I am using Saturn PCB Design to help get the trace geometries to implement PCB differential characteristic impedances. I have some dimensions from the board house:

enter image description here

But I am confused on how to input the 1.4 mil copper thickness into the tool. It asks for both "Base Copper Weight" and "Differential Layer," and I'm not sure what these mean. Is base the thickness of the ground plane, and plating thickness the thickness of the traces (so in my case, both would be 1.4 mil?) Furthermore, there is a text image that says "Total Copper Thickness", and I'm not sure how that's being calculated.

I plan on using the outer layer for my traces (as shown in the bottom left "preview" picture).

enter image description here

  • \$\begingroup\$ Did you try to change the copper base thickness? You will find out that the changes will have minuscule effect on impedance. I am afraid that the solder resist will have bigger effect, but it is not accounted for in your calculator. Please keep in mind that there is over-etch effect, which needs to be compensated in trace width. A good manufacturer will do it automatically if you order "impedance controlled" option, but you need to verify this. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 12, 2018 at 20:30

2 Answers 2


Base copper weight or thickness is the amount of copper that is on the PCB before they do anything to it.

Plating is what they do to the board to finish it, which also fills in the vias and holes with a layer of (extra) copper. And thus the total thickness Saturn reports, as some simple maths would show you, is just the two thicknesses added together, that will be the final thickness of your outer copper.

If you have 1oz base copper and plate 1oz onto it, you get a total of 2oz on the outside.

It is important to note that plating only affects the outer layers, you will also not be allowed in the Saturn Tool to add plating for embedded traces.

Usually when a fab specifies a thickness they only specify the finished thickness, and in case they specify 1oz/1.4mil/36μm it is most usually 0.5oz base thickness and 0.5oz plating thickness. More specialised and/or professionally aimed fabs, or most fabs at special request, will tell you the exact numbers for both.

The tool uses these parameters to estimate the edge coupled capacitance of traces as well as skinning effects in some tabs. In most cases it's more important to get the end total as close as possible, but there may be a few tabs that use some side-effects of plating, though I have not noticed any sections accounting for those. That can of course also change in future releases, they do refine the maths on some things once in a while.

So in your specific case the most likely/best option is to set base to 0.5oz and plating to 0.5oz.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm a bit confused. When you talk about 1 Oz copper thickness composed to 0.5 Oz base laminate + 0.5 Oz plating. Do you mean copper plating? The finished plating (ex. ENIG) is typically much thinner than that. Does the board house plate external layers with 0.5 Oz copper prior to applying the finished plating? \$\endgroup\$
    – AgentXq
    Commented Aug 29, 2023 at 18:54

To make it simple: - (update and appease -4 doubters)

The Raw Copper weight and Plating weight are separate thicknesses.

In a DWG to board shop you can either define EITHER the finished outer track conductor thickness or each variable where the sum is the finished thickness. It depends on your need for PTH type thickness which is done only by plating thickness.

For generic quality, to ensure good conductivity in PTH PLating = 25 microns of copper on the hole walls and it makes 25 – 30 microns (1mil) on the surface tracks.

So if we start with a typical 17.5 micron copper foil (0.7mil) it will be 40–42 microns(1.6mil) after processing.

Per IPC-6012, the barrel plating thickness varies from class to class. If you have a minimum barrel thickness of X mils minimum, then your external layer Cu will be base Cu + 1.3 to 1.44 of X.

Check with supplier capability and class of PTH barrels to determine plating thickness.

For EHF microwave surface finish must be smooth such as ENIG.

Base = Foil or copper clad FR4, + ext. Plating = Ext Finished thickness.

Differential ext= signal.
Zo= between layers.
Zdiff = between edges.
Tolerance. Zmax.

Never assume dilectric constant when working with FR4 with 1GHz+.

Never assume supplier quality on PTH and barrel thickness.

Never assume Zo is 10% unless it is tested (Electrical TDR) or you have verified with that supplier process.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Upvoted! The downvotes must have been collected before this answer was edited and improved... \$\endgroup\$
    – bitsmack
    Commented Jan 16, 2019 at 18:01

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