Exploring the World of Thick Film Hybrid Circuit Boards

Exploring the World of Thick Film Hybrid Circuit Boards


Thick film hybrid circuit boards have been a cornerstone of microelectronic assembly since 1977, with TPS Microelectronics leading the way in their design and manufacturing. These circuit boards utilize a print and fire (P+F) technique, combining multi-layer screen printing of precious and semi-precious metals with the firing of tracks and precision resistors onto various ceramic and metal substrates. This article will delve into the world of thick film hybrid circuit boards, exploring their applications, benefits, and the substrates used in their production.

What Are Thick Film Circuit Boards?
Thick film circuit boards are created through a process involving screen printing and firing. This technique allows for the deposition of conductive tracks, precision resistors, and the incorporation of surface mount components and bare die components with wire bonding. The use of different pastes enables the production of conductive tracks and resistors, which can be customized and laser-trimmed to precise values, eliminating design compromises.

Applications of Thick Film Hybrids:
Thick film hybrid circuit boards are highly reliable and capable of withstanding wide temperature ranges, making them ideal for environments that demand robust performance. They have found extensive use in aerospace, defense, and automotive applications due to their durability and reliability. However, their appeal is expanding to a broader market as their benefits become more widely recognized. TPS Microelectronics’ expertise in this technology positions them as the perfect partner to develop and manufacture thick film circuit boards for any application.

Benefits of Thick Film Hybrids:
1. Thermal Conductivity: Ceramic substrates used in thick film hybrids offer superior thermal conductivity compared to standard FR4-based PCBs. For instance, Aluminum Oxide (Alumina) exhibits approximately 20 times greater thermal conductivity than FR4, while Aluminum Nitride shows an increase of approximately 100 times. This enhanced thermal conductivity allows for efficient heat dissipation.

2. Low Thermal Expansion: Ceramic substrates possess low thermal expansion properties, making them well-suited for harsh environments with extreme temperature variations. The combination of low thermal expansion and high thermal conductivity ensures limited expansion and even distribution of stress across the board, reducing the risk of localized stress concentrations.

3. Reliability and Durability: Thick film hybrids are designed to deliver high reliability in demanding environments. Their robust construction and ability to withstand wide temperature ranges make them suitable for applications where conventional PCB assemblies may fall short.

4. Design Flexibility: Thick film hybrids offer flexibility in choosing precise resistor values through active laser trimming. This allows for customized resistor values that align precisely with the design requirements, ensuring optimal performance without compromising the circuit’s functionality.

5. Thermal Management: Improved thermal conductivity and low thermal expansion contribute to superior thermal management in thick film hybrids. This helps dissipate heat efficiently, maintaining the circuit’s performance even under demanding conditions.

6. Performance Advantages: Thick film hybrids exhibit excellent high-frequency performance, making them suitable for applications where signal integrity and high-speed data transfer are crucial. Additionally, these circuit boards can accommodate high voltage resistors, expanding their range of applications.

7. Cost and Time Benefits: Thick film hybrids offer low start-up costs and fast lead times for prototyping, enabling efficient development cycles and shorter time-to-market.

Substrate Options for Thick Film Hybrids:
TPS Microelectronics specializes in printing circuits on a range of substrates, including:

1. ADS-96R
2. ADS-996R
3. ADOS-90R
4. All Alumina
5. Aluminum Nitride
6. Quartz Substrates
7. Stainless Steel

Each substrate possesses unique properties that make it suitable for specific applications. The choice of substrate depends on factors such as thermal conductivity requirements, thermal expansion considerations, and specific design goals. TPS Microelectronics’ design team can provide guidance on utilizing thick film technology effectively for your specific designs.

Thick film hybrid circuit boards offer a reliable and robust solution for a wide range of applications, particularly those that demand high durability and performance in harsh environments. Their unique combination of thermal conductivity, low thermal expansion, and design flexibility make them an ideal choice for industries such as aerospace, defense, and automotive. By partnering with an experienced manufacturer like TPS Microelectronics, you can leverage the benefits of thick film hybrids and explore innovative solutions for your circuit board needs.

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