Flex and Rigid-Flex PCBs for Portable Devices
When manufacturing portable devices, the design spotlight always shines on the printed circuit boards that will control the electronics and battery inside. Flex and rigid-flex PCBs address many of the design issues that appear when it comes to creating portable devices that are slim, small, and lightweight.
The technological needs of portable devices are felt throughout multiple industries. When we often talk about portable devices, we automatically think about the electronics that we use in our daily lives, such as smartphones, tablets, laptops, and smart watches. Yet, industries such as medical, military, food service, warehousing, construction, retail, and others are also relying on portable devices so workers can complete a variety of tasks. From medical devices used during surgeries to military radar devices, these electronics require high speeds, consistent reliability, and complex controls. Turning to highly experienced engineers and production workers who have worked with flex and rigid-flex PCBs for more than 25 years allows for customers to obtain the PCB for the specific portable device.
Flexible Circuits are Ideal for Portable Devices
Flexible and rigid-flex PCBs provide versatile solutions for customers who are looking to design electronics that will have space and weight limitations. All the working components must fit and function properly without causing friction or having wires and connections become tangled. Flexible circuits get past this issue by having fewer connections and parts. The copper traces are instead etched into the flexible polyimide substrate or flex rigid PTFE or FR-4 materials. This technique allows for the circuit board to flex and bend around working components. No extra space must be placed into the device's design while the customer receives a highly functional device that will suit the application.
In addition, polyimide materials can come in extremely small and light sizes, so, they won't add any unintended weight that can make the device too heavy to lift, carry, or use. Customers also can pack more functionality into the portable device based on the required specifications.
Design and Manufacturing for Flex and Rigid-Flex PCBs
Portable devices face unique design and manufacturing challenges. Customers may require a circuit board that offers flexibility while also needing something that can withstand the shocks and fluctuating environmental temperatures. While flexible PCBs can provide the flexibility aspect of the design, they may not be suitable for the shocks and temperature changes that will be experienced.
Epec understands the challenges that appear during the design and manufacturing phases. We've developed an enormous catalog and library consisting of the work we have done for various flex and rigid-flex PCB products, as we use this information and our experience to guide clients past these obstacles so that they can obtain the portable device that is needed. In many instances, we will suggest a rigid-flex PCB board for portable devices that will experience shocks and temperature changes.
With a rigid-flex board, the circuitry still has the bendability needed to fit into the device. At the same token, the rigid PCB sections offers more stability to the overall core substrate to handle the shocks and to ward off cracking. In addition, the materials used with the rigid board, such as PTFE and FR-4, can handle the temperature fluctuations that may be experienced in different environments.
Both flex and rigid-flex PCBs are not limited to only a single layer. We can provide multilayer circuitry for increased multi-functionality. Here at Epec, we invest in the manufacturing tools and equipment that will meet tolerance specifications.
- X-Ray Drilling
- Laser Drilling & Routing
- Laser Direct Imaging
- Plasma Etching
- Autoclave Lamination
- CNC/Optical Machining
Utilizing the proper equipment allows us to create tighter tolerances, greater control of drill depth, higher yield, and optimal lamination for all our rigid-flex and flexible PCBs. Based on the PCB requirements and the customer's budget, we will use the machines that will offer the highest rates of success and consistent repeatability for the specific PCB production process.
Applications for Flex and Rigid-Flex PCBs
The range of portable device applications that can obtain benefits from flexible and rigid-flex PCBs are numerous. Besides the commercial electronics of smartphones, cameras, and tablets, these circuit boards are found throughout the medical, aerospace, and military industries. Some applications include:
- Wireless controllers
- Cochlear implants
- GPS devices
- Handheld radar equipment
- Barcode scanners
Special Certification Considerations
Portable devices may require certifications that will adhere to all local, state, and federal regulations as well as country and industry standards. In Europe, China, and the United States, many electronic devices must adhere to the Restriction of Hazardous Substances in Electrical and Electronic Equipment (RoHs) legislation, except for medical devices and monitoring equipment. Companies in the medical and military industries also will require manufacturers to adhere to industry regulations to ensure the proper materials and manufacturing processes are followed to abide by quality controls. At Epec, our design and manufacturing facilities as well as are personnel are J-STD-001, ISO 9001, and IPCV Class III certified to provide superior capabilities for every customer's portable device project.