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Flexible PCB -the way towards 21st century

This is the age of 21st century and the use of electronic devices is common all over the world. One cannot imagine the world without electronic devices. These electronic appliances are manufactured with the help of Printed circuit board (PCB). On contrary, there are different types of PCB that are used in different applications.

The manufacturing of different electronic appliances needs different type of PCB that suit their designing. Among them, flexible PCB, which is widely used due to that it is foldable and bendable, and its light weight, small size and good heat dissipation, has become a trend. In this article, we will discuss the flexible PCB in detail, its advantages and disadvantages, and its importance in today’s world.

WHAT IS PCB?

Printed circuit boards commonly known as PCB is the basic building block of any electronic device. PCB is nowadays the backbone of electronic devices and are used in laptops, computers, and smart watches and in all electronic appliances. From small electronic equipment to the industrial machineries PCB is used in manufacturing.

1.Telecommunication industry makes use of PCB to manufacture transmitting and receiving devices such as antennas, duplexers, diplexers and microwave antennas.
2.PCB is widely used in consumer products such as home appliances, cell phone, computers and other type of handheld devices.
3.The fabrication Laborites make use of PCB to manufacture electronic devices used in research and development purpose.
4.PCB are used in manufacturing of LED. These LED are used everywhere from street lights to the small indicating devices.
5. Lastly, the use of PCB cannot be ignored in the medical devices. PCB is widely used in the medical devices and makes them fast and result orienting.

What are types of PCB?

what are types of PCBPrinted circuit boards are of different types and used for different purposes. These types of PCB are discussed below

Single-sided PCB

The single-sided PCB are used in simple type of electronic devices such as in calculators and LEDs. The design is quite simple as it only uses one copper conducting layer. The designing of this type is easy and it can be manufactured with low cost.

double-sided PCB

The design is moderate as it uses two copper layers on both ends. The advantage of this technology is to make complex circuitry that is needed to manufacture power amplifiers, and UPS.

Multilayer PCB

The design of multilayer PCB is complex as it uses 3 or more than 3 conducting layers. It is used when there is more complex circuitry than double-sided. For instance, the computer, laptop and other electronic devices are made by this type of PCB.

Rigid PCB

This type of PCB is inflexible and solid. This type of PCB cannot be bending to the desired shape. They cannot be modified after manufacturing. All the solid PCB that you see nowadays are made of rigid PCB such as computer motherboard PCB and mobile phone PCB. This type of PCB is cheaper than the Flexible PCB.

Flex PCB

The flexible PCB also termed as flex PCB. Flexible PCB offers ease of design as they can be bent in any shape. This technology is widely used in variety of electronic devices that a designer wants to interconnect. Flexible PCB is liked by the designer and is mostly used because it can be brought up into any shape and can be tilted at any angle. The technology is widely used in the areas where hardware to work in high temperature.

Rigid Flex PCB

From the name it’s very clear that rigid flex PCB is made up of both rigid and flexible PCB. In this technology the flexible PCB is interconnected with Rigid PCB hardware. Wireless controllers and pacemakers make use of both types of PCB. It increases the overall cost of system.

Different PCB types serve different purposes and have different production methods and application scenarios. Next we will introduce flexible PCB in detail, about other PCB types, please take a look at our other articles.

What is Flexible PCB?

what is flexible PCBFlexible PCB also referred to as FPCB or flex PCB. Flexible circuit (FPC) is a technology developed by the United States in the 1970s for the development of aerospace rocket technology. It is a highly reliable, excellent flexing printed circuit made of polyester film or polyimide as a substrate, and is designed to form a bendable flexing circuit by embedding a circuit on a thin plastic sheet that can be bent, so that a large number of precision components can be embedded in a narrow and limited space.

This kind of circuit can be bent and folded at will with light weight, small size, good heat dissipation, and easy installation, breaking through the traditional interconnection technology. In the structure of a flexible circuit, the materials used are insulating film, conductor, and adhesive.It is unique from other types of PCB because of its manufacturing process and applications. The use of flexible PCB is increasing day by day due to its heat handling capacity and many oil and gas companies are using this type of PCB.

Therefore, due to its flexibility it offers great advantage to the designers and they can design equipment according to the desired design. The copper is the most commonly used conductor in the flexible PCB but some manufacturers are also using other materials like aluminum and carbon.

How many types does flexible PCB have ?

Flexible PCB comes in many types according to the demand of applications but some of these types are discussed below
a) Single sided flex
b) Double sided flex
c) Multilayer flex
d) Rigid flex

What’s advantages and shortcomings of flexible PCB ?

advantages and shortcomings of flexible PCB

Advantages of flexible PCB

The Flexible PCB is useful and beneficial as compared to other conventional PCB. Some of the benefits of Flexible PCB are discussed.
a) The design with flexible PCB is more accurate than any other type of PCB design
b) Flexible PCB are cost effective
c) The assembly time of flexible PCB is low
d) The elastic nature of Flexible PCB allows designers to design with edges and corners. Due to it the design looks beautiful
e) The conducting substrate is not heavy. So miniaturization is achieved by using this technology.
f) Eliminates the need for connectors and harnesses and minimizes wiring errors
g) Durable (suitable for harsh environments)

Disadvantages of Flexible PCB

Nothing in this world is perfect and so as Flexible PCB. Some of the defects of Flexible PCB is mentioned below
i) In certain application the cost of Flexible PCB is high because of the poor utilization of board.
ii) There is complex assembly process.
iii) Due to high flexibility nature, the flexible PCB can be easily damaged.
iv) Repairing of flexible PCB is way too difficult.
v) It offers limited size.
vi) Requires proper storage condition

How flexible PCB is made?

how flexible PCB is madeThe conducting layer of Flexible PCB is copper and it is bonded with dielectric polymer. The exposed surface of Flexible PCB is protected by the protective layer. This is because the copper tends to oxide with time and to protect it the gold or other material is used.
Double layers
Material → Drilling → PTH → Plating → Pre-treatment → Dry Film → Alignment → Exposure → Development → Graphic Plating → Release → Pre-treatment → Dry Film → Alignment Exposure → Development → Etching → Release → Surface Treatment → Covering Film → Pressing → Curing → Sinking Nickel Gold → Printing Characters → Cutting → Electrical Testing → Punching → Final Inspection → Packaging → Shipping
Single layer
Material → Drilling → Dry film → Alignment → Exposure → Development → Etching → Release → Surface treatment → Covering film → Pressing → Curing → Surface treatment → Nickel plating → Character printing → Cutting → Electrical testing → Punching → Final inspection → Packaging → Shipping

What are flexible PCBs used for ?

Flexible PCB is used in variety of applications. The uses of Flexible PCB are increasing day by day because of its flexibility the size of PCB and design is shrinking. This article also discusses some of applications:
a) Used in laptops, cameras and in mobile phones.
b) Manufacturing of Robots and especially robotics arm.
c) GPS and GNSS systems
d) In pacemakers and heart monitors
e) In satellite communications
f) High-Speed Digital/RF/Microwave Connectors
g) Medical Devices – Wearable devices
h) Industrial Sensors

Conclusion

There are varieties of other applications which are not listed here. The manufacturing of flexible PCB is increasing day by day due to its usage. Flexible PCB reduces the size of electronic products to a large extent, meets the needs of electronic products to develop in the direction of high density and miniaturization, and continues to promote the innovation and research and development of PCB technology.
I believe that flexible PCB will be more widely used in the future.Try to predict, will flexible PCB replace rigid PCB in the future? If you want to learn about other types of PCB, you can read our other articles.

In addition, if your project requires flexible PCB assembly service, you can contact us – IBE. With 17 years PCBA experience, we will provide you with integrated services from PCB design, SMT/DIP assembly to package.

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