Search
Close this search box.

How to Make an LED PCB Board: Steps and Guidelines

Manufacturing an LED PCB board for a lighting product

LED technology is taking the world by storm. As a result, the LED PCB is becoming increasingly important, especially in the lighting industry. If you’re looking to produce one, we can help. Below, we present a breakdown of the LED PCB-making process. Use it to either design and build yours or have a professional manufacturer make it for you.

What is an LED PCB?

An LED PCB is a circuit board for supporting and connecting light-emitting diodes. In other words, it’s a PCB for LED chips. Upon receiving power, the chips light up to operate a lamp or other fixture, a display screen, a signboard, etc.

These PCB types may contain anything from a few to hundreds of light-emitting diodes or chips. They also take many forms, depending on the required function and application environment, among other things, such as device type.

For example, it can be a round board for lamps, a flexible light strip, or an LED matrix for panel lighting and displays. That said, a typical PCB board for LED assembly comprises these main parts:

  • The light-emitting diodes or semiconductor devices that produce light when connected to a power source
  • The core or substrate. This part can be of various materials, such as conventional FR4 or a flexible material like polyimide.
  • The traces to connect the diodes and other components. Usually copper
  • The solder mask or layer that covers and protects the surface
  • The silkscreen that makes up component markings and other information
LEDs on PCB circuit board
LEDs on PCB circuit board
Resource: https://www.researchgate.net

How to Make LED PCB Board

Here is how to make an LED PCB board for your project based on its application device or use environment.

1. Determine the Required features

First, determine your board requirements. Include specifications for the following: size and weight limit, power rating (voltage and current), heat dissipation capabilities, environmental protection (IP rating), number and type of LEDs, etc.

Choose if you want through-hole, surface mount, or through chip-on-board LEDs, based on your manufacturing method and device application.

  • Thru-hole diodes are easy to assemble but take up more space
  • Surface mount LEDs conserve space but can be challenging to mount manually
  • COB lights are even more compact. However, their placement can complicate the fabrication process

2. Design Creation

Design the board with the help of PCB software like Altium or KiCad. This part of the LED PCB-making process involves creating its schematics—or digital representation—including the traces and electronic components. A good design program should help you do that without any challenges.

3. Material Selection

Choose the best material based on the required thermal performance, board size, weight, or cost. Your options are aluminum, copper alloys, CEM 1, CEM 3, ceramic, and one of the most used options, FR4.

FR4 is widely available, inexpensive, and offers excellent electrical insulation and durability. On the other hand, a metal core has good thermal conductivity and heat dissipation capabilities but is more expensive.

Ceramics are equally expensive but great if you want high dielectric strength and good heat resistance. If you’re building a flexible LED strip PCB board, you want a lightweight material that can bend without breaking. Therefore, go for what fits your application requirements.

4. Board Layout

Create a physical representation of the PCB inside the design program. Place all components in their positions, including the LED chips, and route the traces.

Do so while keeping these factors in mind: parts spacing, thermal management (the LEDs can generate a lot of heat), EMI mitigation, and crosstalk prevention.

Include vias and mounting or testing holes in your layout. Simulate the working of the board to check for errors. After the layout phase, generate Gerber files for the manufacturing phase.

5. Board Fabrication

The PCB is now ready for fabrication. Armed with your Gerber files, find a professional company to produce your circuit board. Various LED PCB board manufacturers offer fabrication services—all you need to do is present your design files.

You may also choose to make it yourself. This option is suitable if the PCB is a simple circuit for through-hole diodes or if you only need a few pieces. On the other hand, we recommend leaving it to the experts if you’re dealing with complicated PCBs, such as multilayered types, or if you’re mass-producing them.

Your manufacturer may only fabricate the board, leaving component assembly to you or both fabrication and assembly. Should you go for DIY fabrication and assembly, follow these steps:

  • Select a suitable substrate or core
  • Use photo paper to copy the design onto the board
  • Using chemicals, etch out the copper at the required places
  • Clean the board to remove chemical and other residues
  • Drill holes and create vias as needed
  • Solder components, including the LEDs, onto the board
  • Power up the assembled board and test its functionality

6. Testing

Check to ensure your finished LED board works as anticipated and that it meets your specified features. This step allows you and the manufacturer to confirm all requirements, avoiding losses that design and fabrication errors may bring.

The manufacturer will also have passed the board through a series of tests to assess its performance and reliability, among other quality requirements. The checking process may involve either manual or automatic steps and include these testing methods:

  • Electrical tests
  • Visual and automated optical checks
  • Vibration or shock tests
Designing an LED circuit board
Designing an LED circuit board
Resource: https://www.researchgate.net

Advantages of LED PCB Boards

The LED circuit board presents several advantages over the conventional type. These explain its popularity in the lighting world and other uses and include the following.

  • You can make it compact enough to fit confined spaces
  • It can be rigid for stability or flexible and versatile
  • It allows you to produce illumination efficiently
  • It offers greater versatility in application options
  • You can make it dust or moisture-resistant for outdoor environments
SMD LED PCB board
SMD LED PCB board
Resource: https://www.researchgate.net

LED PCB Board Design Principles

The design stage of your LED board is the most critical, and errors could mean a defective or malfunctioning circuit. Creating a simple LED board circuit should be straightforward enough. However, things change when you have to make a more complex, high-powered type. Use these rules to perfect your design.

1. LED circuit boards generate a lot of heat, requiring a practical design for thermal management. In that regard, we recommend the following:

  • Use a material that will efficiently conduct away heat, such as aluminum or other metal core
  • Consider using large copper fills and connecting thermal pads to them
  • Space components appropriately to prevent heat buildup
  • Use thermal vias in multilayered boards to transfer heat
  • In high-power circuits, include heat sinks and other cooling features

2. The LEDs on PCB boards will only perform as required if connected to the proper supply and driver circuit or other control component. Ensure the following in the design stage:

  • That the supply and control circuit match the LED voltage and current requirements or ratings
  • Add surge and overcurrent protection devices such as fuses and bypass or decoupling capacitors
  • Locate your driver circuit close to the LEDs and LED pads to avoid losses and voltage drops
  • Ensure proper grounding techniques and use appropriate trace sizes
  • Be sure to include PCB test points

3. During layout and routing, follow proper practices, or led pcb assembly process might fail. Improper layout may also result in operational issues later on.

  • Start by routing power and ground to the LEDs before the control signals
  • Separate power from signal traces and avoid stubs to prevent interference
  • If designing an SMD LED PCB board, place the chips together to make their assembly easier
PCB board for LED lights
PCB board for LED lights
Resource: https://www.researchgate.net

Application of LED Circuit Boards

LED PCB boards are highly adaptable, cost-effective, efficient, and available in various design options. These qualities make them usable in many settings. The bulk of the application is in the lighting world.

With most modern lights using light-emitting diodes, this PCB type is the standard in many fixtures, from home lights to those you install in offices and commercial or industrial facilities. Today, outdoor lighting is also becoming LED-based.

In the automotive world, LEDs have widespread use, with most lights adopting this technology. These PCBs are the backbone of advertising and other displays, supporting lighting-emitting chips and offering excellent heat dissipation capabilities.

Conclusion

Most lighting products today contain an LED PCB board. These circuit boards require special steps to fabricate, in addition to having their design guidelines. As you have learned in this post, you can make one yourself, as a DIY, or have it manufactured for you, depending on various factors such as complexity and volume.

Share:

Table of Contents