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Your Guide to Choosing a Reliable RF Manufacturer

Choosing a specialist in making Radio Frequency (RF) PCBs could be the key to developing high-performing circuit boards. As the cost-effectiveness and faster operational capabilities of these circuits buoy the demands; it is also good to have a reliable manufacturer at hand.

In this article, you will learn some of the “insider information” on how to choose the best RF manufacturers. You will also find out why these boards are better an some of the comparison to regular PCBs.

The Definition of RF PCBs

These are the Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs) designed to operate at higher frequencies. Such an operation is facilitated by the higher signals contained in the components.

Other key points about RF PCBs include:

  • The signals operate in the Megahertz (MHz) to Gigahertz (GHz) frequencies. To this end, the circuits can move from low to high frequencies.
  • It is common to use RF PCBs for applications or electronic products requiring higher operating speeds.
  • The complexity of designing RF PCB is also an issue.

Who Makes the Best RF PCBs?

An RF PCB manufacturer produces these kinds of boards. Their capabilities differ, as well as the types of RF boards they produce.

We present to you, some of the RF semiconductor companies and what they offer.

1.    Millennium Circuits Limited

This company makes a proper engineering and development of Radio Frequency (RF) circuit boards. It primarily focuses on the production of high-frequency PCB laminates.

The company’s capabilities include but are not limited to designing up to 44 layers of RF PCBs, using controlled impedance and the Via-in-Pad with Fill options.

Millennium Circuits Limited is also capable of:

  • 35:1 drill aspect ratio
  • Sequential Lamination
  • Quick-turn production
  • Up to 24-inch by 30-inch panel size
  • Copper Plug, Conductive and Non-Conductive
  • Blind / Buried Vias and Micro Vias

Specialized RF PCB Production Process

Millennium Circuits Limited uses a combination of specialized equipment and standard processes for designing the RF PCBs.

The following are some of the specialized production processes:

  • Laser Direct Imaging (LDI): this favourably compares to the conventional photo exposure tools due to the front-to-back registration requirements and the tighter trace width.
  • Plasma Etch Machinery: this is used to ensure proper processing and manufacturing of RF PCBs via the minimization of deviance and maintenance of high-quality in the through-holes.

2.    Cirexx International

Cirexx is a US-based RF PCB manufacturer. It is a full-suite electronics solutions company that offers anything from layout, fabrication, assembly and testing of PCBs.

The RF PCBs include ensuring the compliance of the boards to the Design for Manufacturability (DFM), designing and fabricating the boards.

Other capabilities are:

  • Sourcing up to 60 RF PCB materials from different material manufacturers all over the world. Some of these manufacturers are: Ohmega, Isola, Ventec, Dupont, Megtron, Rogers and Arlon. Others are Taconic, Sheldahl, Panasonic, Evonik, Ticer Technologies, Hanwha, Nelco, ThinFlex, and Tatsuta.
  • Using an in-house RF PCB production method. This covers the fabrication of every aspect of the boards inside one factory, without outsourcing.
  • Cirexx also offers quick-turn production, ideally from 24 hours.
  • The availability of tighter route tolerances.
  • Back drilling
  • Optimization of the RF boards for use in these industries: industrial, consumer electronics, automotive, medical and military/aerospace.

3.    RAYPCB

RAYPCB is a Chinese Radio Frequency (RF) PCB manufacturer. It specializes in producing different kinds of these boards, including the multilayer variants.

RF PCB Materials

RAYPCB sources different kinds of RF board materials from several RF component supplier. The types of materials include Modified Epoxy, FR4, Polyimide, PTFE, Ceramic, Cer/PTFE, Special Laminate, PTFE/Glass and Hydrocarbon/Cer.

The companies it sources these materials from are:

  • Isola
  • Bergquist
  • KB
  • Rogers
  • Panasonic
  • Taconic
  • TUC
  • ITEQ
  • Stablcor
  • Nelco
  • Ventec
  • Hitachi
  • Arlon

Different Types of RF PCBs

RAYPCB designs up to five (5) types of RF circuit boards. These are:

  • High-Power RF PCBs: these are multilayered PCBs optimized to use several layers to enable interconnections inside the boards.
  • HDI RF PCBs: these circuit boards use higher densities and are required in HDI display applications, such as audio equipment and high-resolution monitors.
  • Microwave RF PCBs: these circuit boards are used in several microwave-frequency applications, including smart appliances, mobile telecommunications and automotive electronic systems.
  • BGA RF PCBs: these are dedicated to the Ball Grid Arrays (BGAs).
  • Laser Cut RF PCBs: the benefits include faster fabrication and less residue.

Multilayer RF PCB Production

RAYPCB also produces RF PCBs with multiple layers. The options range from double-sided RF boards to the 4-layered, 16-layered, 20-layered and the 30 layers of boards.

Note: the manufacturer also classifies the RF PCBs by the thickness. The options range from 1oz to 6oz copper RF PCBs.

4.    Sunstone Circuits

This RF PCB manufacturer believes in the concept of “specialization.” This is why it takes the care to make and modify the boards to be unique than what could have been obtained from the traditional circuit board designs.

Sunstone Circuits uses a wide range of materials, such as those sourced from Polyflon, Arlon and Taconic. It also sources materials from Rogers, specifically the following series: 3000, 4000, 5000 and 6000 Series.

5.    Hemeixin Electronics Co., Ltd.

This company offers several RF PCB production solutions, ranging from making the boards adaptable for different use cases, and finding a way around the design complexities.

Here are some of the solutions:

The Use of Several Materials

Materials used for manufacturing RF PCBs need to match the high-operating capabilities. The likes of FR4 and Teflon are prioritized. Hemeixin also uses other materials, such as:

  • Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE)
  • Teflon and;
  • FR4

RF Boards Designed for Real-World Use

The RF PCB designed by Hemeixin are optimized for real-world usage. Some of the targeted applications are security, smart phones, robotics, wireless technologies and sensors.

6.    American Standard Circuits

This is the ideal manufacturer for advanced RF microwave circuit boards. American Standard Circuits (ASC) optimize these boards along the lines of high-technology use, heat sink technology, time-critical applications and high-frequency usages.


Contracting ASC for your RF PCB design is worth it, because the company has the technical expertise to deliver on different areas.

The capabilities include laser cut vias and routing; blind and buried vias; pre-bonded and post-bonded metal-back PCBs; single, double-sided, multilayer and hybrid multilayers; plated through-hole capability metal carrier to PTFE; castellations and wire bondable surface finishes.

Component Sourcing

The manufacturers work closely with some of the industry-leading suppliers of dielectric and laminate materials. Suppliers like Taconic, Nelco, Rogers and Isola are some on the list.

7.    Photronix

This is a UK-based RF manufacturer, with manufacturing facilities in China. Photronix helps you reduce costs, get the highest frequencies possible and improve the low thermal conductivity of the boards.

With the ISO 9001 certification, the company offers RF PCBs that do not only meet the minimum industry requirements, but which are also certified ideal for use abroad.

The manufacturer’s capabilities include using different surface finishes (such as Immersion Silver, Lead-Free HASL, Immersion Tin, OSP, and ENIG); production of up to 20 layers of RF boards, supports up to 580mm x 1010mm maximum dimensions; using the V-score and Routing profile method; and up to 0.4-2mm post bonded metal core thickness.

Photronix also uses different materials, such as hydrocarbon / ceramic filled, low loss / low Dk, Teflon, higher-performance FR4 and PPO.

8.    Northwest Engineering Solutions LLC (NWES)

NWES is a leading manufacturer of advanced RF PCBs. This is in line with the modern electronics that run at higher frequencies and use different protocols. By advancing the methods of producing these RF boards; the company offers more value to the customers.

Let’s see just how it does that.

Streamlined RF PCB Design Process

NWES designs these boards with a precise process. First, it offers a consultation and or offers a quotation for the design. Next, it starts the schematic capturing and designs the stackup for the boards. The third step is to prevent noise coupling and minimum loss via the interconnecting and printing of the Radio Frequency (RF) elements. Step four is making the board’s layout. The last step requires involves inspecting the boards via the use of specific simulations, such as the DFM/DFA check.

Application Areas

The RF PCBs you order from NWES are applicable in different areas. Examples are Sub-GHz wireless products for the IoT/embedded platforms; radars for the following industries: defense, aerospace, automotive and networking equipment for data centers and industrial settings.

RF PCB consumers choose NWES because of these reasons:

  • Supply Chain Management: the manufacturer takes undue stress of your shoulders, by handling most parts of the logistics. Leveraging the network of major distributors, it is able to source the best components and at fair prices.
  • Expertise: you are better off contracting a RF PCB manufacturer that knows more about the designs. The team of experts at NWES are digitally-driven and have access to the ideal technology for making your boards’ dream a reality.
  • Manufacturing Partners: collaboration is the key to most successes and NWES understands this. It partners with local and international Electronic Manufacturing Service (EMS) providers and Contract Manufacturers (CMs). These partners have different levels of industry certifications and help NWES with finding real-time solutions to the prototyping and large-volume production needs for RF PCBs.

What to Consider before Choosing an RF PCB Manufacturer

RF Hardware Engineer

From the list of RF manufacturers, you will notice a couple of discrepancies, such as the extent of services they offer. That is not enough metric to value one manufacturer over the other.

We help you with additional ideas on how to choose the best Radio Frequency (RF) circuit board manufacturer.

a.    Find out the Supported Materials

It is common for RF PCB manufacturers to use FR4, Teflon and Isola materials for the boards’ design. However, it is possible to have discrepancies on these materials.

Here are some of the critical evaluations when choosing these manufacturing companies based on the materials they use:

b.    High-Frequency Materials

The use of these materials provides the following benefits: high-speed signal transmission and less impedance. The consideration is for the materials to support low-loss tangent and low-stable Er.

c.    Low CTE Results

RF PCB materials with lower CTE results, such as X, Y and Z can also be beneficial. They enable the alignment of several layers in complex board layouts, and operate between low and high frequencies, even when used in high-temperature environments.

d.    The Types of Supported Surface Finishes

Different kinds of surface finishes/treatments can be used on the RF boards. The manufacturer should be able to offer more of those, such as:

  • Immersion Tin + Gold Finger
  • Electroplated Gold
  • ENIG + Gold Finger
  • Soft Gold
  • Hard Gold
  • Immersion Tin
  • Electroplated Gold + Gold Finger
  • Immersion Silver
  • ENIG
  • Immersion Silver + Gold Finger and;
  • OSP

e.    Number of Layers

Some RF PCB manufacturers can produce up to 20 layers, while others can go as high as 40 layers. The rule of thumb is making sure that the manufacturer can design as many layers as your RF boards require to operate.

f.     Shipping

The manufacturer’s packaging and shipping method must also be considered. The policy will guide you on what to expect of the manufacturer, as it relates to shipping your PCBs.

Manufacturers typically use DHL, but FedEx, UPS and TNT are also on the list.

The shipping policy should also detail an estimated delivery time, the cost of the delivery and the plans in place to ensure the safety of the boards, as they are highly-sensitive.

g.    Does the Manufacturer Use Specialized Methods?

While some RF PCBs can be produced via the standard fabrication equipment; others may require a special process. If the latter is the case, can the manufacturer meet your demands?

Note that the need for specialized methods is when your boards are meant for complex applications, which are mostly “demanding.”

With that being said, here are some of the specialized processing equipment, processes or methods to look for:

  • Laser Drilling Equipment: this is used for designing the RF boards with several boards. It helps to prevent some design-related issues, such as discoloration and loosened fabric.
  • Plasma Etch Equipment: this equipment is used for etching purposes, whereby etchant gases or plasmas are deployed for the removal of substrate materials in the through-holes.
  • Laser Direct Imaging (LDI): this equipment enables the front-to-back registration requirements and holds very tight trace widths.

Final Words

The choice of an RF PCB manufacturer goes beyond the costs of producing the boards. It also covers other critical aspects like the manufacturer’s capabilities, the quality of the design process, the types of equipment used and the materials used.

Rayming Technology is a leading RF PCB manufacturer in China. We produce multilayers and can streamline the process via our in-house design processes. Request a quote today to get started!




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