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High-Temperature Environment and Material Selection: The Limits of PCB Manufacturing Applications

PCB Manufacturing Applications

Printed circuit boards (PCBs) are the basis for almost all modern electronics you use in daily life. From your smartphone to your car’s intricate systems, PCBs reign as indispensable components, facilitating the functionality of an array of electronic devices.

Like any other electronic component, PCBs have their limitations, and one significant issue is the impact of high temperatures. Conventional PCBs’ performance faces challenges in environments characterized by high temperatures, necessitating strong material selection to ensure operational integrity.

In this blog, you will look into the intricate dynamics of high-temperature environments and the critical role of material selection in enhancing PCB reliability. 

Understanding High-Temperature Environments

According to a study, excessive heat can cause a PCB’s dielectric and metal layers to enlarge and contract at different rates, potentially disrupting its structural (configurational) integrity.

Excessive heat, whether caused by component malfunction or manufacturing errors, significantly impacts the performance, reliability, and safety of printed circuit boards (PCBs).  

Several things can cause heat to enter a printed circuit board (PCB). The consequences are the same whether the heat source is a board-mounted component that produces excessive heat, an external component in a complex system such as aerospace or medical applications that generates elevated thermal loads, or insufficient ventilation that allows heat to build up inside the PCB itself. 

In addition, the difficulties associated with PCB assembly—such as the heat generated during soldering and drilling—present significant obstacles that could result in damaged boards. 

Industries Prevalent with High-Temperature Environment

  • Automotive: The automotive industry uses PCBs in engine control units, transmission control systems, and various sensors. These components are frequently exposed to high temperatures due to engine heat and proximity to exhaust systems.
  • Aerospace: Aerospace applications demand PCBs that can endure extreme temperature variations. Aircraft components must function reliably in high-altitude and low-temperature environments and the intense heat generated during flight and re-entry. 
  • Oil and Gas: Equipment like downhole drilling tools and surface monitoring systems often operate in extreme heat. The harsh conditions of drilling sites and refineries necessitate robust PCB materials that can sustain high temperatures and harsh chemical exposures.

Impact of High Temperatures on Electronic Components

High temperatures can significantly affect the performance of electronic components. Understanding thee impact is essential for selecting suitable materials for PCBs in high-temperature applications. 

  • Thermal Expansion: Thermal expansion refers to the tendency of materials to expand when exposed to heat. Different materials in PCBs have varying Coefficients of Thermal Expansion (CTE).
    When exposed to high temperatures, mismatched expansion rates can cause mechanical stress, damaging the circuit board or its components. 
  • Material Degradation: Materials used in PCBs can degrade over time when subjected to high temperatures. This degradation can further cause the breakdown of the dielectric properties, increased electrical resistance, and reduced mechanical strength.
    Over time, these effects can lead to failure of the electronic components.
  • Reliability Issues: Reliability is a critical concern in high-temperature environments. Thermal cycling, where temperatures fluctuate between high and low extremes, can cause pressure on solder joints and other connections. This can result in intermittent failures or complete breakdowns, compromising the reliability of the electronic system.

Importance of Choosing the Right PCB Material

Selecting the appropriate material for PCBs intended for high-temperature environments is crucial. The right material can enhance performance, ensure reliability, and prolong the lifespan of the PCB. 

It significantly impacts aspects such as: 

  • Performance
  • Reliability
  • Cost
  • Manufacturability

However, it does not stop here. Several other factors assist in the material selection for high-temperature applications. So, what are the parameters for selecting the right material? Let’s find out! 

Parameters of Selecting Material for High-Temperature Environment

  • Coefficient of Thermal Expansion (CTE): Materials with a low CTE are preferred as they exhibit minimal expansion under heat, reducing the risk of mechanical stress and damage.  
  • Thermal Conductivity: High thermal conductivity materials can effectively dissipate heat, preventing overheating and maintaining the stability of the electronic components. 
  • Glass Transition Temperature (Tg): It refers to the point at which the PCB material transitions from a hard, glassy state to a soft, rubbery state. Materials with a high Tg are more resistant to thermal stress and deformation at elevated temperatures.

Material Options for High-Temperature PCBs

Throughout the evolution of printed circuit board manufacturing, numerous materials have been developed to meet various PCBs’ diverse functions and requirements. These materials range from the most basic standards, such as FR1, FR2, CEM1, and CEM3, to higher-standard materials, like FR4 and High TG FR4. 

Advanced materials for specific applications include aluminum, high-speed and high-frequency PTFE, ceramic, polyimide, and IC substrate materials.

Material-Options-for-High-Temperature-PCBs | PCBLOOP

Traditional Materials

  • FR-4: A widely used PCB material with moderate thermal resistance, suitable for applications with less severe temperature conditions. It’s a common choice in circuit board design for its balance of performance and cost.
  • Polyimide: Known for its high thermal stability, polyimide is used in applications requiring higher temperature tolerance. It’s a staple in circuit board design for high-temperature environments.
  • PTFE (Teflon): Offers excellent thermal and electrical properties and is often used in high-frequency and high-temperature applications, making it ideal for specialized pcb board design.

Emerging Materials

  • Ceramic-Based Substrates: These materials provide excellent thermal conductivity and stability, making them suitable for extremely high-temperature applications. They are increasingly popular in advanced circuit board design.
  • Metal Core PCBs: Incorporating a metal core, such as aluminum or copper, these PCBs offer superior heat dissipation and are ideal for high-power applications. Their use is becoming more common in cutting-edge pcb board design.
  • High-Performance Thermoplastics: Due to their thermal and mechanical properties, materials like PEEK (Polyether Ether Ketone) are emerging as robust options for high-temperature PCBs, fitting well into innovative circuit board design strategies.

Comparative Analysis of Different Material Options

To make informed decisions, it’s essential to compare various PCB materials’ performance metrics and cost-effectiveness.

Performance Metrics

  • Thermal Resistance: Polyimide and ceramic-based substrates offer high thermal resistance and are suitable for demanding applications. FR-4 is limited to moderate temperatures.
  • Mechanical Stability: High-performance thermoplastics and metal core PCBs provide excellent mechanical stability under thermal stress, reducing the risk of warping and deformation.
  • Electrical Properties: PTFE and ceramic-based substrates maintain superior electrical properties at high temperatures, making them ideal for high-frequency applications.

In pcb circuit board design, understanding these performance metrics is crucial to ensuring the longevity and efficiency of the board in high-temperature environments.


  • FR-4: The most cost-effective option, suitable for applications with moderate temperature requirements. It’s a frequent choice in basic circuit board design.
  • Polyimide: More expensive than FR-4 but offers better thermal stability, making it a worthwhile investment for higher-temperature environments. It is used every day in advanced PCB circuit board design.
  • Ceramic-Based Substrates: High cost due to superior performance, justified in extremely high-temperature and critical applications, often seen in specialized circuit board design.
  • Metal Core PCBs: Cost varies depending on the metal used, with aluminum being more economical than copper. The investment is justified in high-power and high-temperature scenarios, making them popular in modern pcb board design.
  • High-Performance Thermoplastics: Generally expensive but offer unparalleled performance in extreme conditions, suitable for specialized applications in circuit board design.

Understanding the balance between performance and cost is essential for effective pcb board design, ensuring that the chosen materials meet the application’s specific needs while remaining cost-efficient.


The selection of materials for PCB manufacturing in high-temperature environments is a critical consideration that directly impacts the reliability and performance of electronic systems. Understanding the specific demands of the application and the environmental conditions is essential for choosing the appropriate materials.

Ultimately, the right choice of PCB material can ensure the reliability of electronic components in high-temperature environments, contributing to the overall success and safety of the application. By staying informed about the latest material advancements and understanding the specific needs of industries, manufacturers can make strategic decisions that optimize the performance and durability of the products.   


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