Ceramic PCB Lead times

How long it takes to manufacture a ceramic circuit strongly depends on the material choices, design, specifications, tolerances and volumes but we are here to help.

The RUSH option will (logically) results in the fastest production time while staying with our Standard specs will still give a fast turnaround compared to industry standards. As soon as you require a special specifications, tolerances or design features, we will need more time.

However, Thanks to our no-tooling technology, we are still much faster compared to others.

Learn more what influences production lead time of ceramic pcb.

Fast shipping of ceramic pcb with CERcuits

10 rules to get the fastest lead time for your ceramic PCB

  1. Use our RUSH option
  2. Choose a common thickness (0.38mm/15mil – 0.5mm/20mil – 1mm/39mil)
  3. Make it rectangular or squared.
  4. Use 35um copper
  5. Choose one of our in-house finishes (tin, silver, rose-gold (coming soon) )
  6. Limit your layers, go for single layer if possible (even if it is larger)
  7. Cannot avoid 2 layers: use plated-through-holes (PTH), not filled holes.
  8. Stay within our Rush design rules
  9. Deliver your design in a Gerber/ODB++ format
  10. Limit your batch size to ≤2 panels

1. Material choices: Ceramic Substrates, Conductors, & surface finishes

1.1 Substrates

One of the main contributors to lead time. Therefore, we keep a significant amount of substrates in various materials and thicknesses stock which are readability available to start processing and have no impact on lead time.

We try to keep a minimum stock at all times but in times of high demand, it might be that they are unexpectedly unavailable.

Note that metallization plays a role as well. We have different sorts substrates on stock for copper and for silver conductors so it might be possible that a thickness is available for one.

Use out quote calculator to see how materials & thickness impact the estimated lead time. Most used thicknesses are 0.38mm, 0.5mm & 1mm which means our safety stocks are higher then with other thicknesses. This is also why we offer those for our rush option.

substrates, conductors, layers - ceramic pcb design guide

1.2 Conductors 

Having to plate or print the copper or silver to a higher thickness takes a longer time and thus will impact lead time. As longs as you stay in the typical standard lead time, we can plate or print those in regular batches and we know the turnaround time so is more efficient and reduces the time. 

  • For copper those are: 18um / 0.5oz – 35um / 1 oz – 70um / 2 oz
  • For silver(palladium): 15um

Custom thicknesses like 5um or 50um or very thick layers starting at 105um/3oz or above, are possible yet they increase lead time.

1.3 Surface finishes

Some finished we can do in-house and can be done fast. Some finishes need to be done at a specialized subcontractor as we do not have sufficient demand, equipment or environmental approval. These will take therefore longer since they need to be shipped, processed and returned. 

Our in-house surface finishes:

  • Immersion tin (copper conductor)
  • Immersion silver (copper conductor)
  • Galvanic gold (silver conductor)

Outsourced finishes are:

  • ENIG (copper conductor)
  • ENEPIG (copper conductor)
  • EPIG (copper conductor)
  • DIG (copper conductor)
  • Immersion silver – thicker silver layer (copper conductor)

2. Design: Shape, width – spacing, holes,

2.1 Shape

Routing or cutting ceramic circuits out that have only straight edges can be done by laser scribing and this process is much faster than fully cutting or routing the boards. Many designers like rounded corners but this will, in most cases, slow down the routing process so, if not necessary. Keep them straight.

Other difficult features that might impact the processing time:

  • Small (fragile) bridges and other tiny features.
  • Large cutouts in the center or on the edges
  • tooling holes close to the edge
  • ≤ 90° straight inward corners (not advised anyhow, is a weak point prone to cracking – always add a radius (≥0.15mm) )

In general, the thicker the substrate, the harder and thus slower it becomes to make non-straight design features. In terms of material, aluminum nitride (AlN) or silicon nitride (Si3N4) can be processed faster when the shape is more difficult then Alumina, sapphire (Al2O3) or glass.

designing track and pads - ceramic pcb design guide

2.2 Trace and pad width & spacing

Going below the standard spacing – typically <0.1mm or 0.2mm -depending on conductor and finish (see design rules) – will impact the processing time as we need to spend more time verifying all circuits are properly separated or connected and chances of failures increase with miniaturization. The set up costs might be also a little longer as we need to ensure the setting

2.3 Via/Holes density, placement & metallisation

Similar to the circuitry design (see above 2.2), hole density can impact. Drilling >5000 holes or vias per dm2 obviously takes more time then just a couple 100, Also, if those holes need to be plated, the inspection time increases if there are more as will as the likelihood something goes wrong.

Tooling or other holes placed close to the edge or a cutout is another complication

So if it is possible to stay with the standards on this

Vias can be made as plated-through-holes (PTH) or filled. Filling vias is a slow process compared to wall plating and will typically take extra days in production.

2.4 3D features like Cavities, slopes

For small batches, making 3D features is a ablative process and thus, depending on the material that needs to be removed, it can be a slow process.

Note that contrary to special 2D shapes where thinner is generally easier (see 2.1), thicker materials can be processed faster when they have 3D features.

2.5 Tolerances

The tighter the tolerances, the more validation, measurements & inspection we will need to spend to ensure the parts meet your demands. Therefore, it is logic that going outside of our standard tolerance might increase the lead time as a consequence.

3. Engineering & DFM (design for manufacturing)

3.1  Design for manufacturing & design changes

Before we can start production, we need to engineer you design so it works on our line and check for any changes that need to be made.

To make this process as quick as possible, we ask you to stay within the standard design rules and if we do need to ask for a design change, please respond at your earliest convenience so there are no delays.

how to design ceramic pcb - files

3.2 Panel designs

If you require a panel design; it requires more design work so count on one or a few extra days.

Multi design panels can be made, even when you ask us to deliver as individual pieces, but we will need to check and handle every design separate which increases the time. After all, we cannot copy, inspection criteria to all designs on the panel and we will have to manage a lower cross out (standard 10% of a panel can be cross out, but in a multi design panel – max 10% per design on a panel results in a much a lower overall cross out)

3.3 File format

We can work with many different file formats, from step files, and dxf to pdf’s and even a power point.

However, the fastest processing time happens when you send us a standard pcb gerber or ODB++ format and a technical drawing in pdf with any remark, critical dimensions or clarifications. This way, we do not need to convert anything and understand much better your design and requirements. It reduces engineering time and any back and forth discussion.

4. Volumes

Higher batch volumes equal longer lead times. That is expected.

However, there are few ground rules that can still help you to plan or to speed up 

  • Line choice: Batches below 10 panels (with max usable space 100x80mm) can still be processed on our fastest line that is designed for speed and flexibility and is faster.
  • Split Order: We can split large orders in smaller production batches and deliver as soon as they are done.
  • Split & spec mix: We can also split larger orders or time sensitive order into to smaller batches with different specifications. For example, we can process a part of the order with an in house surface finish on standard material and ship those very fast so you can start your validation, fit-testing, etc… while you wait for the second batch that has all the specs exactly how you need them to be for your application.

Contact us for time optimization for volume or time sensitive order.

manufacturing methods of a ceramic pcb