What’s the difference between rigid-flex PCB and flex PCB with FR4 stiffener?

In the production of FPC, normally we need to add different stiffener to meet the total thickness or hardness, such as PI stiffener, FR4 stiffener and stainless steel stiffener. But the FR4 stiffener after laminated is very similar to the rigid-flex PCB, especially there are also have drilling holes in FR4 stiffener.

Do you know how to identify FR4 stiffener and rigid-flex PCB? Please refer to the below picture. On flex PCB, you can see there are many PTH holes, maybe these boards are need to insert connectors and connect it to other products. So they need the hardness in this area.

From the left sample, we added the FR4 materials on bottom side, there are also have vias on stiffener, but no copper in vias, so this is FR4 stiffener. It can only increase the hardness of flex. From the right sample, the green part are still FR4 materials, but we plated copper for all vias, so it’s a rigid-flex PCB.

FR4 stiffener VS Rigid-flex PCB

Rigid-flex board has many production processes, high production difficulty, low yield rate, so its price is relatively expensive and the production cycle is relatively long than flex PCB. If the FPC with FR4 stiffener can meet your requirements, then it would be a better choice for you.

If you have any other question about stiffener or rigid-flex PCB, please feel free to contact us at sales@bestfpc.com

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Flex Circuit Specific Terms and Definitions

Recently, I was having a few discussions with someone very new to flex design. I was trying to be helpful and going through several things that are specific to flex and rigid flex design which should be considered as you start your first design. So, this blog is written for those of you who are new to flex and rigid flex, and may be unfamiliar with some of the terms that get volleyed around in conversation.

Flexible Circuit(flex pcb, pcb flex, flexible pcb, flex circuits):  

A pattern of conductive traces bonded on a flexible substrate. There are several different substrates available, the most common being polyimide. Different than rigid materials, these laminates will have rolled annealed (RA) copper for improved flexibility.

flex pcb
flex pcb

Rigid-Flex PCB(rigid flexible pcb):  

This is a hybrid construction, using flex materials in areas that need to bend or flex and rigid materials in areas with dense component areas, surface mount components on both sides of the PCB, and applications with higher layer count, dense routing areas.  Most common rigid materials can be incorporated into a rigid flex construction.

rigid flex pcb
rigid flex pcb

Flex Tails:  

Typically refers to the areas of flex extended out past the rigid portions of the rigid flex. This may be one flex region, or several bands of flex areas that extend in various directions. Rigid flex is often used to solve packaging issues and connect on multiple planes. Flex tails enable this.

Banding:  

Often used to accommodate a shorter flexible area if there is no room for a service loop. Instead of using the full width of the flex region between areas for each inner layer, the area can be divided into smaller bands of equal width for each inner layer, eliminating buckling and stress in that area.                                                                   

Pouch:  

This is a protective barrier material often used in rigid-flex fabrication. Often, this is a coverlay material used to protect exposed flexible materials during processing and is removed from the flexible portion of the board before shipment.

Coverlay:  

A layer of insulating material applied to the flexible circuit to insulate the conductor pattern. Coverlay is typically a layer of polyimide with acrylic adhesive. Film based coverlay is much more flexible than cover-coat materials and highly recommended for dynamically flexing applications or flex that will have a tight bend radius. It is important to be sure to spec enough adhesive to fully encapsulate the copper conductors.

Bend Radius:  

This is the ratio of the bending radius measured to the inside of the bend to the overall thickness in that area.  Typically, recommendations for non-dynamically flexing designs is 10:1 for single and double-sided construction, and 20:1 for multilayer construction. These can be exceeded but should be evaluated carefully. Dynamically flexing applications should be discussed with your fabricator for a recommended stack up.

I always wrote a blog about how to calculate the bending radius of fpc.

Button Plate:  

Fabrication process to selectively electroplate copper to vias and onto the pads capturing the vias. The remaining copper traces do not have electrodeposited copper, increasing the flexibility of the circuit.

I-Beam Effect:  

Stacking conductors on adjacent layers directly on top of one another, increasing the stiffness of the circuit in the bend or fold areas. Staggered conductors are recommended if possible, to retain the maximum flexibility of the circuit.

I hope this helps explain some of the common terminology with flex and rigid-flex materials and design. Please reach out to me with any questions for further information!

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We will be exhibiting at electronica Munich 2020

Best Technology, a China- based assembly manufacturer will be exhibiting at electronica Munich 2020 in Bavaria, Germany at booth No. 623(Hall B1) from November 10, 2020 to November 13, 2020(Western Time). Actually, we have participated in this exhibition for continuous 2 years. Here are some pictures for your reference.

pcb exhibition
pcb exhibition
pcb exhibition
pcb exhibition
pcb exhibition
pcb exhibition
pcb exhibition
pcb exhibition

At our exhibition booth, attendees will be able to learn more about our company for PCB manufacturing and PCB assembly technology.

For interested professionals, Best Technology had on hand experts to offer detailed insights and experience on PCB assembly, covering PCB prototype and low/high-volume production. For more information on PCB assembly and fabrication, welcome to visit our booth.

You will see 10mm to 1,500 mm flexible circuit board, from 2 layer rigid-flex circuit to 50 layers, 1/2 OZ copper to 3 OZ, 0.15mm extra thin FR4 PCB to 30 OZ heavy copper, turn-key service from components sourcing,board fabrication(FPC, PCB, MCPCB, Ceramic PCB) and final assembly with programming and testing and metal dome that is used in conjunction with a printed circuit board, flex circuit, or membrane, become normally-open tactile switches. we have four types of metal domes: four legs with size from 5mm-20mm; triangle with size 4mm-12mm; round dome with size 4-16mm, oblong dome with size 3.7mm-58.1mm, and we also make dome with adhesive, named dome array.

You are warmly welcome to see how we can manage the components wastage and efficiency to help save your time, money and energy.

About electronica Munich:

Electronica is the international trade show for electronic components, systems and applications and shows the full range in all its diversity in width and depth as the world’s leading trade fair. It reflects the high degree of innovation throughout the industry. Exhibitors and users in the areas of systems, applications and technologies of electronics can receive the information of the latest innovations and developments in the fields of system peripherals, power engineering to printed circuit boards or EMS.

Welcome to visit us at Booth 623 from November 10, 2020 to November 13, 2020(Western Time).

electronica 2020
electronica 2020

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Copper Thickness Requirements for Flex Circuits

If an end user will specify the copper thickness of a printed circuit, there must be many reasons. For example, current carrying capacity, but copper thickness also directly impacts thermal performance and impedance. All these are vital properties, which have a great influence on the functionality and reliability of a flexible circuit.

flexible circuits
flexible circuits

At the point, it is important to understand the functional needs driving a copper thickness requirement.

Some of the common functional requirements could be:

1.Minimum thickness in a connector area to assure robust contact.

2.Adequate current carrying capacity directly related to the cross sectional area of the trace.

3.Proper conductivity, a function of cross sectional area and metal type of the trace.

4.Proper impedance in high speed circuits driven by the cross sectional area of the copper, the surrounding dielectric constant, and distance from signal trace to ground plane.

5.Thermal properties directly related to metal type and trace profile.

Copper weight is used in the industry as a “thickness” measurement. Circuit manufacturers commonly purchase copper foil with descriptions of Âœ ounce, 1 ounce, 2 ounce and so on. The number is the weight of copper in a square foot of foil. Also, +/- 10% is the industry accepted tolerance for copper foil thickness from the material supplier.

flexible pcb
flexible pcb

Drawing specifications will frequently define a flexible PCB copper thickness using weight. For example “circuit to be 1 ounce copper”. This can lead to some ambiguity, as copper plating on double sided circuits can easily add an ounce of copper to the surface of a trace. So by specifying thickness in this fashion, it is not clear if this is intended as a finished thickness or an original thickness. Additionally, controlled impedance designs work best when copper plating is restricted to the vias with no copper plated on the surface of the traces. This will minimize trace thickness variability and suggests a specific product category requiring a process known as “Pads Only Plating” or “Button Plating”. For controlled impedance designs, one of these terms should be called out in the drawing notes.

What affects final copper thickness is the variety of manufacturing processes that add or subtract copper thickness. Micro-etching is a common “cleaning” process used to prepare a surface for plating or coating. This process removes a small amount of copper. Likewise copper plating will add thickness. The circuit fabricator will directly measure added (or subtracted) thickness in mils (1 mil =.001”) or microns (25 ÎŒm=.001”).

The most accurate method for determining thickness is to do a micro section. This is a destructive test, so it is common to use coupons located in unused areas of the processing panel. These coupons are located and sized to be “representative” of the circuitry copper thickness. Copper thicknesses will vary slightly across a panel depending on current density from electroplating. Current density can be a function of the copper trace pattern so differences among various part numbers will occur. As a general rule, copper plating thickness will tend to be thinner on the outer edges of the panel and thicker toward the center.

In summary, when defining the specific copper thickness for an application it is highly recommended to start with a discussion of the myriad functional requirements. Also, the manufacturer can help recommend copper thicknesses and tolerances as well as the best methods for measurement.

Best Technology is the professional vendor of flex circuits, from 1 layer to 10 layers, 2 layers rigid-flex circuits to 16 layers rigid-flex circuits, and one-stop service including components purchasing, assembly, IC programming, testing. Choose us, you can always enjoy our best service at a good price.

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FPC Coverlay Opening FAQ

Since electronic products tend to be shorter, smaller, lighter and thinner, flex pcb is more and more popular with people and the demand is increasing.

FPC coverlay is a functional film normally used in PCB industry, and it is used to protect copper foil from oxidation, cover for surface treatment subsequently and play the role of solder mask in SMT process.

flex pcb
flex pcb

Speaking of fpc coverlay opening, that is, at bare copper foil point, open a hole in coverlay according to the shape of design solder pad, so that fpc traces or traces at golden finger or solder pad can be exposed, which contributes to subsequent surface treatment by connection and placement.

flex pcb
flex pcb

We often adopt 2 ways for fpc coverlay opening. One is to open a tool. This is the first choice, very suitable for production in large batch. The other is uv laser cutting, very suitable for prototyping and production in small batch.

These are what we have sorted out about fpc coverlay opening. Hope it is helpful to you. If you are still confused, please contact us, we have professional staff who can answer your inquires for 24 hours a whole day.  

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FPC Flexibility Influencing Factors

During PCB design, FPC flexibility plays an important part and FPC flexibility is influenced by the followings:

(1)From the perspective of FPC material itself, FPC flexibility is influenced by the followings:

First, molecular structure and direction of copper foil(i.e. copper foil types);

Folding strength of RA copper is obviously superior to ED copper.

Second, thickness of copper foil;

In terms of the same type, the thinner the copper foil, the better the folding strength.

Third, types of adhesive used by substrate;

flex pcb
flex pcb

As a general rule, the flexibility of epoxy glue is better than that of acrylic adhesive. So, if high flexible material is required, epoxy glue is recommended. Moreover, the adhesive with high tensile modules can improve flexibility.

Fourthly, the thickness of adhesive;

The thinner the adhesive, the softer the material. Thin adhesive can improve FPC flexibility.

Fifth, insulation substrate.

flex pcb
flex pcb

The thinner the insulation substrate(PI), the softer the material. Thin insulation substrate can improve FPC flexibility. And FPC flexibility will get better if PI with low tensile modules is used.

In conclusion, for material, type and thickness are the most important 2 factors influencing FPC flexibility.

(2)From the perspective of FPC technology, FPC flexibility is influenced by the followings

First, symmetry of FPC combination;

After substrate is pasted with coverlay, good symmetry of material on both sides of copper foil can improve flexibility. This is because they bear the same stress when bending. PI thickness on both sides of PCB tends to be the same, and thickness of adhesive on both sides of PCB tends to be the same.

Second, control of lamination technology.

During coverlay lamination, the adhesive is required to be completely filled into the middle of the trace, and there can be no delamination. If there is delamination, it is equivalent to bare copper bending, which will reduce the number of bending.

If you have any queries, comments or suggestions on FPC flexibility, feel free to contact us, and we have 24-hour online customer services.

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How to calculate bending radius of fpc?

 The most frequently asked question we received regarding fpc is “how much can I bend a fpc?” So, we would like to share how to calculate bending radius of fpc with you today.

fpc
fpc

When fpc is bending, the stress borne by both sides of center line is different. Pressure is inside of bending face, while tension is outside. The stress has something to do with thickness and bending radius of fpc. Excessive stress will lead to delamination of fpc, fracture of copper foil and so on.Therefore, the laminated structure of fpc should be arranged reasonably in the design, so that the lamination at both ends of the center line of the curved surface should be symmetrical as far as possible. At the same time, the minimum bending radius of fpc should be calculated according to different applications.

Situation: the minimum bending radius for single-sided fpc:

 Bending Radius for Single-sided fpc
Bending Radius for Single-sided fpc

  The calculation methodR=c/2[100-Eb/Eb]-D
WhereinR=Minimum Bending Radius(unit:”m); c=Copper Thickness(unit: ”m); D=Thickness of Coverlay(unit:”m); EB=Copper Elongation Desired(Measured as a Percentage)
Copper elongation desired also differs among various types of copper.

A.The maximum copper elongation desired for RA Copper ≀16

B.The maximum copper elongation desired for ED Copper ≀11

Moreover, value for copper elongation desired for the same material will be different in different applications. For one-time bending, the limit of the critical state of fracture is used (for RA Copper, the value is 16%). For bending installation design, use the minimum deformation value specified by IPC-MF-150 (10% for RA Copper).For dynamic flexible applications, copper elongation desired is 0.3%. For magnetic head applications, copper elongation desired is 0.1%. By setting the copper elongation desired, the minimum bending radius of fpc can be calculated.

Dynamic flexibility: In these applications, copper functions through deformation. For example, the phosphorus and copper metal dome in the IC card seat, i.e. the part where the IC card contacts with the chip after being inserted, and the metal dome is constantly deformed in the process of inserting. This kind of application is flexible and dynamic.
If you have any queries or comments on bending radius of fpc, contact us anytime.

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Do You Know the Materials Used for Constructing 6 Layer Rigid-Flex PCB?

A six layer Rigid-Flex PCBs, as the name implies, is manufactured using six conductive copper layers. However, do you know the materials used for constructing 6 layer rigid-flex PCB? Now let me lift the veil for you.

6 layers rigid flex pcb

6 layers rigid flex pcb

Base Materials – The most commonly used base materials for manufacturing 6 layer rigid-flex PCB is woven fiberglass impregnated with epoxy resin. The use of cured epoxy makes the board more rigid. Manufacturers also prefer Polyimide rather than normal epoxy resin to ensure extreme reliability in complicated applications. Polyimide is chosen due to their extreme flexibility, toughness, and heat resistance properties. Polyester (PET) is also another material of choice for the PCB fabrication. Manufacturers often choose the most suitable materials according to the specific application requirements of customers.

Films – Manufacturers prefer PET films for producing 6 layers rigid-flex PCB due to their corrosion and heat resistance properties. The thickness of PET films used for the PCB manufacturing vary from 1/3 mil to 3 mils.

Conductors – Copper is the most preferred conductor of choice for making 6 layer rigid-flex PCB and various types of copper are used according to the specific application requirements. Annealed copper is used when repeated creasing or movement of the flex circuit is demanded.

6 layers rigid flex PCB

6 layers rigid flex PCB

Adhesives – The use of high quality adhesive is crucial to make a fine bonding between the conductor and films. Acrylic or epoxy based adhesives are the most commonly used adhesives to achieve a firm bonding, while silicones, hot-melt glues, and epoxy resins can also be used for bonding.

Manufacturers who are very familiar with the properties of the aforementioned materials can conduct their mechanical design, evaluation and testing of the PCBs better. Therefore, a manufacturer who fabricates 6 layers rigid-flex PCB for the automobile industry must quite know the moisture, chemical, shock & vibration resistance properties of the materials used in the construction. This contributes to enhancing the durability of PCBs in the case of industrial specific applications.

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What Materials Are at the Forefront of Wearable Technology?

If you were to go to your doctor’s office today for a routine physical, the first five minutes would involve getting your blood pressure taken, taking your pulse, and getting your temperature. In the future, wearable technology may allow you to upload all of this crucial data to your doctor instantly from the devices and sensors already woven into your clothing or even tattooed on your body.

Wearable technology is evolving at a breakneck speed, with the help of advances in flexible printed circuit boards. One of the biggest challenges researchers and manufacturers face when devising wearable technology is creating materials that can flex and stretch while also maintaining conductivity and connections with the different circuits.

FPC in the wearable

FPC in the wearable

Developing just the right materials is a crucial piece in the future of wearable technology.

What Materials Work Best with Wearable Technology?

Wearable technology is a big category and includes everything from patches that can be layered onto skin to coats, shirts, and even sports bras. Each iteration of wearable technology offers unique challenges when finding the right materials.

Graphene

Graphene is a popular material choice, because it is an excellent conductor of electricity and also very flexible. Graphene offers an important alternative to wearables that rely on rigid components that can’t flex well. Researchers are actively experimenting with ways to blend graphene-based inks into cotton cloth.

Thermoplastics

Another option is the thermoplastic polyurethane, a highly adaptable plastic material. Already, a German company is using polyurethane to develop wearable skin patches that are breathable and hypoallergenic. Another thermoplastic polymere called polyethylene terephthalate (PET) offers excellent transparency, good flexibility, and is easy to fabricate.

Soft Silicones

The latest material innovations has been the development of soft silicone elastomers. Not only do these materials offer great flexibility, but they are prized for their ability to conform to a wide variety of shapes and textures. This puts them at the forefront of stretchable, wearable sensors. Some of the top soft silicone elastomers are: EcoFlexÂź, DragonSkinÂź, and SilbioneÂź.

The field of wearable technology materials is advancing at breakneck speed. Here at Best Technology, we are keeping on top of these trends so that we can continue providing the most advanced flexible printed circuit boards to our customers.

flexible circuits

flexible circuits

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Meeting Customers from Vietnam–Second Stop at the Flex PCB Factory

On October 18, 2018, Customers Son and Nguyen from Vietnam visited Best Technology. At first, they visited our office and would like to know more about the Flex PCB design. So they came to our Flex PCB factory for visiting.

Picture1: Watching the sample album of FPC

Picture1: Watching the sample album of FPC

During visiting the FPC factory, they learned more details about our workshop and the FPC manufacturing process.

Visiting the workshop of the factory

Picture2: Visiting the workshop of the factory

Visiting Flex PCB equipment

Picture3: Visiting Flex PCB equipment

After they knew the product and the manufacturing process in further, customers and we both believe that Best Technology is able to provide the most suitable products and the most satisfying service for our clients, to be customers’ best partner of Flexible Circuits in China!

Taking a photo

Picture4: Taking a photo

BEST always be your best choice of Flex PCB. And we hope the partnership can enhance our capability to supply our customers with good quality Flex PCBs.

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