A Complete Guide to Single Layer PCB

In the past, the point-to-point construction method was used in making circuits. This manual process was very difficult, filled with errors, and consumed enough time and space. However, as time progresses, more research findings and technological development led to the introduction of the printed circuit boards which have enjoyed massive usage ever since. 

Manufacturers and enthusiasts in the electronics sector can easily lay out and connect electronic components efficiently and easily with these circuit boards. With PCBs, you don’t need to put wire in-between copper tracks to link components in the circuit because they’re properly designed and custom-made for each project.

In this article, we will discuss in detail what single layer PCB is all about, where they’re used, what they are used for, benefits, features, and many more. So, come along as this journey promises to be an exciting one. 

What is a Single-Layer PCB?

A single layer PCB consists of one layer of conductive material on one side of the circuit board while all electronic components are added on the other side of the board. In other words, a single layer PCB has only one conductive or copper layer. Therefore, it is the simplest PCB.

When it comes to printed circuit boards, one layer PCB is extensively used in many applications that require low costs and compact circuits. Moreover, a one-sided circuit board is the number one choice for any project as it is the most preferred and most purchased. 

In the circuit design of a single-layer circuit board, no cross is allowed as each line must have its path. What’s more, one-sided PCBs can be made from different materials including fiberglass, epoxy resin, and paper reinforced with copper foil. Certain factors influence the selection of plate such as electrical performance, economic indicators, feasibility, etc.

Characteristics of Single-Sided PCB

The single-layer circuit boards have extensive application owing to their many unique characteristics. Here’s a summary of these features.

  • Consistency in the assembly of components 

The one-layer circuit board supports the proper assembly of various parts. Furthermore, it enables high volume and automated production. When these PCBs and other components are assembled, they can form bigger and more complex circuits or even a complete machine.

  • Flexible maintenance 

Every single-sided PCB is manufactured in standard scale and design including the parts. However, when the system fails, it is simple to trace faulty components and replace them quickly. With such flexibility, a failed system can easily be restored quickly.

  • Ease of testing

There are standard instruments and equipment set up to examine and find the service life of single-sided PCBs. 

  • Highly dependable

The one-layer printed circuit board can work dependably for several years even up to two decades. High reliability is achievable through a series of examinations and long-term tests. 

  • High density

Though single-layer PCBs support low-density projects, it has paved way for the development of high-density boards, the addition of integrated circuits (IC), and the improvement of mounting technology.      

How is Single-Sided PCB Made? 

Pretty simple, one layer printed circuit board is made by taking the following steps below:

  • Design the circuit’s layout – This entails arranging the electronic components on a perfboard, protoboard, or breadboard and checking the schematic for errors. 
  • Print the circuit’s layout – Look for a thin magazine paper and cut the piece to the right size. Select a white background and a little quantity of printed content. Then set the laser printer to its best quality and print on the magazine paper side.
  • Get the PCB ready for etching – Use water and a kitchen scrubbing pad to clean the copper side of the empty PCB. If possible, use soap to remove oil and stubborn dirt from the board.
  • Etch the blank printed circuit board – Slow mix hydrogen peroxide and hydrochloric acid in an open plastic container using plastic tongs. Put the empty circuit board on the container and allow for about four minutes. Remove the board from the mixture and rinse with water.
  • Drill the right holes – Drill holes into every circle on the board using a cobalt steel drill without applying pressure to avoid breaking the board. Remove any debris from the board using a scrubbing pad.  

With these laydown steps, you can make a custom copy of a one-sided printed circuit board at your home. All you need is just a computer, etching chemicals, and relevant basic tools. 

When constructing a single-layer circuit board, the type and nature of the base material (substrate) determine whether the printed circuit board will be flexible or too strong. The substrate is covered with a thin layer of copper metal which has conducting path for different components, as it is a good electrical conductor.

In the same vein, the one-sided PCB contains a solder mask layer on top of the copper coating which protects it from having direct contact with some conducting materials and helps to prevent solder shorts. Still, the circuit board contains a silkscreen layer on top of every layer for adding characters and symbols to the board.

The conducting layers in a single layer PCB possess diverse artwork patterns of conductors that offer electrical connections on that conductive layer. However, various circuit boards have diverse copper thicknesses based on personal preference, needs, and demands. 

Types and Features of One-Sided PCB

There are different types of single-layer printed circuit boards, with each one having its unique features and characteristics. 

Single-layer rigid PCB

This type of single-sided printed circuit board is made with strong material to prevent it from bending and breaking. As such, its production cost is fairly high. They find usage in different types of devices including calculators, power supply devices, and more.

Single-layer flexible PCB

As the name suggests, this product is made with flexible materials, such as plastic materials, making it susceptible to breaking and bending. So, it has to be handled with care to avoid breaking. Though single-layer flexible circuit boards offer more perks than the rigid type, it costs more to manufacture them.   

Single-layer rigid-flex PCB

Rigid and flexible PCB materials are combined to produce this type of one-layer circuit board. It is made up of mostly fiberglass and plastic – these two materials combine to form a single layer. Amongst the many advantages it has are overall reduced size and weight. 

Single-layer high-frequency PCB

It is generally used in printed circuit systems where the frequency requirement is very high, usually in (gigahertz). The production material is quite different. So, circuit board manufacturers use Teflon or polyphenylene oxide material for its production. Therefore, when selecting this type of single-layer board, you need to consider certain factors such as water absorption rate, thermal expansion, dielectric loss, and others, high frequency pcb design with bga control like xilinx fpga.

Single-layer aluminum PCB 

Most one-layer PCBs are made with a copper substrate. But in this case, the aluminum material substrate is employed in its production. Since it is associated with an aluminum substrate, it can easily send heat energy from the substrate to the back.

Pros of Single-Sided PCB

There are many benefits of single-sided PCBs, they include the following:

  • Cheaper to produce

One layer PCBs are quite cheaper to produce as the production process consumes fewer materials and doesn’t require high-tech machinery. Moreover, the low-cost nature of production makes it suitable for low-density designs and ideal for mass production or high-volume orders. 

  • Easier to design

Easy design is a big advantage single-layer PCB has over other types. If you want to reduce the probability of incorrect design and save yourself the stress of design errors, you can have that peace of mind if you opt for a one-layer PCB. You can even get the perfect product in your prototype with ease.

  • Simple to set up

Since it has only one layer, the processes of setting it up such as drilling, soldering, inserting of components, as well as de-soldering, all are very easy to set up. 

  • More dependable

As it has a simple design, a single-sided circuit board is more reliable. The board offers long-lasting operation and efficient performance. In other words, the chances of having manufacturing errors and faults (such as short-circuiting) are greatly minimized.

  • Easy to fix and test

The testing and repairing of a single layer PCB are quite easier than the multilayer counterpart. More so, the presence of one layer in this type of PCB makes it easy to trace a fault and fix it effortlessly. Thus, it consumes less time to take error tracing and repairing. 

Cons of Single Layer PCB

Though single layer PCB has wonderful features and benefits, still it has a few limitations. 

  • Limited space and connection points

Single-layer circuit boards have small space and limited connection points. Therefore, one-layer PCBs are not ideal for any circuit that requires the assembly of a huge number of components and more connection points.

  • Lower speed

Following its minimum number of component joining points, the single-layer circuit board operates with less speed and power. Therefore, lower operating speed and transmission are not ideal for applications that require an ample number of connections. 

Application / Uses of Single Layer PCB

Though one-layer printed circuit boards are simple, they are useful in complex electronic devices. You can use them in the following simple, intermediate, and complex electronic devices; calculators, printing and photocopying machines, surveillance cameras, solid-state drives, relays, power supplies, coffee machines, vending machines, sensor products, LED lighting, washing machines, and radio and stereo equipment.

Conclusion 

Many applications and devices leverage the use of a single-layer PCB. Provided you can achieve the desired results using one layer circuit board, it is advisable and even cheaper to go for a single-sided PCB. Virtually, all the simple devices you use in your home work with a single-layer printed circuit board. The importance of one layer PCBs cannot be over-emphasized even in this modern age.   

So, anywhere you see any electronic home appliance, think of the important role a single layer PCB plays in that device. However, if you work with complex circuits, it is important to have multilayer PCBs.

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