3D Features on Printed Circuit Boards and Submounts

3D features, such as cavities, recessed edges, trenches, slopes, convex or concave areas, and notches, open up a whole new realm of possibilities for ceramic PCB design. These features can be incorporated into ceramic PCBs to enhance performance, increase usability, and solve design constrains.

Ceramic Chip Submount with recessed area

Benefits of 3D Features in Ceramic PCB Design

  • Minimizing Interconnect Distances: Significantly reduce the distance between the wire bond pads on a thick chip or die and the pads on the submount by using cavities which can lead to improved electrical performance, reduced signal loss, and enhanced overall system reliability.
  • Precise Component Alignment in three dimensions: 3D features like notches and grooves can ensure precise alignment of components. This is particularly important for applications where alignment tolerances are critical, such as laser diode alignment with photonic ICs, reflectors or other optical components.
  • Enhanced Mechanical Fixation: 3D features can be utilized to provide enhanced mechanical fixation for components, reducing the risk of vibration-induced failures. Notches, slots, and other features can be designed to securely anchor components in place, ensuring robust assembly and long-term reliability.
  • Space saving: by including 3D features. some components or attachment areas can be left off or optimized. Leading to smaller or more integrated parts.
  • Reduce & Manage outflow: By creating trenching around pads and the other areas. Any outflow of silicon or epoxy is catched and will not contaminate other areas.
  • Increase thermal dissipation: Structuring the surfaces can increase surface area to transfer more heat into the environment

Examples of Applications with 3D Features

The versatility of 3D features on ceramic PCBs extends to a wide range of applications, including:

  • Power Electronics: 3D features can be employed to optimize heat dissipation and improve thermal management in high-power electronics applications. Cavities and recessed edges can be strategically placed to create channels for airflow or fluid cooling, while notches and slots can be designed to facilitate thermal coupling to heat sinks or other cooling elements.
    Or how about making a heat sink in or on your PCB? (Direct PCB-on-heatsink the ultimate thermal structure)

  • Optoelectronics: The precise alignment capabilities of 3D features are particularly valuable in optoelectronics applications. Laser diodes, photonic ICs, and other optical components can be accurately positioned using notches, grooves, and other features, ensuring proper optical coupling and minimizing signal loss.

  • RF/Microwave Applications: Ceramic PCBs are often used in RF and microwave applications due to their excellent dielectric properties and ability to handle high frequencies. 3D features can be incorporated to enhance signal integrity and reduce signal reflections, improving the overall performance of RF and microwave circuits.

  • Precision Sensors and Instruments: In precision sensors and instruments, 3D features can be used to create unique geometries and shapes that optimize sensor performance. Cavities, slots, and notches can be designed to improve sensitivity, reduce noise, and enhance the overall performance of these critical components.

  • Harsh environment electronics: In harsh environments, you want to avoid the use of oxidizing or degrading materials, 3D ceramics can offer a solution for mechanical fixation to replace these. Also you can design trenches or slots to fit you shielding in. 

  • Contact heating devices: Ceramics are perfect for direct contact heating of soft surfaces and tissue (fabrics, skin, leather… ) but any sharp edge can cause damages. We can smoothen these edges and create a convex shape to solve this.


Chip submount with recessed area on ceramic circuits plus trenching around the tracks and pads

How to design your 3D features & Tolerances

As we need know all the dimensions of the 3D area’s in order to make it, a typical gerber files does not contain all the necessary information. 

We therefore ask for a 3D drawings (.step or .stl is preferred) or a technical drawing with all the necessary dimensions indicated on. You can separately supply the circuit design in gerber format and the mechanical design in a CAD format. In this case, please use a mechanical or graphical layer in the gerber to indicate where the features are or provide fiducial points so we can align the two drawings for fabrication.

X&Y Tolerances are the same for our 2D process which is standard 100 or 200 micron (depending on the thickness). The Z-axis tolerance is usually between 100 to 50um, depending on the depth or height of the feature. Other tolerances (for example angles) needs to be looked at on a design-per-design basis.

How to order, lead times & NO tooling

Yes, that is right. Our unique in-house process mostly does not require design specific tooling which is why this process is a perfect fit any program size, from prototyping and small volume batches to medium and mass production. We are currently supporting 1 pcs builds to 300K per year.

Having no tooling, significantly reduces costs and lead time, however do bear in mind that we will need to do a validation run to ensure all dimensions are in specs. This process takes usually a bit longer compared to a fully flat circuit.

To discuss design rules, get a quote and to order, please contact us directly and one of our specialist will be touch with you asap. 

Contact us

Can you metalize 3D features?

Yes! We can!

We have (another) unique technology to do this and we even won a award for it (read more).

The process is available and currently been ramped up. We are accepting programs for it, be it after careful review. 

Contact us to discuss

Copper trace placed inside a ceramic trench so it is shielded from any lateral forced. CERcuits
Ceramic multi-chip packages made by CERcuits 3D ceramic circuit technology