DFM 101: Plating Methods


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Introduction
One of the biggest challenges facing PCB designers is not understanding the cost drivers in the PCB manufacturing process. This article is the latest in a series that will discuss these cost drivers (from the PCB manufacturer’s perspective) and the design decisions that will impact product reliability.

PCB Plating Methods
There are two methods of plating copper on PCBs—pattern plating and panel plating. The panel plating method eliminates most of the copper plating distribution issues, but because it adds copper thickness to the base layer, it makes maintaining fine line definition and consistency difficult. Base copper is measured in ounces of copper per square foot of surface area.

Pattern Plate
This standard process has major advantages in that only the base copper is required to be etched. This process yields finer, better-defined lines (traces). One possible disadvantage is the variations in trace height due to surface density.

Panel Plate
This plating fabrication method eliminates most of the copper plating distribution issues but now the excess surface copper (after the circuit pattern is defined) must be etched along with the base foil. This makes maintaining fine line definition and consistency difficult.

To read this entire article, which appeared in the February 2022 Design007 Magazine, click here.

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