Why the FPC can not use HASL surface treatment?

The hot air solder leveling is a technology developed for the coating of lead-tin on rigid printed circuit boards. Due to the simplicity of this technology, it is also applied to flexible printed board FPC. But we usually don’t suggest to use HASL and suggest to use ENIG.

In modern market, there are no FPC manufacturer will be use HASL surface to instead of ENIG. Although ENIG will be expensive than HASL. Attached the ENIG FPC and HASL FR4 PCB pictures for your reference, please kindly check it.

ENIG
HASL

The hot air leveling is to immerse the board directly in the molten lead-slot, and the excess solder is blown off by hot air. This condition is very demanding for the flexible printed board FPC. If the flexible printed board FPC cannot be immersed in the solder without any measures, the flexible printed board FPC must be clamped to the middle of the screen made of titanium steel. Then, it is immersed in the molten solder. Of course, the surface of the flexible printed board FPC is also cleaned and coated with flux.

Due to the harsh hot air leveling process conditions, it is easy for the solder to be drilled from the end of the cover layer to the underside of the cover layer, especially when the bond strength between the cover layer and the copper foil surface is low, and this phenomenon is more likely to occur frequently. Since the polyimide film is easy to absorb moisture, when the hot air leveling process is used, the moisture absorbing moisture will cause foaming or even peeling of the cover layer due to rapid heat evaporation, so it is necessary to dry and prevent moisture before the FPC hot air leveling management.

As we all know, the Gold is a better finish for the corrosive environment if it is clean going into the field. HASL will typically use a very corrosive flux to prepare the surface and if this is a lead free HASL or leaded it does not matter, both are susceptible to corrosion.

These must be very clean going into the fielded environment or just the residue from the HASL process can set up corrosion cells. The plating process for the gold finish is not as difficult to clean and the residues are typically very low even with RO water rinsing.

If you would like to learn more details or you have any different opinions, please feel free to contact us and let us know at sales@bestfpc.com

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Do you know the difference between ENIG and plating gold?

Before we point to the topic, I’d like to share one story with you first.

Recently, one of our customers, whose projects need ENIG(1u”) on whole surface, and we didn’t know these projects was strict with the gold surface on some special area. 

There are two pre-treatment for ENIG, one is gridding plating, another is sand blasting. At first, what we used is gridding plate, so when customer watched the gold surface can saw some cracks.

Gridding plate

To solve this issue, we suggested to try sand blasting ENIG pre-treatment. Compared with gridding plating, it only need slightly brush the plate. But it’s still cannot meet customer’s need.

Sand blasting

For normal design, change the surface treatment from ENIG(1u”) to gold plating can completely solve this issue. But in this design, the PADs on boards are separate, and there are in different gridding with outside. So gold plating is infeasible for this design.

Only when the inner PADs lie in same gridding with big copper plate, the gold plating is feasible.

So, let going to today’s the topic. What’s the difference between ENIG and plating gold?

  1. The difference in process.
  2. ENIG is called immersion gold, achieved by chemical deposit. Through an oxidation-reduction chemical reaction, it formed a layer of coating. It’s one of chemical nickel-gold depositing methods, can reach thicker gold layer.

It need pre-treatment gridding plating and sand blasting before immersion gold, need brush the board to enhance the adhesion between the board and the gold surface.

2)Gold plating use the principle of electrolysis, also known as electroplating. Needn’t pre-treatment before plating gold.

  • The difference in color.

ENIG is golden.

Plating gold will be slightly whiter (nickel color).

  • The difference in performance.

The crystal structure between ENIG and gold plating is different. Compared with plating gold, ENIG is easier to weld and will not cause bad welding.

The stress of ENIG is more easily controlled, for the products with bond, more conducive to the processing of the bond.

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Last but not least, as we mentioned at the beginning, if your project need plating gold, pls make sure these area need gold plating can connect with outside gridding.

Hope above information is helpful for you to know more about ENIG and plating gold.

If any further question, pls let us know.

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What should be paid attention to in the bending process of FPC?

Flexibility is the most obvious advantage for flex PCB, but we should maintain a degree during use, not just bend casually, so what should we pay attention to when bending?

BESTFPC1
bestfpc2
  1. Although the FPC can be bent, if it is bent at 180°, this may cause damage to the copper traces, and it lead to open or short circuits.
  • Most of the ink-type protective layer is not resistant to bend, such as text/silk screen, marking, solder mask, etc. It is strictly prohibited to have more than 90° bending action in the assembly process.
  • The corners of the FPC outline, which are prone to tearing during the assembly process, reminding users to pay attention to it.
  • The exposed part of the FPC is subjected to surface plating treatment, such as gold/gold plating, etc., the focus is on preventing oxidation. This area is not suitable for bending.
  • Although there is a stiffener design in the golden finger plug-in area, it is still not suitable for bending in this area. Special attention should be paid to the assembly process.
  • Do not bend directly on the via area of FPC.

If you have any design question about bending area, please feel free to contact us at sales@bestfpc.com. We will share more details about increasing the bending times soon.

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What we do to meet your impedance control?

Have you designed the flex pcb or rigid flex required the impedance control? Recently, there are more and more customers are required the impedance controlled circuits throughout the industry in a wide range of applications. And also need a minimum bend radius. It gives a big change to improve our production capability.

Attached a picture for 7 layers HDI rigid flex pcb and impedance control required picture for your reference, please kindly have a look at it.

Rigid flex with impedance control

Line widths and spacing, and the copper thickness of the flex layers interact to achieve the impedance values required. Normally, we will adjust the trace spacing and width to meet our customers impedance control requirements. Thinner copper allows for a thinner line width/spacing and a thinner flex core thickness. This results in a thinner flex area, which will have the highest degree of flexibility and the tightest min. bend capability. The minimum trace width and spacing we can make is 2/2 mil for flex pcb. If the customers are required 2/2mil trace width and spacing, we will use 1/3 oz Cu. The following are typical line width and spacing for the more common impedance values when using 1/2 OZ copper:

50 Ohm Single Ended: 0.004” line.

90 Ohm Differential Pair: 0.004” line/0.0055” spacing.

100 Ohm Differential Pair: 0.004” line/0.006” spacing.

120 Ohm Differential Pair: 0.0037” line/0.0075” spacing.

If 1 OZ copper is required, usually due to a higher current carrying requirement on non-impedance lines, the above line widths are not valid as a 0.004” line width is below the manufactured limit of 1 OZ copper. This requires the line widths/spacing as well as the flex core thickness to increase, which negatively impacts flexibility.

Polymide flex materials are very well suited for impedance-controlled designs. The material is homogenous, has a low DK (3.2-3.4), is very uniform, and has tightly controlled thickness. And we usually use the polymide base material and coverlay to start production. There are many factors will affect the impedance control.

If you would like to learn more details,please feel free contact us at sales@bestfpc.com. We have impedance control tester in our factory. And we can calculate the impedance control details for you for free.

Impedance control tester

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What’s the difference between Adhesiveless and Adhesive Polyimide (PI)?

Today I’d like to share what’s the difference between Adhesive PI and Adhesiveless PI.

Item 1: Adhesiveless PI stack up

Adhesiveless PI stack up
Adhesiveless PI stack up

As you can see in above stack up, there is no adhesive connect the Copper layer and Polyimide.

There are four advantages of adhesiveless PI:

  1. Thinner Thickness

As you know, the thickness of adhesive is around 12.5um, 15um, 20um. If you have strict requirement for the whole board thickness, it will be a good choice to use adhesiveless PI.

2.Better Bending

Adhesiveless substrate is thinner than adhesive substrate, so it’s bending is better.

3.  Heat resistance

Due to the adhesive have poor performance in heat resistance, so without the adhesive, the adhesiveless base material have better heat resistance.

Under the same temperature, such as 200℃,the tearing strength of adhesiveless PI change a little. But the tearing strength of adhesive PI material rapidly decrease.

4.  Dimensional stability

The dimension of adhesiveless board change very small when the temperature increase. Even under the temperature of 300℃, it’s dimensional changing rate is no more than 0.1%.

Good dimensional stability will be great help for fine wiring process.

5.  Chemical Resistance

The adhesiveless substrate have good performance of chemical Resistance, it’s tearing strength have no obvious change with time increased.

The adhesive base material has poor chemical resistance, so it’s tear strength decreases greatly with the increase of time.

The only disadvantage for adhesiveless PI is it’s a little expensive than adhesive PI.

Item 2: Adhesive PI stack up

Adhesive PI stack up
Adhesive PI stack up

As you can see, the thickness of  2 layer adhesiveless FPC is 0.19+/-0.03mm.

The thickness of  2 layer adhesive FPC is 0.23+/-0.03mm.

If you need thicker thickness, the adhesive PI might can meet your requirement, the cost will be much lower than increase copper thickness or PI thickness.

There are two mainly advantages for adhesive PI:

  1. Thicker thickness.
  2. Cheaper price.

Anyway, if your project need thinner thickness or smaller line width and space (0.05mm), adhesiveless PI will be the best choice. Welcome to contact us at sales@bestfpc.com if you need to know more details.

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What is the Dual access flexible circuit?

Have you ever been heard about the dual access flexible circuit? Why it named dual access flexible circuit? After you read my e-mail, you will find the answer.

Dual access flexible circuit board is similar to double side FPC, but it has different stack up to double side FPC. Why it named dual access FPC? Dual access can access to both side by copper, so it named the dual access flexible circuit. Dual access flex PCB only have 1 layer copper, and coverlayer on both side. They can connect both side by layout through coverlayer opening, and do not need to drill the holes like 2 layers flex PCB to connect both side.

Dual access flexible circuit samples picture:

Dual access flexible circuit sample
Dual access flexible circuit sample
Dual access flexible circuit sample
Dual access flexible circuit sample

Working principle: The coverlayer play the role as an insulator, the copper is a very good kind of conductor. One side is anode, and the other side is cathode. If they the current flow, they form a closed loop circuit.

Stack up of dual access flex circuit:

Stack up of dual access flex circuit
Stack up of dual access flex circuit

Dual access circuit advantages:

  1. It can be connected to both side through copper, and do not need to make a through hole. If it is 2 layers FPC. You have to make a through hole to connect both side.

2. The appearance will be more beautiful than 2 layers flex PCB. Because we can conduct by trace, it will be more beautiful than through holes to conduct.

Dual access circuit disadvantages:

  1. Complex production process: The production process is similar to 2 layers flex circuit, but it will be more difficult and complicate compared with 2 layers flex PCB. It is easy to scrap. And many factories can not make dual access circuit board due to production technique.
  2. Easy to wrinkle. Because the dual access is very thin. Only one copper and two coverlayers, it will be easy to tear up. When it comes to laminate process, is also very easy to laminate wrinkles and blister.

If you have any questions or would like to learn more details, please feel free to contact us.

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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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HS Code and Import Tariff Rates of Face Mask in Some Major Countries

Regarding HS code and duty rate of face masks in some major countries, we collected some information in main trade partners (US, Japan, EU, Korea, Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand) of China. This is aimed at the face masks such as personal protective masks without special function components, including medical face masks and disposable face masks. All of below information were published by the custom officially.

US:

According to Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States, HTSUS, the HS code of face masks in the US is 6307909889. And the duty rate imported from China is 7%. Regarding tariff imposed, according to announcement from the United States Trade Representative on March 12, 2020, the tariff is excluded for the face masks belonging to this HS code since September 1, 2019. Since then, all the face masks imported from China has been exempted from tariff. You can refer to the below chart for more information.

face mask tariff
face mask tariff

Japan:

The HS code of face masks in Japan is 630790029. The duty rate imported from China is 4.7%. To learn more, see below:

face mask tariff
face mask tariff

EU:

The duty paragraph for face masks imported from China in EU is 6307909899 and the duty rate is 6.3%. You can see below for more information:

face mask tariff
face mask tariff

Korea:

The duty paragraph for face masks imported from China in Korea is 6307909000, and normally, the tariff is 10%. However, from March 18, 2020 to June 30, 2020, Korea has been suspending imposing tariff for face masks from China(0 tariff currently), see below for more information:

face mask tariff
face mask tariff

Taiwan, China:

The HS code(also referred to as duty paragraph) of face masks imported from China mainland in Taiwan is 63079050.

And, the duty rate for face masks imported from China mainland is 7.5%. However, from February 27, 2020 to May 26, 2020, provisional tax rates (also referred to as“flexible tax rate”in Taiwan area) for face masks was carried out in Taiwan area, i.e. the tariff is zero. You can see below for more information:

face mask tariff
face mask tariff

Australia:

The HS code of face masks imported from China in Australia is 63079099 and the duty rate is 5%. See below for more information:

face mask tariff
face mask tariff

New Zealand:

The HS code of face masks imported from China in New Zealand is 63079028. Zero tariff is applied to the face masks imported from China according to “New free trade agreement”. See below for more information:

face mask tariff
face mask tariff

To learn more, see below document:

face-mask-hs-code-and-tariff-in-some-countries

Hope the above information is useful to you. And if you have any queries, comments or suggestions, contact us anytime. We will be glad to help you.

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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 ½ 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 μm=.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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