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I have designed several typical FR4 PCBs in the past. I am interested in designing my first metal-core PCB (MCPCB) for a circuit that requires high heat dissipation. I am looking for any helpful information to get me started. Particularly, I would like so guidance on how the PCB design process differs. Do you know of any good tutorials, walk-throughs or articles that you can recommend? If you have designed a MCPCB, do you have any tips for me? I have used Eagle in the past but for this board, I am hoping to use KiCad (not that that really matters).

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The last metal-core PCB I designed, I found the Bergquist guidelines pdf (via Bergquist t-clad overview) and Bergquist thermal clad white paper helpful.

Other PCB manufacturers that make metal-core boards also have guidelines on their web sites that you may find useful.

  • you'll probably bolt the metal-core PCB directly to an even larger heat sink. Consider where to put the mounting bolts; you'll probably want at least a donut of copper around those holes (for the bolt head to wear against) or more likely a big ground plane around those holes.
  • The connectors you put on these PCBs -- you don't want through-hole connectors. You may or may not want the kind of "surface-mount connector" that requires holes in the board for "locator pins"; you'll probably want the kind of connectors that mount without any holes.
  • The power transistors and the "FET drivers" directly connected to them should go on the metal-core board. In principle you could put all the other components on the metal-core board also, but in practice they typically end up on a FR4 board connected to it.
  • You may want board-to-board connectors to transfer signals from a FR4 board (if any) to the metal-core board.
  • Trace/space on metal-core boards generally must be several times wider than on typical FR4 boards, especially if you use thick copper.
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