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June 8, 2022
Looking for a budget-friendly alternative to FR4 PCB material? Try out Telink’s solution using FR1, engineered to keep performance high.
Remote control units (RCUs) are skyrocketing in volume, with more than 263 million remote units expected to ship globally by the end of 2022. But many manufacturers don’t realize that they could be saving on bill of material (BOM) costs by using FR1 as a replacement for FR4 in the printed circuit boards (PCBs).
When bundled with televisions and set-top boxes, RCUs typically come free for customers. But the manufacturer’s BOM costs differ depending on the PCB material used, so it’s worth considering alternatives. FR4 is often praised by manufacturers for its flexibility and durability, yet FR1 offers a similar heat tolerance and degree of electrical insulation at a fraction of the cost. FR1 is often disqualified for its drawbacks when compared to FR4 — however, the former is mendable and can help manufacturers reduce BOM costs while delivering high-quality results.
PCB material is one of the biggest contributors to BOM costs for RCU. Both FR4 and FR1 are common materials for making PCBs. FR1 is made of phenolic resin bonded to paper, while FR4 is made of glass fiber epoxy laminate. Both materials are encased in copper and can withstand up to 130℃. However, they offer different levels of performance and cost.
FR4 generally delivers higher product performance than FR1. FR4 is typically made of eight layers of glass fiber, which better accommodates through-hole usage and complex PCB specifications. However, it is 1.5 or 2 times more expensive, making it prohibitive for use in high volume and cost-sensitive products like RCU.
FR1 typically offers a lower level of performance, but the significant savings of using FR1 tends to outweigh the drawbacks for most RCU manufacturers, especially when combined with single-layer PCB or two-layer PCB with carbon through holes. While a clean ground across the system is vital to RF performance, these two cost-optimal FR1 PCB options tend to contaminate the reference level of the system by limiting the routing of the ground trace on only one side of the PCB and therefore introducing additional voltage drop along the longer path toward the common ground.
Poor RF performance not only makes it more difficult for the RCU to obtain compliance certifications such as FCC or CE, but can also impact the end-user experience by causing problems like unstable wireless connection and shorter battery life due to increased retransmission. However, this can all be alleviated with careful system design and the right IC component.
Telink has extensive experience working with RCU manufacturers to create products that rely on FR1 PCBs but perform almost as well as FR4-based devices, without breaking budgets. Telink’s best-in-class SoCs can overcome the challenges posed by FR1-based PCBs. Each chip is composed of an RF circuit with an industry-leading link budget, making the system more tolerant to errors associated with FR1 PCBs. Telink’s SoCs also include features that make routing on FR1 PCB easier and improve the RF performance of the entire circuit system.
A successful FR1 design involves expertise in system design and tuning — expertise that Telink can offer. We’ve assisted multiple tier-one customers with building commercial FR1 RCU products that are shipping in high volumes. Don’t settle for an expensive alternative when there’s an affordable option that gets the job done. Trust Telink to help you meet your product goals and ultimately surpass market expectations without sacrificing your wallet.
The application note Telink FR1 PCB Design Guideline provides further tips on how to manage FR1 PCB design using Telink SoCs. Contact us today or send emails directly to [email protected] to learn more.