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Why Busbars & Stiffeners are Essential in Circuit Boards

Circuit boards and printed circuit boards (PCBs) hold the brains of the world’s most important technology.  Essential components used in military, aerospace, medical, telecommunications, or high-technology fail when these pieces are compromised or malfunction.

It’s not a stretch to say that if a circuit board fails, safety, security, and lives are in jeopardy. So, it was imperative for engineers and manufacturers to find a solution to minimize the threat. 

A busbar is a metallic strip or bar, typically manufactured in copper or brass, that conducts electricity within a distribution board, circuit board, battery bank, power supply unit, or other electrical apparatuses. Engineers design these parts to conduct a substantial current of electricity, more than can be provided by standard circuit board traces.

Quick note: you might see other places spell busbars differently, including bus bar, BusBar, or bussbar. We spell it busbar. 

A stiffener is a metal or material sheet attached to a PCB to strengthen the board and increase rigidity. Stiffeners are important when circuit boards are used in stressful situations. 

Busbars can serve the dual purpose of being a conducting bus and providing structural integrity to a circuit board. Stiffeners are not recommended as buses since brass is said to have 28% of the International Annealed Copper Standard (IACS). (Copper Development Association Inc.)

E-Fab engineers and manufacturers deliver busbars and stiffeners using photochemical etching (also known as photochemical machining or PCM). These products improve the old Circuit Components, Inc. (CCI) designs and processes.

What are the advantages of using busbars or stiffeners on electronic circuit boards?

Advantage #1: Increase the rigidity and strength of PCBs and circuit boards, which is vitally essential when boards are used in severe environments, such as military-grade products, aerospace technology, or other industrial applications

Advantage #2: Busbars enable higher power distribution for power and ground circuits on PCBs and power supply circuits

Advantage #3: Answer the lead-free solder mandate in the Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive (RoHS)

Advantage #4: Improves reliability of PCBs because of RoHS restrictions, especially when it comes to the increased temperatures required in wave soldering 

Advantage #5: Solves for the manufacturing changes required of using different metals and alloys for board construction

Advantage #6: Busbars and stiffeners keep the circuit boards flat during the manufacturing and assembly process

Advantage #7: Helps maintain board integrity during thermal expansion and contraction during manufacturing and use

Advantage #8: Maintains board integrity during violent vibration cycles during use in military, aerospace, and rough-use applications

Advantage #9: Reduces the threat of cracked traces and cold solder joints at the circuit component’s connections

Advantage #10: Adds the ability to have two or more layers in one space, offering engineers flexibility when designing solutions in small areas

What metals does E-Fab use to make stiffeners or busbars?

E-FAB busbars are typically manufactured from copper, whereas E-FAB Stiffeners are usually manufactured from brass.

What makes E-Fab’s busbars special?

E-Fab’s busbars are designed with two conducting copper layers separated by an insulation layer, making it a multilayer solution. The copper layers are designed and manufactured with a staggered pin configuration (custom configurations are also available) so that every other pin is power and ground. 

The two-layer busbar fabricated at E-Fab offers customers the advantages of a PCB stiffener, plus extra power and ground busses rolled into one space-saving design. 

Depending on customer requirements and part applications, E-Fab manufactures its busbars and stiffeners uncoated or coated with epoxy, depending on customer requirements and part applications.

Choose E-Fab for Your Busbar & Stiffener Needs

We’ve been producing busbars and stiffeners since our earliest days, producing these parts for the telecommunications, defense, medical, and electronics industries.

At E-Fab, we are well-versed in working with the two main metals used for busbars and stiffeners: copper and brass.

Plus, our skilled team guides clients through a project toward the finest solution that precisely meets their needs.

Our areas of expertise include

  • Design/engineering assistance
  • Material selection/metrology
  • CNC machining
  • Lamination
  • Heat treating
  • Electro and electroless plating
  • Joining (including welding, wire bonding, soldering, and braising)

E-Fab uses industry-leading equipment and is an ISO 9001:2015 certified facility. Our innovative processes and expert staff ensure that every component we fabricate is of the highest quality. Learn more about our photochemical etching services here.

Contact E-Fab to Learn More About Busbars & Stiffeners

When designing your next part, it’s always important to be fully informed. E-Fab is available to help answer any questions. 

With more than four decades of manufacturing experience and four L-3 Supplier of the Year Awards, E-Fab makes an excellent partner for almost any project. Our knowledgeable team assists clients with every step of the project, from consultation to design to manufacturing to delivery, and provides high-quality product solutions that precisely satisfy their requirements. 
If you have further questions, please contact us to learn more.

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