laminate: Rogers RO4835HTC

Flexible Wearable Health Monitor

  • Flexible substrate able to conform to body
  • Chose single-clad DuPont Pyralux AP flexible laminate

The right materials balance electrical, thermal, mechanical, and fabrication needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some common questions surrounding PCB materials:

Q: What are the trade-offs between standard FR-4 substrates versus advanced high frequency materials?

FR-4 offers lower cost and wide availability but with higher loss. Advanced materials provide tightly controlled properties but at higher price.

Q: What are pros and cons of rolled annealed vs. electrodeposited copper foils?

Electrodeposited foils allow finer features but cost more. Rolled foils are lower cost but have rougher surfaces limiting resolution.

Q: How are ceramic or polymer fillers used in PCB substrates?

Fillers like silica improve dimensional stability, thermal conductivity and dielectric properties but increase cost.

Q: What parameters indicate good drillability of a PCB material?

Low thermal expansion, high decomposition temperature, and glass transition temperature above 150°C improve drillability.

Q: What are key considerations when selecting bonding films?

Compatibility with substrate materials, ease of processing, bonding strength after lamination, and suitable dielectric properties.


The raw materials integrated into a printed circuit board determine fabrication processes, electrical performance, reliability profiles, and cost factors. Leveraging the comprehensive overview of major PCB materials provided here allows engineers to make optimal selections based on application requirements and design objectives. As the breadth of PCB material options continues accelerating, a strong grasp of material properties, costs and capabilities will prove increasingly invaluable.




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