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Advances in integrated circuit technology have led the electronics industry to where it is today. They are a critical part of today’s technology, and In fact, they are in virtually every electronic device we use. However, these integrated circuits only work once integrated into a substrate.

IC substrates are important electronic components that link ICs to other elements and act as a framework for the ICs. Over the years, IC substrates have become more sophisticated and efficient, with various materials and classifications used to create them.

In this article, we’ll explore everything about IC substrates, from their purpose and classifications to their strengths and applications, as well as how to manufacture and select the best IC substrate manufacturers. By the conclusion of this guide, you will be completely informed about IC substrates and their role in powering modern electronics. So, let’s dive in and learn more about it.

Table of Contents

What is IC Substrate?

Integrated Circuit (IC) substrates are essential components to connect the IC and PCB and protect the bare IC chip. These substrates are composed of several layers centered around a supportive core, containing an array of holes and pad conductors of a higher density than what is usually found on printed circuit boards.

IC substrates serve as a bridge between the chip and a Printed Circuit Board (PCB), safeguarding them from harm and dispersing heat. This requires IC fabricators to achieve higher interconnect densities than PCB fabricators during the IC substrate manufacturing process. For this challenge, they must possess a special collection of chemical solutions and be well-versed in high-density designs.

IC substrates come in various types, each with specific applications and advantages. To understand the breadth of these classifications, it is essential to examine each type and its relevant uses.

Classifications of IC Substrates

IC substrates are divided into three categories based on their package type, bonding technology, and m1aterial attributes. Each different category, they’re again divided based on different application fields. Let’s take a look at them one by one.

1.By Package Types
The type of substrate necessary for a package depends on the type of carrier. And so, there are different types of substrates in this category, as mentioned below:

  • Ball Grid Array (BGA) IC Substrate: This high-tech packaging is perfect for IC packages containing over 300 pins as it provides excellent heat dissipation and electrical qualities, which result in a dramatic augmentation of the chip pins.
  •  Chip-Scale Package (CSP) IC Substrate: This package substrate is lightweight and ideal for items with a limited number of pins, such as memory, electronic, and telecommunication items, because of its small size.
  • Flip-Chip (FC) IC Substrate: The FC IC package substrate features effective thermal dissipation, low circuit loss, and signal interference, which is ideal for controlled collapse chip connections.
  • Multi-Chip Module (MCM) IC Substrate: As its name suggests, the MCM substrates hold multiple ICs into one, each IC having its dedicated function. They are lightweight and thin, which is ideal for many different purposes. But they are not a good option for thermal dissipation, routing, and signal interference.

2.By Material Characteristics
Integrated circuits have various uses, requiring different substrates to accommodate them. Below are some of the most common ones:

  • Rigid: These substrates are usually manufactured using resin of different types, like epoxy, BT (Bismaleimide Triazine) resin, and ABF (Ajinomoto Build-up Film) resin. Their CTE (Coefficient of Thermal Expansion) is approximately 13-17ppm/°C.
  • Flex: These substrates are manufactured using Polyamide or Polyimide resin with an approximate CTE of 13-27ppm/°C.
  • Ceramic: These ceramic substrates use ceramic materials, including aluminum nitride, aluminum oxide, and silicon carbide, with a very low CTE ranging between 6-to-8ppm/°C.

3.By Bonding Technology
Finally, the bonding technology categorizes how the Integrated circuits are bonded to the package. They’re again divided based on their characteristics:

  • Flip Chip (FC) Bonding: This bonding requires the application of solder balls to the chip pads, which are then inverted and placed in line with the external circuit’s pads.
  • Wire Bonding: This is one of the widely used bonding types. This procedure involves threading wires from the chip’s connections onto the package or circuit.
  • Tape Automated Bonding (TAB) Bonding: It is again a similar method, except that a polymer-based substrate is used, and fine conductors are bonded to the integrated circuit.

What materials does IC Substrate usually use?


IC substrates use varieties of materials. However, some of the most common ones are:

  1. Ultra-thin copper foils
  2. Resin substrates
  3. Solid and liquid photoresist
  4. Other materials like nickel, etc

These materials are chosen for their electrical, thermal, and mechanical properties and their ability to adhere to the substrate and form a uniform layer.

Strengths of IC Substrate

IC substrates offer several key advantages that make them highly sought after in the electronics industry. Some of them are:

  • High Density of Components: Integrated circuit substrates allow for a high density of components, which leads to smaller and more compact devices.
  • Good Electrical Conductivity: They are typically made of materials with good electrical conductivity, which allows for efficient and reliable electrical connections between components.
  • Thermal Management: They often have good thermal conductivity, which helps to dissipate heat generated by the IC during operation.
  • Low Cost: IC substrates are typically inexpensive, which helps to reduce the overall cost of manufacturing ICs.
  • Reliability: These packages are designed to be reliable and resistant to damage, which helps ensure the IC’s long-term performance and reliability.
  • Versatility: Finally, they are available in various materials and configurations, allowing them to be used in a wide range of applications and environments.

Applications of IC Substrate PCB


As mentioned above, IC substrates are essential for PCB manufacturing and are used in various electronic devices, including smartphones, computers, and other electronic systems. Some typical applications of IC substrates include:

  1. High-Speed Digital Circuits: IC substrates with low dielectric constant materials can be used in high-speed digital circuits to reduce signal transmission delays.
  2. Analog Circuits: IC substrates with low-loss tangent materials can be used in analog circuits to reduce signal loss and improve signal integrity.
  3. Power Electronics: IC substrates with high thermal conductivity materials can be used in power electronics applications to dissipate heat and improve performance
  4. RF (Radio Frequency) Circuits: IC substrates with low-loss tangent materials can be used in RF circuits to improve signal transmission and reception.
  5. LED Lighting: IC substrates with high thermal conductivity materials can be used in LED lighting applications to dissipate heat and improve performance.
  6. Automotive Electronics: IC substrates with high-reliability materials can be used in automotive electronics applications to ensure the durability and reliability of electronic systems.
  7. Medical Devices: IC substrates with low-toxicity materials can be used in medical devices to ensure the safety and reliability of the devices.
  8. Military and Aerospace: IC substrates with high-reliability materials can be used in military and aerospace applications to ensure the durability and reliability of electronic systems.

Manufacturing process of IC Substrate


The manufacturing process of an IC substrate involves several steps:
1. Copper Plating and Patterning
The copper patterning and plating step are critical in the production of IC substrates, as it determines the layout and interconnections of the substrate. This process involves using advanced technologies to accurately define and deposit copper patterns on the substrate, which are then used to create the desired circuit traces and interconnects. The precision and consistency of the copper patterns are essential for ensuring the performance and reliability of the finished IC substrate.

2. Solder Mask
The second step in the IC substrate manufacturing process involves applying a solder mask to the substrate. This process uses solder mask printing technology and hole filling to create a protective layer over the substrate, covering the copper traces. It interconnects except those sold to components during the assembly process.

3. Surface Finishing
The third step in the process includes a surface finishing step to ensure that the substrate has a smooth and uniform surface. This involves buffing and polishing the substrate to remove any imperfections and create a surface suitable for attaching components during the assembly process. A properly finished substrate can improve the reliability and performance of the finished electronic device.

4. Inspection
Finally, the substrate is inspected to ensure it meets the required quality standards. This may include visual inspection, electrical testing, and other methods to verify the integrity and performance of the substrate.

What are the manufacturing challenges of IC Substrate?


Several challenges can arise during the manufacturing of IC substrates, including:
1. Material Selection
Choosing the appropriate materials for the substrate can be challenging, as different materials have different properties that may be suitable for different applications. It is important to carefully consider the substrate’s specific performance requirements and select materials capable of meeting those requirements.

2. Patterning
Defining precise and consistent patterns on the substrate can be difficult, especially for high-density circuits or circuits with fine lines. It is important to use advanced patterning technologies and processes to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the patterns.

3. Surface Finishing
Achieving a uniform and smooth surface finish on the substrate can be challenging, especially for substrates with complex geometries or uneven surfaces. It is important to use appropriate surface finishing technologies and processes to ensure the quality of the finish.

4. Yield
Ensuring a high yield in the manufacturing process is always a challenge, as any defects or failures during the process can lead to wasted materials and resources. Implementing robust quality control measures to minimize defects and improve yield is important.

5. Cost
Balancing the manufacturing process’s cost with the finished substrate’s performance and reliability can be challenging. It is important to optimize the process to reduce costs while maintaining the necessary level of quality.

How to select an IC Substrate manufacturer?

There are several factors to consider when selecting an IC substrate manufacturer:

  • Quality: Choosing a manufacturer with a proven track record of producing high-quality IC substrates is important. Look for a manufacturer with a robust quality control system to ensure their products’ reliability and performance.
  • Capabilities: Consider the manufacturer’s capabilities, including the materials used, the available technologies, and the types of substrates they can produce. Choose a manufacturer that has the capabilities to meet your specific requirements.
  • Experience: Consider the knowledge of the manufacturer in the IC substrate industry. A manufacturer with a long history of producing IC substrates will likely have a strong understanding of the industry and the specific requirements of different applications.
  • Cost: Consider the cost of the IC substrates from different manufacturers. Finding a manufacturer that can offer competitive pricing without sacrificing quality is important.
  • Support: Choose a manufacturer that is responsive and provides good customer support. This will ensure that you have a smooth and pleasant experience working with the manufacturer.

By considering these factors, you can select a manufacturer that is capable of meeting your specific requirements and delivering high-quality IC substrates.

you asked we answer

Integrated Circuit (IC) substrates are essential components to connect the IC and PCB and protect the bare IC chip. These substrates are composed of several layers centered around a supportive core, containing an array of holes and pad conductors of a higher density than what is usually found on printed circuit boards.

●Ultra-thin copper foils
●Resin substrates
●Solid and liquid photoresist
●Other materials like nickel, etc

  • Material Selection
  • Patterning
  • Surface Finishing
  • Yield
  • Cost


IC substrates are the foundation of all electronic devices we use today. They are a critical part of many electronic systems, so you must know the different types, classifications, and applications.

If you’re looking for a reliable company for integrated circuit substrates, IBE can be your best match. With over decades of experience, IBE is one of China’s leading IC manufacturers providing the best quality PCBs and ICs. Want to learn more? Get a free quote now!

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