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  • Jan 9
    Many applications today send signals between two devices to provide
    data or to perform a specific function. These signals may consist of
    radio frequencies (RF) or microwave frequencies. Typically found in the
    communication industry, RF/microwaves are common for satellites, radar,
    and navigational systems. Yet, they can also be found in smaller
    applications, such as garage door openers, security key card terminals,
    wireless alarm systems, and handheld warehouse inventory scanners.To get
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    Inside all these applications are printed circuit boards (PCBs) that
    allow for the signal to be transmitted and received. Traditionally,
    there are 4 layers to the PCB (silkscreen, solder mask, copper, and
    substrate). To hold all these layers together, the PCB is laminated with
    certain materials that are cured using heat and pressure.

    Selecting the right materials for the laminate is based on numerous
    factors. The laminate must be strong while light without adding
    unnecessary weight to the application. It also must provide good thermal
    conductivity and thermal expansion, where the material can handle the
    generated heat from the electricity passing through the PCB, while
    allowing for an expansion of the materials from the rise in temperatures
    without breaking and developing cracks or interfering with the RF and
    microwave signals. The laminate should also have good moisture and
    chemical resistance, a high bond strength, and superior mechanical and
    electrical properties.

    Over the years, the increasing high-tech demands of applications have
    required laminates that could keep up with the newer technology.
    Manufacturing trends in PCB laminates have offered companies with
    increased choices while also showing them a glimpse of what lies in the
    future with this composition material for PCBs.

    When talking about PCB laminates, FR4 was the standard commonly used for
    all types of circuit boards for generations. It was low-cost, reliable,
    and had all the positive characteristics that were desired. In
    addition, it was easy to use during circuit fabrication.

    FR4 is a woven fiberglass reinforced fire-retardant epoxy laminate.
    However, as devices began to offer higher frequencies of over 500 MHz,
    the FR4 laminate began to experience degraded electrical performance. A
    higher performance FR4 was soon introduced for multilayer PCBs – FR4
    glass transition temperature (FR4 Tg).