Single Layer and Multilayer PCBs

PCB stands for printed circuit boards. Before designing PCBs you are required to determine whether you want a single layer or multilayer PCB for your circuit. Each type has its benefits and their use would depend on where you intend to use the PCBs.

Single Layer and Multilayer PCBs

Single layer PCBs:

They are also referred to as single sided PCBs. They are designed to have components on one side and conductor patterns on the other side of the board. They are ideal for use on simpler devices since no wires can cross if their circuit required to function properly. Single layer PCBs are cheaper to manufacture as compared to multilayer PCBs.

Multilayer PCBs:

Multilayer PCBs have a single or multiple conductor patterns inside their board that are added to increase the wiring area. They are made by laminating several double sided circuit boards together using an insulating layer. In most cases, 4 to 8 PCB layers are used because they offer the required amount of complexity for most circuit purposes. However, depending on a device, there is always capacity to have more PCB layers. For instance, some smart phones have about 12 layers to cater to the different circuit demands. But, they mainly feature even number of layers since odd numbered layers can cause circuit board issues like twisting and warping after soldering.

Identifying a multilayer PCB:

If you have some PCBs and you want to determine their number of layers, do the following;

  • Try to view the copper planes by shining a light on the PCBs edge. Using a bright light, you can tell whether the board has inner layers.
  • Some multilayer PCB manufacturers label every layer on the boards. So, look out for numbers around board edges.

Multilayer PCBs are mainly used in computers, heart monitors, mobile phones, X-ray equipment, and GPS technology. However, they may present a few cons such as; high manufacturing costs, longer manufacturing periods as compared to single layer PCBs, and are more complex to repair.


Note that, most multilayer PCB manufacturers produce 2 layer, 4 layer and 6 layer multilayer PCBs. Therefore, if you need a PCB with more number of layers, it is advisable to negotiate with your preferred manufacturer before placing your order. The cost of production may be higher and the manufacturer may require more time and financial commitment prior to starting the production. None the less, always work with a manufacturer who understands what you need.