Flexible Circuit Boards Contribute to Consumer Electronics

If you’ve ever flipped open the lid on your computer, laptop or mobile phone, you’ve seen the power of flexible circuit boards. They’re responsible for making modern consumer electronics smaller and lighter without sacrificing their functionality. In fact, any electronic device you use today contains flexible circuit boards. These lightweight, durable and versatile PCBs are key to reducing the size of an electronic device and improving its performance, lifespan and quality.

Unlike standard PCBs, which typically have a base made of fiberglass or metal, flex circuit boards’ cores consist of a flexible polymer material. Using this material ensures the flexibility of the board and protects it from damage during assembly, shipping, handling or use. To create a flexible circuit board, manufacturers start by printing on a polymer film. Conductor layers, made from copper, are printed onto this film, and protective solder masks and silk screens are applied on top of them.

Then, an adhesive is used to bind these layers together and make them durable enough for manufacturing, assembly and shipping. A flexible insulator is then placed on the conductive layer to protect it from damage. Finally, the insulator is laminated on top of the adhesive to prevent it from delaminating due to the heat generated during manufacturing and assembly.

How Flexible Circuit Boards Contribute to Consumer Electronics

Flexible circuit boards can be designed with single-sided or double-sided conductor patterns. Single-sided flex circuits have their conductive copper pattern on one side of the circuit, leaving the other side free to hold different components. This design allows for shorter thermal routes, better heat dispersal and a more compact layout.

On the other hand, double access flex circuits have a single conductor layer and allow you to access specific features of that layer from both sides. This is ideal for higher-powered, high-frequency designs.

Another important aspect of a flexible circuit board is its ability to withstand bending and folding. Manufacturers achieve this by routing the conductive copper lines in a way that reduces stress and enables the flex circuit to bend and fold easily without damaging it. In addition, they use a thicker insulator to protect the conductors from damage.

The most significant advantage of a flexible circuit board is its weight reduction, which reduces the overall weight and size of the device. This is especially crucial for portable devices, such as laptops and mobile phones. It also helps to improve fuel efficiency and battery life in motor vehicles.

In the past, automobiles relied on expensive wiring harnesses to connect all of the various electronic components in the car. These cables could weigh up to 10 pounds, which would have made a car too heavy and bulky to carry around. Now, however, a standard PCB and wiring harness can be replaced with a flex circuit that’s less than half the weight. Consequently, cars can go further on a tank of gas and consumers can enjoy more comfort when traveling long distances. This is why flex PCBs have become so popular and ubiquitous in consumer electronics.