Flexible (flex) circuits have been growing in popularity and use in the last decade although the idea is not new. The earliest prototype of a flex circuit board was patented in 1903 and described by Albert Hansen as metal conductors being affixed to paraffin coated paper. Flex circuits are considerably more sophisticated today, but the idea has allowed for the development of life-enriching electronic products.
Its predecessor, the rigid circuit board, has one main disadvantage. Formed by laminating copper over fiberglass then covered by a solder mask layer and finally a silkscreen layer, the board cannot be reshaped or modified, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been vital. Rigid PCBs are used commonly in computers, AC/DC power converters, vending machines, cars, HVAC systems, toys, and GPS devices just to name a few.
Flex circuits are made by applying the metallic traces, usually copper, onto a flexible substrate, usually polyimide. The types of flexible printed circuits include:
- Single sided circuit
- Double sided circuit
- Multi-layer circuit
- Rigid flex circuit
- Maxi flex
- Catheter flex
- Sculptured flex circuits
Flexible PCBs solve many problems that rigid PCBs can’t, including:
Saving Weight and Space
– Flex PCBs have a volume of about 70% less than rigid circuits.
Making Dynamic Flexing Possible
– Flex circuits can withstand continuous movement.
Making Installation and Maintenance Easier
– They can be moved and even bent or twisted without damaging the conductor.
– A flex PCB can continue to function after millions of repetitions of movement.
Streamlining Product Design
– Smaller, lighter flex PCBs open up a world of options for portable, wearable products.
Upgrading Thermal Management
– Flex PCBs have a higher melting point and dissipate heat better to protect components.
– Flex PCBs are less expensive to produce than rigid PCBs.
In short, electronic products can now be smaller, lighter, and more functional. Flexible circuit boards are currently used in anti-lock brakes, cameras, airbag systems, barcode equipment, and medical equipment like ultrasound imaging, but they are opening doors to new innovations like fitness trackers, heart monitors, and smartwatches. It has been predicted that about 440 million wearables will be sold and shipped in 2024 guaranteeing a place for flexible circuit boards in the future. BESTProto is ready to meet this challenge and to provide PCB services. Contact us for more information about our services.