Flexible Or Flex-rigid PCBs Applications

Are you considering the use of flexible or flex-rigid PCBs in an upcoming device, product or prototype? Every device and every build begins with the core component: PCBs, or printed circuit boards. The type of PCB you choose depends on your application.

There are two major types of circuitry and boards used in industrial and large-scale manufacturing: flexible PCBs and flex-rigid PCBs. Both types differ from traditional, rigid PCBs. As you'd expect, these board types are designed using a combination of flexible and rigid materials and technologies. Flexible circuit boards are rolled with copper and similar materials, and the main goal is to provide sufficient flexibility and bending resistance. Flex-rigid PCBs, on the other hand, are built using a combination of the two technologies and have both flexible and rigid areas.

Flexible Printed Circuit Boards
Flexible printed circuit boards are considered "flexible" for multiple reasons, but the most obvious one is that their circuitry can be designed to match up with the electronic device or core product. Manufacturers are not forced to create a product or casing around the board itself. Instead, they can adapt the board to fit an existing design. This is beneficial when creating components or hardware that feature orthodox designs. For instance, if you are concerned with the total weight, portability and durability of a particular device, conventional boards may be out of the question.

Flex-Rigid Printed Circuit Boards
Flex-rigid PCBs derive their name from the fact that they use a combination of flexible and rigid circuitry areas. Like most printed circuit boards, flex-rigid boards have multiple layers but generally have more than conventional designs.

These additional conductive layers are outlined with rigid or flexible insulation depending on the product needs. Outer layers on a board — no matter how many there are — often contain exposed pads or covers for safety. Conductors are deployed for the primary rigid layer, while flexible plated through-holes are used for any additional layers both flexible and rigid.

Flexible PCB Applications
1. Flexible PCBs In Computer Electronics
Many computer components rely on flexible circuit boards for operation. The components in hard drives, for example, need to be flexible to keep up with the high speeds at which they write data as well as relatively small and thin. If operating for extended periods of time, hard drives can also get hot, meaning the board must be able to withstand high temperatures. The boards in hard drives are often credited with enabling to last as long as they do.

2. Flexible PCBs in Automotive Electronics
When it comes to modern automobiles, the majority of their electronic hardware uses flexible printed circuit boards. This includes EMUs (engine management units or computers), anti-lock braking systems, air bag controllers, instrument panels and dash systems and much more.

3. Flexible PCBs In Smartphones
Smartphones are perfect candidates for flexible circuit boards. They are handheld, so they need to remain small, lightweight and portable. A single, thin-layer board is needed to connect and sync up all core components.

4. Flexible PCBs in the Medical Field
Flex PCBs are crucial for pharmaceutical and medical applications, especially when those circuits must survive extreme conditions inside human body.

Flex-Rigid PCB Applications
1. Flex-Rigid PCBs In Medical Wearables
Wearable devices have exploded in recent years due to the popularity of fitness trackers and smartwatches. Other wearables include smart clothes, rings and jewelry and medical devices. In the medical field, it's extremely important that doctors remain informed about their patients at all times. This could entail monitoring heart rates, breathing patterns and more. Modern wearables allow medical professionals to stay better informed about patients' health even when they're beyond the reach of doctor's office or hospital.

2. Industrial Applications of Flex-Rigid PCBs
Flex-rigid PCBs help industrial equipment to operat under consistently stressful conditions and allows for more flexibility in machinery design. They're used in radio frequency communication technology, power distribution control circuits and many other types of equipment across industrial sector.

Flex-rigid board design allows sensors to be much smaller and thinner than they could be with rigid boards. This opens up new opportunities in the industrial space for how these sensors can be used. For instance, the ideal location for these sensors could be a small or irregularly-shaped space that they couldn't fit in without the use of a more flexible or smaller component.

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