A PCB (Printed Circuit Board) is an inherent accessory of all electronic gadgets. It provides mechanical support as well as electrically attaches electronic constituents using various conductive pathways. A major and widely used form of PCB is a rigid-flex PCB. It effectively combines the best features of both rigid and flexible circuits. In the last few years, its demand has increased manifold as it offers a plethora of advantages over a traditional rigid or flexible board. It is used in all electronic devices ranging from simple remotes controllers to complex devices like in aerospace, military equipment, and medical devices.
Among all other advantages, it is light in weight, easy to assemble and repair, less expensive, emits less electronic noise, and enhances the reliability, performance, and flexibility of electronic devices. Hence, its use in both simple and sophisticated electronic applications is increasing day by day.
What is a Rigid-Flex PCB?
A rigid-flex PCB is manufactured by combining the technologies of both flexible and rigid boards. It often consists of multiple layers of flexible circuit substrates connected to one or more rigid boards externally and/or internally, depending upon the nature of the application. Because of multiple flexible layers, a Rigid-Flex PCB gives the shape of spring and you can compress or stretch it as per the requirements.
Advantages of a Rigid-Flex PCB
It offers a plethora of advantages to the customers and can be used in all types of electronic systems, be it commercial, domestic, or industrial. Some of the significant benefits you can accrue from a rigid-flex PCB, irrespective of its size, are:
Reduced Packaging Size
The rigid-flex PCB is used in product miniaturization due to its compacted size. It can easily be manufactured to fit in small electronic devices and hence it is used to design a number of sophisticated circuits. Recently, all the electronic devices ranging from small remote controllers to highly complex aerospace systems are designed to be smaller in size and flexible, so it fully serves the requirement of proper connection of small components. It can be bent or folded to fit into smaller devices. Also, it is lighter in weight due to the smaller size.
Emit Less Electronic Noise
A rigid-flex PCB is manufactured to minimize the electronic noise in an application. Noise is typically produced by radiation emissions in electronic devices. However, the components of a rigid-flex PCB are manufacturers in such a way so as to bring the radiation emission to minimal. Similarly, less radiation and electric current lead to reduced electromagnetic waves, and as a result, the noise produced by the components is lessened significantly.
Offers Flexibility in Design
Since it contains multiple layers of flexible circuits, a rigid-flex PCB offers increased flexibility to fit into any smaller device. In other words, you don’t need to specifically design a device according to the specifications of the PCB as in the case of a rigid board. Its corners are generally flexible to provide a flexible connection. You can also add rigidness in its design when extra mechanical support is required.
Convenience in Repair & Maintenance
The simple design of a Rigid-Flex PCB makes its repair & maintenance not a difficult and cumbersome task, unlike any rigid or flexible circuit. The designer marks all the components which make it easy for a technician to assemble or dissemble a rigid-flex board when required. Similarly, its signal paths are also clearly exposed and well-arranged. Hence, it is easy to detect the fault in a rigid-flex board and ultimately to repair it during any routine maintenance cycles.
Increases Reliability of Circuit
No solder joints or connections are used in its design, eliminating the need for any delicate wirings that can lead to connection issues. Hence, its connection reliability increases significantly due to fewer points of potential failures. Also, ductile nature and less weight of its flexible circuits, a rigid-flex board also improves the performance of electronic applications due to the reduced impact of vibration and shocks among its components. It also contributes to less premature circuit failures. That is why all the advanced and sophisticated electronic applications employ rigid-flex PCB.
What you need to do is choose a professional rigid-flex PCB company that understands your requirements and collaborates with your circuit board designer to manufacture perfect rigid-flex boards.
Reduced Cost of Manufacturing
Due to the smaller size, and fewer connections, it requires less material to assemble a Rigid-Flex PCB. Also, it has fewer parts and connector assemblies that not only increase the yield but also the purchasing and assembly costs of the final product. The reduced number of connections also eliminates risks within the supply chain of an electronic device. Simply put, logistical and assembly costs are significantly reduced with Rigid-Flex PCB.
Withstands High Temperature and Aggressive Conditions
Since polyimide of high thermal stability is used in the designing of a Rigid-Flex PCB, it can withstand high temperatures. That is why it is a credible choice for sophisticated applications for military and defense purposes. It retains the best features of both rigid and flex boards, and hence it demonstrates extreme resistance to ultraviolet and other radiation exposures, harmful chemicals, and harsh oils. Moreover, it can also withstand extreme shocks and vibrations, and other harsh industrial conditions.
Rigidity in Movement
Solder flux is employed to fix all the parts of a Rigid-Flex PCB. The parts are designed to remain static under severe outside conditions like shocks and vibrations. So, it is a perfect option to be used in devices that are prone to excessive movement and vibrations during their application.
Due to the aforementioned advantages, Rigid-Flex PCBs are used in the design of almost every type of modern electronic applications ranging from aerospace, military equipment, automotive sectors, and other smart devices. It ensures reliability, durability, and long-lasting results in terms of the performance of electronic applications.