The demand for more powerful technology continues to grow. However, with the increasing size and weight constraints of today’s computers, consumers expect better performance and lighter packages. This is a challenge that manufacturers face. Fortunately, flexible printed circuit boards have allowed them to make lighter electronic components.
What is Flex PCB?
The term flexible printed circuit is defined by the International Panel for Standards (IPC) as a type of circuit that’s made of flexible materials. This type of flexible film is commonly used in electronic devices.
Unlike rigid PCB, flexible printed circuit boards (FPCBs) have different properties, making them ideal for various applications. These are made from materials that can bend, which provides them with better resistance to movement and vibrations. Due to their compact size, they can reduce package weight by 75%.
What is flex PCB made of?
Most commonly used conductor materials for making flexible PCBs are copper. Its thickness can vary from .0007 to 0.0028 degrees. At INTOPCB, we can create boards with various types of conductors, such as aluminum, electrodeposited copper, rolled annealed copper, silver ink, and more.
Types of flexible PCB boards
Single-Sided Flexible PCB
One-sided flex PCBs are commonly used for electronic devices such as calculators. These are simple to produce and are the most affordable type of printed circuit board. They feature a single conductor on one side and are ideal for low-cost production.
Double-Sided Flexible PCB
A double-sided flex PCB is a type of electronic device that features a flexible dielectric film that’s connected through holes. Compared to single-sided PCBs, this type of design offers better power handling and circuit density.
Multi-Layer Flex PCB
A flexible circuit that has multiple layers of conductors is known as a multi-layer flex circuit. Due to its complexity, it is more expensive than other types of PCBs. These are commonly used in military and aerospace applications.
The term hybrid PCBs refers to a combination of the two types of rigid and flexible PCBs. In a rigid-flex configuration, multiple rigid circuits are arranged together using flex circuits. These hybrid PCBs are commonly used to improve the performance of circuits.
HDI Flexible PCB
High density interconnect (HDI) is a type of flexible circuit board that’s ideal for applications that require higher performance. These PCBs are commonly used in various areas such as medical devices and sensors. They feature a variety of features such as micro-vias and are designed to improve their construction and layout. Compared to regular flexible PCBs, HDI flexible PCBs have a thinner surface area. This helps them reduce their package size and improve their electrical performance.
Flex PCB benefits:
Being flexible allows FPCs to be used in various ways, such as being able to bend and flex. This feature is useful in allowing users to customize the design and operation of their applications. In addition, flexible circuits can also be used in small and irregular spaces, which are not supported by rigid ones. Another advantage of these types of circuits is that they consume less space, which helps minimize the weight of the motherboard.
There are a few advantages of flex PCB listed:
1. Sized smaller and light weight:
A flexible circuit board can be used in various applications where other solutions would not work. Its lightweight and thin design makes it ideal for areas where other components would not fit. At INTOPCB, our engineers utilize 3D packaging geometry to reduce the size of their boards.
Printed circuit boards are typically assembled using automated machinery, which eliminates the need for manual handling and ensures that they are of high quality. This eliminates the risk of errors and ensures that the electronic devices that are used are of the correct accuracy.
A flexible circuit board can be designed with multiple layers, and it offers designers a lot of freedom in terms of their design. This type of board can be made as a single sided or a double sided, and it can be combined with other flexible and rigid components. Its flexibility makes it ideal for complex designs, such as those involving multiple interconnections.
A flexible printed circuit board can feature a combination of surface-mounted and through-hole components. This allows it to accommodate high-density devices, such as those with minute narrow separation between the two. This allows for the design of lighter and denser conductors.
Due to the flexible nature of circuits, they can connect with various planes during the execution process. This eliminates the need for additional space and weight when compared to rigid circuit boards.
6.Great Heat Dissipation:
Due to the compact size of devices and the number of thermal paths, the shorter thermal paths are created, which helps dissipate the heat faster. Also, flexible circuits can reduce heat dissipation on both sides.
7.Improved Air Flowing:
The design of flexible circuits helps improve their thermal dissipation and air flow. This feature allows them to keep their electronic components cooler than their rigid counterparts.
A flexible circuit board is designed to flex 500 million times its usual lifespan. Due to its low ductility and mass, it can withstand the shock and vibration of certain types of devices, such as electronic equipment. These PCBs are commonly used in various applications.
Before, designing PCBs with fewer interconnection points was considered one of the main issues that caused board failure. Due to the advent of electronic design tools, it is now possible to create PCBs with fewer interconnection points. This has also helped improve their thermal stability.
10.Best for Streamlined Design:
Through the use of flexible circuit boards, engineers have been able to improve the design of circuits. These components can be easily mounted onto the boards, which simplifies the overall process.
11.High temperature devices:
High temperature polyimide materials are known to endure extremely high temperatures. They can also resist various types of harmful substances, such as acids and gases. These flexible circuits can be exposed to temperatures of up to 400 degrees Celsius.
12.Different components easy connecting:
A flexible circuit can support a wide range of components and connectors, such as ZIF connectors, crimped contacts, and direct soldering.
Disadvantages of flex PCB
Despite the advantages of the FPC technology, it has some disadvantages. One of these is the high initial cost. Compared to rigid PCBs, the cost of designing and manufacturing flexible circuits is higher. This is because they are designed for specific applications. It is also important to consider the cost when choosing the type of PCB that will be used.
Another disadvantage of the FPC technology is the difficulty in modifying or repairing a printed circuit board (PCB). This is because it usually requires removing the protective film covering the circuit. This can be performed by removing the protective film, as well as restoring the protection. Unfortunately, many companies are not able to provide the necessary equipment for the production of flexible PCBs.
During the assembly phase, it is also important to take the necessary steps to prevent the circuit from being damaged. This can be done by properly handling the device, as well as unauthorized personnel.
Flex PCB application:
Almost a third of the flexible printed circuit sales volume is generated by computer technology. This includes devices such as printers, scanners, and smart devices. Due to the increasing number of portable computers, flex PCBs are becoming more important for powering heavy equipment.
The automotive industry is one of the fastest growing sectors of flex PCBs. Cars have become more sophisticated over the past decade, and their hardware has become more advanced. With more sensors and electronic components being added to cars, flex PCBs can provide both thermal and space performance.
Due to their exceptional ability to endure the stress of extreme conditions, flex PCBs are ideal for aerospace applications, such as satellites. They can also take on unusual shapes, which are ideal for spacecraft.
Medical technology has greatly evolved over the years, and wearable devices have become a vital component of this new generation. Due to their flexible nature, these devices can endure various types of wear and tear. Some of these include hearing aids and vital sensors.
Some popular use flex PCB listed below:
- medical devices
- Ultrasound probesdevices
- Semiconductor test devices
- Motion systems
- Fuel pumps
- Battery packs
- Bar code equipment
- Antilock brakes
- Airbag systems
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