As the need for smaller and portable electronic devices arises with every new introduction of smaller devices, manufacturers were faced with the dilemma of fulfilling contradictory requirements while manufacturing integrated complex circuits into a finished application.
Since Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs) are the lifeline of every electronics product, their usage, durability and light structure are some of the parameters that could not be compromised when tinkered.
Keeping these parameters in mind, manufacturers also had to satisfy the market’s demand to present something new and smaller, that was no easy feat.
This led to the development of Flexible Printed Circuit Board or Flex PCB as it continues to grow with its wide applications in the electronics market like consumer, automotive, electro-medical devices, wearables, aerospace and telecom.
Flexible PCB Design and Manufacturing brought a sea of change in the world of PCB manufacturing as they revamped the legacy electrical interconnection techniques with their new manufacturing processes.
Flexible PCB Design possesses the unique feature of flexibility thus allowing the PCBs to be shaped, bent, twisted, and folded into limitless configurations.
Before getting a better understanding of the growing Flexible PCB Design market, let’s get a grasp of what Flexible PCB Design is all about.
Flexible PCB Design or Flex PCBs
Flexible PCBs or flex PCBs are typically flexible circuit boards that possess very thin substrates with high levels of tensile strength, flexibility and durability.
These PCBs can be easily molded into complex three-dimensional shapes such that they possess a wide range of applications according to the device performance like heads-up displays for aerospace piloting, wearable technology and many others.
Unlike normal PCBs or Rigid PCBs, Flexible PCB Design allows conductive tracks on a non-conductive substrate.
Normally, this type of circuit board uses a flexible base material like polyimide, therefore, allowing flexible circuits to withstand vibration, dissipate heat and the ability to fold up into a variety of shapes.
Due to its structural built, Flexible PCB is gaining fame in the electronics sector and is used in compact and innovative electronics.
Difference Between Rigid PCB Design & Flexible PCB Design
Apart from the most notable difference of flexibility and rigidity possessed by both types of PCBs as their name suggests, other differences between PCBs and flex circuits includes:
Conductive Material: Since Flexible PCBs have to be more flexible, manufacturers use more flexible rolled annealed copper as their conductive material.
Manufacturing Process: Unlike the manufacturing processes of using a solder mask in normal PCB, Flexible PCB Design manufacturers go through the process of overlay or coverlay to protect Flexible PCB Design exposed circuitry.
Typical Cost: Due to their vast difference in the manufacturing processes, Flexible PCB is more expensive to manufacture than rigid circuit boards.
Kinds of Flexible PCBs
Flexible PCB Design can be categorized according to its performance and usability and therefore these PCBs can be classified based on layers as well as configurations.
Flexible PCB: Based on Configurations
Rigid-Flex PCBs: Rigid Flex PCBs are typically a hybrid mix of flex and rigid PCBs that offers a series of rigid circuits, combined using flex circuits.
HDI Flexible PCBs: High-Density Interconnect or HDI in short, are perfect PCBs for applications requiring higher performance than typical Flexible PCBs. HDI flexible PCBs leverage thinner substrates, to reduce their sizes.
Flexible PCB: Based on Layers
Single-Sided Flexible Circuit Boards: One of the most basic types, these PCBs consist of a single layer of flexible polyimide film with a conductive copper layer that can be accessed from only one side.
Single-Sided Flexible Circuit Boards with Dual Access: Though single-sided, the copper sheet or the conductor material can be accessed from both sides.
Double-Sided Flexible Circuit Boards: As the name suggests, two layers of conductors on each side of the base polyimide layer are present in these types of PCBs.
Multi-Layered Flexible Circuits: This type of PCB is a combination of several double-sided and single-sided flexible circuits where they are interconnected through plated-through holes or are surface mounted.
Flexible PCB Design: Indian Market Scenario
Having one of the largest and fastest-growing consumer electronics markets, India is steadily stepping into the field of PCB manufacturing since rigid PCBs provide the base of every computer, laptop, and mobile phone, etc.
Though in its nascent stage, Flexible PCB Design Manufacturers are slowly gaining numbers in the Indian market under the steady initiatives of the government and their multiple schemes to promote India’s electronics market as the new hub.