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Flexible PCBFlex Printed Circuit Board

From prototype to flexible PCB manufacturing, MCL has you covered for all your flexible PCB and rigid-flex PCB needs. Our knowledge and experience manufacturing this specific type of board gives us a competitive edge in the PCB industry. We also require no minimum product amounts on orders and always promise the best price and customer service.

To get started working with MCL, contact us today to request a quote.
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Flex PCB Benefits

There are some pretty amazing benefits to using flexible PCB’s. These include:

  • Reduced Space and Weight: Most of the advantages associated with flexible PCBs come from their low volume and weight. In fact, using a flexible PCB instead of a rigid PCB can result in a space reduction of over 50 percent and a weight reduction of 95 percent, while simultaneously maintaining the function and reliability of the circuit.
  • Durability: The flexibility, reduced weight and reduced number of interconnects in PCBs allow them to handle changing external forces and improve their resistance to shock and vibration.
  • Signal Integrity: Flexible PCBs work in a wide range of environments, so signals will continue to perform smoothly despite exterior conditions. This improves the PCB’s signal reliability.
  • Higher Density: The thin layers and smaller parts mean that flexible PCBs are capable of supporting higher circuit densities.
  • Minimized Errors: Due to the elimination of mechanical connectors and reduced variations in assembly methods, flexible PCBs experience reduced wiring errors.
  • Low Cost: Because of the fewer assembly steps involved in the creation of flexible PCBs, they tend to be relatively low-cost.
  • Heat Dissipation: The thinner material of flexible PCBs allows for a greater surface-area-to-volume ratio, improving heat dissipation.

Flex PCB MaterialsMaterials for Flex Circuits 

 

Flexible circuits come in single-sided, double-sided and multi-layer forms, each of which requires a variety of materials to function. The materials that MCL works with include both custom and branded materials from trusted. A few of the materials you can choose from include:

  • Adhesives: The requirements of an application, as well as the dimensions of the conductor involved, tend to guide adhesive selection. Some of the most popular adhesives on the market include acrylics, epoxies, Pressure Sensitive Adhesives (PSAs) and adhesive-free base materials.
  • Finishes: You can choose from a variety of final finishes to meet the requirements of your project. A few of the finishes you can choose from include carbon, gold, hard nickel, tin, silver and even organic materials. Each option creates different results and is best suited to different applications, so be sure to consult with MCL on the best finish for your needs.
  • Insulators: Insulators are a must, and you’ll need the right insulation material to match your PCB. The wrong insulator might result in PCB failure in the long-term. PCB insulators combine coverlay materials and flexible substrates in a variety of form factors and thicknesses. Some of the most-used insulators include Flexible Solder Masks, Photo Imageable Coverlays, Polyester, Polyethylene Naphthalate (PEN), Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET), Polyimides, Screen-Printed Dielectric Insulators and Solder Masks.

We recommend you contact us directly in order to determine the best material for your PCB needs. Below are a few more options for you to consider ahead of making that call.

Advanced Features

Since the introduction of the technology half a century ago, the flex circuit market has continued to expand. With that expansion, advances in the technology have grown as well, including:

  • Graphic Overlays: Graphic overlays are acrylic or polyester covers for PCBs that provide a type of user interface with the circuit underneath. These overlays often include LEDs, LCD displays and switches, which allow the user to interact with the PCB in the desired fashion.
  • Hot Bar Solder: A hot bar solder connection is an alternative to a standard connection, eliminating the need for a connector between a hardboard and flex circuit. The result is a more efficient and durable connection that is less expensive.
  • Laser Skived Slots and Holes: In the past, razors were used to cut flex circuits, and the success of this process was dependent upon the person cutting the lines. With modern lasers, however, lines can be cut with extreme precision and control, resulting in even finer circuit designs in flexible PCBs.
  • Panelization: This process involves assembling PCBs in large panels of multiple units. It can expedite the assembly process substantially, especially in “Pick-and-Place” assembly lines. Once the units are assembled, all you need to do is break the groups apart.
  • Pressure Sensitive Adhesives: Called PSAs for short, pressure sensitive adhesives are used by removing a protective liner and pressing an object into the adhesive to secure it. This material is often used in PCB applications to secure a portion of a circuit in place without soldering.
  • Shielding: Electromagnetic interference has historically been a problem, especially in applications where electronics are particularly sensitive to interference. Improved shielding technology has made this less of an issue in recent years, reducing noise and controlling signal line impedance.
  • Stiffeners: FR4 and polyamide stiffeners are often added to flex circuits in areas where the circuit may need more support, such as connection areas. This improves the strength and longevity of the circuit.

Printed Circuit Board FlexWhat Are Flexible PCBs Used For?

A flex PCB is essentially the same thing as a non-flex board except the flexible PCB uses a flexible based material to make its circuit connections. This is most helpful for products that will likely not be stationary devices. The durability and size of flexible PCBs, as well as the shrinking sizes of electronics, has resulted in their adoption by a growing number of industries. Just a few of these industries and applications include:

  • Automobiles: With the automotive industry increasingly turning toward electronic components, circuits that can handle the vibrations and stresses of a vehicle’s interior are more important than ever. Flexible PCBs offer a valuable option for the industry, providing a durable yet cost-effective option.
  • Consumer Electronics: Flexible PCBs are typically used in small electronic products like cell phones, tablets, cameras, video recorders and other similar smaller gadgets on the market today. These products may be transported or handled regularly, making the flexible PCB’s resistance to shock and vibration a useful feature.
  • High-Speed Digital, RF and Microwave Applications: The reliability of flexible PCBs makes them ideal for handling high-frequency signals.
  • Industrial: Industrial electronics often handle massive amounts of vibration and stress, so flexible PCBs with shock absorption and anti-vibration capabilities are a must.
  • LED: LED lighting is massively popular today in both residential and commercial applications. This is primarily because of LED technology’s incredible power efficiency. Heat is often the only concern, which can be mitigated with flexible PCBs and their effective heat transfer properties.
  • Medical Systems: Small and dense electronic designs are becoming increasingly important in the medical industry, with handheld surgical technology and even electronic implants growing in popularity. Flexible PCBs can be applied in both cases, meeting the durability and size requirements of surgical technology and the necessary flexing ability for implants.
  • Power Electronics: Another benefit of flexible PCBs is that they can be coupled with highly flexible, thin layers of copper, which means the board can handle heavier power currents. This is especially important in devices that will require more power to operate at full capacity, like those found in the power electronics industry.

Flex printed circuit boards can address most of the issues facing today’s engineers. If you’re looking for an improved stretch, broader flexibility and simple use with leading packaging changes, it’s time to talk to us about flex PCBs. Whether you need single-sided flex boards or multi-layer high-reliability boards, we ensure your finished product will be of the highest quality.

Types of Flexible Circuits

As your leading flexible PCB supplier, MCL offers you some of the most robust flexible circuit designs on the market. There are five main types of flex circuits, from single to multi-layer options, that can also include more rigid designs. Here is a brief overview of each of the five main flexible circuit options:

  • Single-Sided Flexible Circuits: This design includes a single conductive copper layer that can be bonded between two layers of insulation or built with one polyimide insulating layer and an uncovered side. The interior copper layer then goes through a chemical etching process, producing the circuit design. Single-sided flexible PCB board designs support the inclusion of components, connectors, pins and stiffeners.
  • Single-Sided Flexible Circuits with Dual Access: Some single-sided flexible PCBs have a dual-access design that allows you to access the conductive material from both sides of the circuit. This design function requires a flexible PCB and specialized layers to create access for the single copper layer through the polyimide layer of the base material.
  • Double-Sided Flexible Circuits: Double-sided flexible circuits feature two conductive layers with a layer of polyimide insulation between them. The conductive layer’s outer sides can be either exposed or have covers, like a copper pad. Layers are connected typically by plated through-holes, but other methods can be used. Like the single-sided flexible circuits, the double-sided flexible PCBs can support additional elements such as pins, connectors and stiffeners.
  • Multi-Layered Flexible Circuits: Going beyond the single- and double-sided flexible PCB boards is the multi-layered flexible circuit. These circuits combine multiple single- and double-sided circuits, connecting three or more flexible conductive layers with insulating layers between each. Outer layers for these units typically have covers, while a copper-plated through-hole often runs through the entire thickness of these flexible circuits. Multi-layered flexible circuits are the best solution to get around crossovers, crosstalk and impedance and shielding requirements.  There are multiple design options for multi-layered circuits — for example, like FR4, multi-layer flex boards can be built using blind and buried vias. Additionally, the layers of a multi-layered circuit might be continuously laminated for added protection, though this step is usually skipped if flexibility is the highest priority.
  • Rigid-Flexible Circuits: Rigid-flexible circuits have a slightly different design than those listed above and tend to cost more than other flexible PCB options, but they serve a similar purpose as most other PCBs. These models tend to use two or more conductive layers, but the insulation material sandwiching each conductive element can be either a rigid or flexible insulation. They’re differentiated from multi-layered circuits because they feature conductors on rigid layers, offering greater strength than similar units that only rely on stiffeners. This has made rigid-flex circuits particularly desirable in military and aerospace industries.

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As you can see, flex PCBs are not limited to single sided designs — MCL can produce double-sided and even multi-layer flexible PCB boards for your more complex layouts, providing you with a greater range of possibilities in connections compared to typical FR4 board designs. Contact us to speak with a representative about which type of design is best suited for your particular application.

 

Why MCL?

 

Your equipment needs to run correctly every time it’s used, or you could face reduced profits and customer trust, killing your revenues. Whether you’re running your own machines or supplying others, every minute of downtime can cause long-term business repercussions that will cost you.

MCL is here to help your business. As one of the most capable, most experienced PCB suppliers in the United States, we’ll deliver superior products and excellent customer service every time. MCL is the place for all of your PCB needs, regardless of volume. Also, be sure to browse the other products we offer besides flexible PCBs, including metal core PCBs, heavy copper boards and other PCB products

Still in the development phase? We offer time-critical prototypes to meet your needs, and our team of professional consultants can work with you to help you figure out the best option for you to move forward.

Please contact MCL today to discuss your upcoming project. Be sure to ask us about our guaranteed service, attractive pricing and multiple manufacturing options designed to meet your budget. Our award-winning customer service team is standing by to provide you with the solution you need for your PCB production and assembly project. Call us at 717-558-5975 or click here to contact us online.

Contact MCL today

 

See MCL’s other products: Metal Core PCB’s,, Heavy Copper Boards and Other PCB Products[/message]

PCB Glossary

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Harrisburg, Pa. 17111
Phone: 717.558.5975
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