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What Can Damage Flexible Printed Circuit Boards?

Flexible printed circuit board (PCB) damage can relate to one of two types of factors — environmental and manufacturing. By partnering with a dependable supplier, you can protect your flexible PCB from these risks.

Environmental Factors That Can Cause Flexible PCB Damage

The following environmental factors can damage flexible circuit boards:

  • Moisture: When moisture crosses two channels on a PCB, it can result in circuit board failure. A moist or humid environment can cause a PCB to come into contact with water. In addition, moisture can encourage the growth of mold, another factor for PCB damage.
  • Static electricity: Fabric and carpet surfaces can create small static electricity charges that can cause severe PCB damage. In fact, a static charge can blow an entire etch off of a circuit board.
  • Dust: Dust in a PCB can lead to damage due to its behavior as an insulator. In operating electronics, it reduces a flexible PCB’s ability to dissipate heat, resulting in high temperatures that lead to thermal stress.
  • Extreme temperature: Both extreme cold and extreme heat can harm a flexible PCB. Heat can warp its substrate, leading to broken linkages that impede current.
  • Chemical exposure: Chemical materials can corrode a PCB, even in the form of fumes. PCB corrosion due to chemicals often happens in situations where the user stores electronics with cleaning supplies. The fumes from the cleaning supplies end up corroding the PCB over time.
  • Pest exposure: In warehouses and other types of storage areas, animals such as mice and rats can damage electronics holding PCBs. An improperly stored flexible PCB can become part of a nest or an item for chewing.

Manufacturing and Handling Errors That Can Damage Flexible PCBs

During manufacturing and handling, the following issues can cause flexible PCB damage:

  • Physical force: While flexible PCBs resist more impact than rigid PCBs, they still need protection from physical force. Dropping or crushing a flexible PCB can result in damage to parts like surface-mount components.
  • Trace damage: Trace damage in flexible PCBs can have many causes. Power surges, lightning strikes and contamination from metallic dust can all harm PCB traces.
  • Faulty components: A faulty PCB component can damage a circuit board by working incorrectly. In some cases, the component fails to protect the PCB from damage through heat dissipation. Some situations involve direct damage from the component due to corrosion or a voltage surge.
  • Design and manufacturing errors: Flexible PCBs require careful design and manufacturing to work reliably when bent. Improper circuit routing and material can prevent a flexible PCB from holding up to the physical stress of bending.

Improve Flexible Circuit Board Integrity With MCL

At Millennium Circuits Limited, we only supply PCBs manufactured and stored using proper techniques. For more information about our flexible PCBs, contact us online today.

If you need assistance with your flexible PCB’s DFM files, you can also consider our free file check. To learn whether your design puts your PCB at risk for damage, upload your files to our service.

PCB Glossary

  • Files: Gerber

    Our Industry standard format for files used to generate artwork necessary for circuit board imaging. MCL’s preferred Gerber format is 274X, which embeds the apertures within the specific files (see Aperture information). If files are not saved in 274X, MCL will need “One” aperture list sent with the files.