Everything You Need To Know About Automotive PCB

In the past few decades, there has been a significant improvement in automotive performance, including more powerful engines, higher speeds, and more advanced technology, as well as increased reliability and safety. This is mainly attributed to continuous advancements and innovations in automotive engineering technology, one of which is the rapid development of automotive PCB. Automotive PCB are specialized circuit boards used in automotive electronic systems, implementing a range of functions in vehicles, from navigation systems to airbag safety mechanisms to ignition systems, all of which rely on automotive PCB. This article will explore all aspects of automotive PCB boards to help you understand why they have become an indispensable part of modern automobiles!

Automobile PCB circuit board

Differences Between Automotive PCB and Traditional PCB

The main reason for the differences in design and manufacturing between automotive PCB and traditional PCB is the different usage environments. Clearly, the operating environment for automotive electronics is far more complex than that for traditional electronics, with factors such as vehicle vibration during operation, high temperatures due to engine heat dissipation, and threats from various chemical substances. Therefore, in automotive PCB projects, designers need to pay more attention to the reliability and stability of PCB to ensure driver safety.

To achieve this, additional factors need to be considered in automotive PCB design, such as optimizing sensor placement to reduce interference, isolating high-power components to improve heat dissipation, and using ground planes to protect sensitive signals from noise sources. Additionally, to achieve greater durability and stability, and to adapt to high temperatures and chemical environments, automotive PCB typically use composite materials such as flame-retardant glass fiber epoxy laminates and ceramic-filled polytetrafluoroethylene. Furthermore, to withstand electrical vibrations and ensure better current transmission, automotive PCB are typically thicker, usually ranging from 0.6 to 3.2 millimeters.

In contrast, traditional electronics often prioritize manufacturing costs, hence they use lower-cost copper foils and thinner board thicknesses, typically ranging from 0.2 to 3.0 millimeters. Additionally, the design process for traditional PCB only needs to focus on general PCB design rules and ensure no errors occur.

Key Factors for Successful Automotive PCB

Appropriate Materials

Substrate material is a key factor in determining the performance and lifespan of automotive PCB. For example, for applications such as automotive radar operating at higher radio frequency ranges, it is recommended to use materials with excellent high-frequency characteristics and low dielectric loss, such as Rogers or PTFE. For applications like electronic control units that face challenges from high temperatures in the engine compartment, materials with high temperature resistance and low coefficient of thermal expansion, such as high TG FR-4 or ceramic substrates, are recommended. For applications focused on reliability, metal substrates may be the best choice, as they provide sufficient mechanical performance and excellent thermal conductivity.

Accurate Design

To ensure the accuracy of automotive PCB designs, detailed definition and understanding of design specifications and requirements are necessary before starting the design process. Before layout, careful validation and review of the circuit schematic are essential to ensure correct circuit connections and compliance with electrical specifications. Simulation and modeling tools can be used to validate the circuit to ensure its performance and stability. Finally, clear and accurate manufacturing files (such as Gerber files, drill files, etc.) should be generated and communicated with manufacturers to ensure accuracy and consistency during the production process.

Compliance with International Standards

For users looking for automotive PCB manufacturers and ensuring their qualifications, in addition to basic ISO 9001 certification, more attention should be paid to IATF 16949 certification. This is an international automotive industry quality management system standard, abbreviated as “International Automotive Task Force Technical Specification 16949” (IATF 16949), issued by the International Automotive Task Force (IATF) to replace the previous ISO/TS 16949 standard. Its purpose is to provide a set of standardized quality management system requirements for automotive manufacturers and suppliers to ensure that their products and services meet customer requirements, comply with legal and regulatory requirements, and continuously improve business performance.

Automotive PCB IATF 16949 certification

Major Applications of Automotive PCB

Unlike early automobiles controlled primarily by mechanical or electrical components, the increased electrification of modern automobiles, coupled with the rise of electric vehicles, has led to a wider range of applications and more important roles for PCB in automobiles, including:

In the event of a collision, PCB helps airbag systems achieve immediate response to protect drivers and passengers, reducing collision injuries.

In ABS systems, PCB controls the braking force of individual wheels, effectively reducing braking distance and improving driving safety.

In audio systems, PCB provides high-quality audio output, offering passengers in the vehicle a premium music and communication experience.

In GPS and navigation systems, PCB ensures real-time tracking and updates of GPS and navigation systems through high-speed signal functions, providing drivers with accurate navigation information.

In battery management systems, PCB facilitates effective battery management and power distribution, extending battery life and increasing vehicle range.

In engine temperature control systems, sensors controlled by PCB maintain engine temperature within specified ranges, ensuring optimal engine performance and combustion efficiency.

Future Trends in Automotive PCB

The development of future automotive PCB will be influenced by multiple factors, from high-density and multilayer designs to rigid-flex PCB to intelligent driver assistance systems, all of which will drive the progress and development of automotive electronic systems.

As automotive electronic systems continue to evolve and functionalities increase, higher demands will be placed on PCB space utilization. To accommodate more components and connection lines, future automotive PCB will adopt higher density and more layers in their designs. This means that more advanced high-density interconnect and microvia technologies will be needed to achieve more compact PCB designs.

To adapt to the complex structures and space constraints inside vehicles, future automotive electronics may employ more rigid-flex PCB. Rigid sections can serve as support, while flexible sections can withstand repeated bending and vibration during operation, or they may need to have bent compact shapes for operation. This design ensures both reliability and meets the requirements for interior vehicle space.

Additionally, with the integration of intelligent driver assistance systems, as vehicles move towards intelligentization, automobiles will need to handle more high-speed data transmission in a short period of time and adjust the status of all vehicle devices through artificial intelligence algorithms. To achieve this, future automotive PCB will adopt more advanced high-speed signal transmission technologies, such as high-speed differential signal transmission technology and serial communication technology, to ensure signal transmission stability and reliability.

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