Single-Layer PCB

According to project requirements and manufacturer capabilities, PCB can range from 1 to 100 layers or even more. As the number of layers increases, manufacturing costs and complexity also rise. In this article, TechSparks will guide you through the concept and characteristics, introducing you to the simplest circuit structure — Single-Layer PCB.

Table of Contents

What is a Single-Layer PCB

The emphasis in a single-layer PCB is on “single layer.” What is meant by “layer”? A PCB is stacked like a cake, composed of different layers, when referring to the number of layers it actually refers to the conductive layer or copper foil layer in its internal structure. In a PCB, the circuit pattern is printed on the copper foil, forming the conductive layer, and the current flows through this layer to the components, enabling them to function.

Single layer PCB structure

Therefore, a single-layer PCB refers to a circuit board with only one conductive layer. Because of this, components can only be placed on one side of the PCB, and thus, a single-layer PCB is also known as a single-sided PCB.

Single and double sided PCB

I have a question that I have been unable to find an answer to:

Some manufacturers, when introducing single-layer PCB in their blogs, often equate them with single-sided PCB. However, to my understanding, layers are not the same as sides. This is easy to understand; a PCB can have 1 layer, 2 layers, 3 layers, 10 layers, but it has a maximum of two sides. In my understanding, the emphasis of a single-sided PCB is to describe the location of components on the PCB. Therefore, a single-layer PCB must be a single-sided PCB, but a single-sided PCB can have multiple layers.

PS: I don’t know if this is right or wrong!

Characteristics of Single-Layer PCB

The obvious uniqueness of a single-layer PCB lies in having only one conductive layer. Thus, we can summarize the comprehensive characteristics of single-layer PCB in a few words: simplicity, affordability, and suitability for simple projects. Let’s delve into the understanding:

In PCB with multiple conductive layers, interlayer connections are necessary to establish electrical connections between different layers, allowing signals and power to be transmitted between them. To achieve this, vias need to be considered in the design stage of multi-layer PCB, and for some high-performance projects, blind and buried vias may be required to meet specifications. These additional requirements make the design and manufacturing more challenging. In contrast, single-layer PCB eliminates the need to address these issues, requiring only a rationale of circuit design and component layout.

Additionally, the PCB manufacturing process involves the stacking of different layers, arranging them in a specific order. As the number of layers increases, the difficulty of alignment and registration between layers also intensifies. Any errors or misalignment can lead to malfunctions. The close proximity of layers makes heat dissipation challenging, requiring careful consideration of effective heat dissipation design. On the other hand, single-layer PCB alleviates these concerns due to the simplified process, making projects more cost-effective.

While using single-layer PCB offers numerous conveniences, it’s crucial to recognize their limitations. With only one conductive layer, all circuits must be arranged on a single plane, which is not conducive to compact electronic devices. Wiring difficulty increases, and careful optimization is required during circuit design and component layout to avoid short circuits or circuit failures. Importantly, single-layer PCB have relatively poor electromagnetic interference suppression capability, which is essential in high-frequency circuits. This implies that single-layer PCB are only suitable for low-frequency and simple projects.

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