Via (electronics)


A via (Latin for path or way) is an electrical connection between copper layers in a printed circuit board. Essentially a small drilled hole that goes through two or more adjacent layers, the hole is plated with copper that forms electrical connection through the insulation that separates the copper layers.

In printed circuit boards

Different types of vias:
(1) Through hole.
(2) Blind via.
(3) Buried via.
The gray and green layers are nonconducting, while the thin orange layers and red vias are conductive.
PCB Via current capacity chart showing 1mil Plating Via Current Capacity & Resistance vs Diameter on a 1.6mm PCB

In printed circuit board (PCB) design, a via consists of two pads in corresponding positions on different layers of the board, that are electrically connected by a hole through the board. The hole is made conductive by electroplating, or is lined with a tube or a rivet. High-density multilayer PCBs may have microvias: blind vias are exposed only on one side of the board, while buried vias connect internal layers without being exposed on either surface. Thermal vias carry heat away from power devices and are typically used in arrays of about a dozen.[1]

A via consists of:

  1. Barrel — conductive tube filling the drilled hole
  2. Pad — connects each end of the barrel to the component, plane, or trace
  3. Antipad — clearance hole between barrel and metal layer to which it is not connected

A via, sometimes called PTV or plated-through-via, should not be confused with a plated through hole (PTH). Via is used as an interconnection between copper layers on a PCB while the PTH is generally made larger than vias and is used as a plated hole for acceptance of component leads - such as non-SMT resistors, capacitors, and DIP package IC. PTH can also be used as holes for mechanical connection while vias may not. Another usage of PTH is known as a castellated hole where the PTH is aligned at the edge of the board so that it is cut in half when the board is milled out of the panel - the main usage is for allowing one PCB to be soldered to another in a stack - thus acting both as a fastener and also as a connector.[2]

Three major kinds of vias are shown in right figure. The basic steps of making a PCB are: making the substrate material and stacking it in layers; through-drilling of plating the vias; and copper trace patterning using photolithography and etching. With this standard procedure, possible via configurations are limited to through-holes.[a] Depth-controlled drilling techniques such as using lasers can allow for more varied via types. (Laser drills can also be used for smaller and more precisely positioned holes than mechanical drills produce.) PCB manufacturing typically starts with a so-called core, a basic double-sided PCB. Layers beyond the first two are stacked from this basic building block. If two more layers are consecutively stacked from bottom of core, you can have a 1-2 via, a 1-3 via and a through hole. Each type of via is made by drilling at each stacking stage. If one layer is stacked on top of the core and other is stacked from the bottom, the possible via configurations are 1-3, 2-3 and through hole. The user must gather information about the PCB manufacturer's allowed methods of stacking and possible vias. For cheaper boards, only through holes are made and antipad (or clearance) is placed on layers which are supposed not to be contacted to vias.

Failure behavior

If well made, PCB vias will primarily fail due to differential expansion and contraction between the copper plating and the PCB in the out of plane direction (Z). This differential expansion and contraction will induce cyclic fatigue in the copper plating, eventually resulting in crack propagation and an electrical open circuit. Various design, material, and environmental parameters will influence the rate of this degradation.[3][4] To ensure via robustness, IPC sponsored a round-robin exercise that developed a time to failure calculator.[5]


See also


  1. ^ Well, through-holes per core. It is possible, though more expensive, to create blind or buried vias by using additional cores and lamination steps. It is also possible to backdrill and remove the plating from one side through to the desired layer, which leaves the physical hole as a through-hole, but creates the electrical equivalent of a blind via. That said, if a PCB needs enough layers to justify blind and buried vias, it is probably also using small enough traces packed tightly enough to require (laser-drilled) microvias anyhow.
  1. ^ "PCB design: A close look at facts and myths about thermal vias".
  2. ^ "Castellated Holes / Edge Plating PCB / Castellations". Hi-Tech Corp. 2011. Archived from the original on 2016-05-26. Retrieved 2013-01-02.
  3. ^ C. Hillman, Understanding plated through via failures, Global SMT & Packaging – November 2013, pp 26-28,
  4. ^ C. Hillman, Reliable Plated Through Via Design and Fabrication,
  5. ^ "Plated Through Hole (PTH) Fatigue calculator". DfR Solutions. Retrieved 2017-12-17.

External links

  • "Tips for PCB Vias Design" (PDF) (Technical note). Quick-teck. 2014. EN-00417. Retrieved 2017-12-18.