PCB layer – everything you need to know

Table of Contents

PCBs, or printed circuit boards, are a vital part of electronic devices. They allow for the easy connection of electronic components and play a role in everything from cell phones to cars. But what exactly is a PCB layer, and what goes into making it?

In this guide, we’ll take a look at what a PCB layer is and how it’s used.

What is PCB layer?


A PCB layer is a thin sheet of material that serves as a foundation for electronic components. The most common type of PCB layer is made from fiberglass, but other materials can be used as well, including polyimide and epoxy. Each layer has conductive pathways etched into it that connect the different components of an electronic device.

These boards are used in manufacturing electronic devices, machinery, and other equipment for different industries, including consumer, automotive, telecommunications, aerospace, military defense and the medical industry.

The PCB layer’s primary functions are to provide a support base for the electronic components, connect those components electrically, protect the components from damage, and dissipate heat.

The components of PCB layers

There are three main components of a PCB layer:
The substrate is the foundation of the circuit board and provides structural support. It’s typically made from glass-filled epoxy but can also be made from other materials like ceramic or plastic.

This material is layered on top of the substrate and provides insulation between the different conductive layers. Dielectric materials can include polyimide, FR-4, or Rogers.

The conductive layer is made from a conductive material like copper that connects the different components of the circuit board.

Types of PCB layers

There are four main types of PCB layers:
1. Substrate layer

Substrate Layer
This layer is made from a non-conductive material like fiberglass or plastic. It provides support for the other layers and helps to distribute heat.
2. Copper layer
The copper PCB layer is where all the electrical connections are made on the PCB. It can be either single-sided (one copper layer) or double-sided (two copper layers).
3. Solder mask layer

Solder Mask Layer
The solder mask layer is a thin layer of green or black material that covers the copper layer. It helps to protect the copper from soldering and protects the copper from oxidation and makes it easier to solder components onto the board.
4. Silkscreen layer
The silkscreen PCB layer is a thin layer of white ink printed on top of the Solder mask layer. It prints text or symbols on the PCB for identification purposes.

What are the main layers of PCB?

The main layers of a PCB are the substrate, dielectric, and conductive layers.

What are the types of PCBs according to the number of their layers, and what are their applications?

The three main types of PCBs are single sided PCB, double layer PCB, and multi-layer PCB.

Single-sided PCBs

Single-sided PCBs

Single-sided PCBs are the most basic type of PCB and have only one layer of conductive material. They’re typically used in simple electronic devices like calculators or remote controls.

Single-sided PCBs are typically used in simple applications like calculators, LED lights, and digital clocks.

Double-sided PCBs

Double-sided PCBs have two layers of conductive material and are used in more complex electronic devices. They offer better electrical connectivity than single-sided PCBs and can be used in products like computers and cell phones.

Double-sided PCBs, such as computers and MP3 players, are used in applications requiring more space for circuit pathways.

Multi-layer PCBs

Multi-layer PCBs

The multi-layer PCB is the most complex type of printed circuit board. In a multi-layer PCB, the substrate comprises multiple layers of laminated material. Each PCB layer is coated with copper later, and components are electrically connected between the different layers. Multi-layer PCBs offer the most space for circuit pathways and allow for the most complex designs.

Multi-layer PCBs are used in applications that require a high density of circuit pathways, such as medical devices and Industrial controls.

Single-layer PCB Vs. multilayer PCB

Single-layer PCB Vs. Multilayer PCB

The main difference between single-layer and multilayer PCBs is the number of layers. A single-layer PCB has only one conductive PCB layer, whereas a multilayer PCB has multiple conductive layers. Multilayer PCBs are more complex and offer more space for circuit pathways; however, they are also more expensive to manufacture.

How to design and manufacture every different PCB layer?

While the basic process for designing and manufacturing a PCB is the same for all types of boards, there are some key differences to keep in mind when working with different types of layers. The substrate layer is manufactured first, followed by the dielectric and conductive layers.

When doing PCB design, it’s essential to consider the number of layers and the type of substrate you’re using. The choice of substrate will determine the size and shape of the board, as well as the number of conductive and dielectric layers. The number of layers will determine the complexity of the design and the amount of space you have to work with.

Once you’ve decided on the number of layers and the type of substrate, you can start designing your PCB. You’ll need to create a layout that shows the placement of all components and circuit pathways. The layout will be used to create the masks and stencils to print the circuit pathways on the board.

After completing the layout, you’ll need to choose the proper manufacturing process for your PCB. The manufacturing process will determine your board’s size, shape, and features. There are many different manufacturing processes, so choosing the one that’s right for your project is essential.

PCB Design and Manufacturing

Once you’ve chosen the manufacturing process, you’ll need to select suitable materials for your PCB. The material you choose will determine the properties of your board, such as its flexibility, strength, and weight.

After you’ve selected the materials, you’ll need to choose the right finish for your PCB. The finish you choose will determine the appearance of your board and how it will withstand environmental conditions.

Once you’ve designed and manufactured your PCB, you’ll need to test it to ensure it meets your specifications. You can use various methods to test your PCB, including visual inspection, electrical testing, and x-ray inspection.

No matter what type of PCB you’re designing, the manufacturing process is critical to the success of your project. Understanding the different types of PCBs and the manufacturing processes ensures that your PCB meets your needs.

How to determine the number of layers in PCBs?

How to determine the number of layers in PCBs

To determine the number of layers in your PCB, you’ll need to consider the following factors:

  • The type of substrate you’re using
  • The number of conductive and dielectric layers
  • The complexity of the design
  • The amount of space you have to work with
    Once you’ve considered these factors, you can choose the right number of layers for your PCB.


The process of PCB design and PCB manufacturing is critical to the success of any electronics projects. Understanding the different PCB layers and the manufacturing processes ensures that your PCB can meet your needs.

For more information about PCB, just visit IBE’s website where we have offered all kinds of knowledge about PCB/PCBA.

Sign up for newsletter

Get latest news and update

Newsletter BG