PCB Design Perfection Starts in the CAD Library – Part 13

Mounting holes are on every PCB design, but there is very little documentation about this subject matter. A Google or Wikipedia search on “Mounting Holes” renders no solutions to the PCB designer. Another issue that interferes with standardization is Imperial Unit ASNI hardware and ISO Metric hardware. So we’re going to have to explain both unit systems for clarity. But first let’s start with the basic fundamentals that both unit systems have in common.

Mounting hardware normally consists of these 4 items (See Figure 1) –

  1. Phillips Head Screw
  2. Hex Nut
  3. Flat Washer
  4. Lock Washer
Figure 1 - MTG Hardware

Figure 1 - MTG Hardware

There are 4 types of mounting holes –

  1. Supported – Plated through with annular ring
  2. Supported – Plated through with annular ring with vias
  3. Unsupported – Non-plated and with copper pads
  4. Unsupported – Non-plated and with no copper pads




The supported mounting hole usually gets tied to the GND plane without a Thermal Relief (a direct connection is best) and the supported hole w/vias gets both the main hole and the vias tied to the GND plane. Due to the fact that mounting hardware never gets soldered to the PCB, there is no reason for a Thermal Relief pattern and you connect all holes (including vias) directly to the plane. The unsupported (non-plated) hole has no connection to a GND plane layer and they require an outer layer keep-out defined that compensates for the hardware tolerances. See figure 2 for an illustration of the slop tolerance of a flat washer and the necessary copper keep-out sizing.

Figure 2 - Keepout

Figure 2 - Keepout

 There are two primary reasons for adding vias to the supported mounting hole. The first was to insure that if the screw threads stripped the copper plating from the main hole that the vias would still provide adequate ground connections. The second reason was for additional support to prevent the PCB from crushing when too much torque was used to tighten the nut. The average via hole size for mounting holes is 0.5 mm. See Figure 3 for a supported mounting hole with vias.

Figure 3 - Mounting Hole with Vias

Figure 3 - Mounting Hole w/Vias

See Table 1 for the most popular PCB hardware sizes for metric unit technology.

Table 1 - ISO (metric) Hardware

Table 1 - ISO (metric) Hardware

In Tables 2 and 4 there are 3 different padstack configurations for each metric screw size for land (pad) size calculations.

  1. No Washer – Pan Head Clearance
  2. Flat Washer

The land (pad) diameter is equal to the hardware diameter and a placement courtyard is added to compensate for the slop tolerance indicated in Figure 2.

Note: These Land (pad) and Placement Courtyard padstack values are in the “Least” material values. You can add 0.25 mm for “Nominal” or 0.5 mm for “Most” Land (pad) and Placement Courtyard environments. The hole sizes are for a loose fit.

Table 2 - ISO Loose Fit Mounting

Table 2 - ISO Loose Fit Mounting

Table 3 - ISO Tight Fit Mounting

Table 3 - ISO Tight Fit Mounting

See Table 3 for the most popular PCB hardware sizes for ANSI standards.

Table 4 - ANSI Hardware

Table 4 - ANSI Hardware



Table 5 - ANSI Loose Fit Mounting

Table 5 - ANSI Loose Fit Mounting

Table 6 - ANSI Tight Fit Mounting

Table 6 - ANSI Tight Fit Mounting

The “Loose Fit” mounting holes are normally used on large boards greater than 100 mm (4”) and the “Tight Fit” mounting holes are commonly used for smaller board sizes.

There are some differences in hardware manufacturer’s feature sizes, so make sure that the hardware you use is adequately covered with the correct pad size and/or keep-out.

There are 3-Tiers for the Mounting Hole family, but the only difference is the “Placement Courtyard Excess”:

  • Least – 0.1 mm annular
  • Nominal – 0.25 mm annular
  • Most – 0.5 mm annular


Note: All numeric values in the Tables are in millimeters

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4 comments on this post | ↓ Add Your Own

Commented on March 28, 2011 at 5:09 am
By Penn Linder

What are the reasons to use or not use copper pads on an unsupported hole?

Commented on March 28, 2011 at 8:48 am
By Tom Hausherr

There is only 1 reason to use them and that is to show the PCB fabrication shop CAM operator that you really intend to drill a hole at that location. The pads are normally only on the Outer Layers for visual inspection.
We used to make the pad size and the hole size the same so we can visually see how accurate the fabrication drill machine was. If we still see a pad sliver after drill then we knew that the drill machine was off a bit. But after ten years we never saw any problems so we reduced the pad size to 1.0 mm and call it a “Pilot Pad” for the non-plated / unsupported hole.

Commented on October 3, 2011 at 2:22 am
By James Head

The “pilot pad” you mention mayl be removed by the CAM operator during tooling as any copper the drill bit goes through will add to wear and tear on the drill bit.

Commented on October 11, 2011 at 4:40 am
By PTH / NPTH selection

Mounting holes nicely explained… Thanks…
How to decide – when to use PTH and when to use NPTH on board? Please let me know…

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