How to carry high current on PCB

I need to pass high current on some part of my circuit. I used an online PCB track width calculator to see that required track width is about 5mm and minimum clearance is 1mm, which makes it about 7mm width at total just for one track. I need several of these high current carrying tracks on my PCB which will consume too much space to afford.

I am thinking of soldering copper wires on the top side of the PCB which will be parallel to the thin and symbolical tracks on the bottom side. But I would like to know if there is a more professional way of overcoming this problem.

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High-current PCB bus bars are available from several suppliers:

http://www.espbus.com/pcb_bus_bars.html

http://www.cci-msc.com/rigidbus/index.html

and are an ideal solution.

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The first answer would be to specify thicker copper than the default, which is usually "1 ounce". 2 ounce copper isn't usually that much more money. After that it gets expensive. There is also a limit on how far board houses can go with this. The thickest I've ever heard of is 5 ounce copper.

If this is a one off or low quantity, then leaving the solder mask off the trace and soldering a wire over it is a legitimate thing to do. A #10 copper wire can carry way more current than even a thick PCB trace of reasonable width. Consider how the current has to get onto and off the extra copper wire though. It's easy to solve the bulk conduction problem and forget about the feed points.

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we used 6 ounce copper on one board, and it wasn't out of the ordinary. If you use >2 ounce copper, you can't use very small traces/spaces on the PCB though. Also it becomes far more difficult to solder through-hole components onto thick copper. –  Jason S Sep 3 '11 at 18:23

If your layout allows it you could place a series of closely spaced filled vias over the length (and width) of the trace. By allowing it I mean that this will of course have its consequences for the bottom layer too. Make the vias as large in diameter as possible, for instance 1mm on a 1.5mm wide trace. Copper filled vias will reduce the trace's resistance best, but they're much more expensive than solder filled vias.

You can also use thicker copper than the standard 35$\mu$, like 70$\mu$ or even 105$\mu$.

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what about the mechanical consequences of essentially perforating the board? –  JustJeff Sep 1 '11 at 11:47
@JustJeff - FR4 is very stiff material, you can easily mill a several cm long slot in it without weakening it. So unless you plan to have these traces all over the board + mount a heavy transformer I expect no problems here. I've worked with 0.8mm FR4 and that's stiff enough to carry most components, even with a lot of holes. –  stevenvh Sep 1 '11 at 13:49
also if you are worried about board warping you can add a cross hatch on the top which prevents that. –  quest49 Sep 6 '11 at 23:02
Do you have any examples of this? –  tyblu May 6 '12 at 22:14
@tyblu - not here, but we did it at my previous job to carry 16A from connectors to relays on a relay module for home automation. –  stevenvh May 7 '12 at 5:23

Another solution for boards is to make the trace as wide as you can afford (even if it's narrower than calculations, as long as it's not too much so). Make sure the entire trace is NOT masked, then solder-coat the trace, so you have a nice convex bead of solder running the length of the trace. It's probably not the best solution, but I've seen it used in a variety of production electronics, so it can't be that bad (heh).

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+1. I've used this technique and did not have any problems, hope won't have, though :) –  abdullah kahraman May 6 '12 at 17:38

E-Fab Carries a line of PCB Bus Bars and Stiffeners, our standard products will carry from 16 amps to 128 amps

http://e-fab.com/products/pcb-stiffeners/

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