How to choose the FPC stiffener?

 Flexible PCB -Flexible Printed Circuits are made of thin dielectric substrate & high ductility metal foil, flexible pcb can be bent or folded and used in static and dynamic applications. 

Do you know why the fpc need to add the stiffener?

Flexible-only PCBs can withstand fewer components than rigid-flex. The rigid part of rigid-flex can also be as complex as a traditional rigid Circuit Board. Stiffeners are occasionally laminated the same time as the coverlay.

When we need to add the Stiffeners ?

Components are near or in an active, or dynamic, flex zone
Component size and weight will import stress onto the flex
A large number of SMT pads make planarity critical
Connectors that require repeated insertions or assemblies require a stiffener, or something to help alleviate the stress of pads.

When we don’t suggest to to add the Stiffeners ?

 Small “static” components do not exert a large amount of strain on the flexible of the PCB.There are no components in the flex region.
 

How to choose the FPC stiffener?
 As we all know, the Stiffeners are typically made of FR4, PI(Kapton), stainless and alumimum stiffener.Then how we we too choose the right stiffener?

PI is often used when the end of the flex must be thickened and inserted into a ZIF connector. However, the use of Kapton(PI) requires a separate lamination cycle. For golden area, we will be need to add the PI stiffener to meet the total thickness 0.2mm, 0.3mm or 0.5mm.   

PI stiffener

FR4 stiffener can be done within the same lamination cycle. FR4 stiffener usually added for the USB connector area.

FR4 stiffener1

Stainless stiffener is not easy to transformation. And it has the good hardness. And it can play a conductive and inductive role.

Stainless stiffener

Aluminum stiffener has the best heat disspation effect, because it usually need to openning a tooling to cut the alumunum stiffener outline, then the cost is the highest.

Alumininum stiffener

Are you got it? If you have any comments, please kindly feel free to let me know. Please contact Best Technology at sales@bestfpc.com.

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What is the difference between FPC coverlay and EMI shield?

Covering is the film that covers and presses on the surface of the flexible circuit, usually polyimide resin, used for solder mask, etc., and has little effect on signal shielding. The Electro-Magnetic Interference (EMI) shield is generally attached to the coverlay, and the price of the EMI shield is much more expensive than the coverlay. What is the difference between FPC coverlay and EMI shield?

FPC coverlay, known as CVL in the industry, it has the same main function as the solder mask of PCB: 1) Protect the copper foil from being exposed to the air and avoid oxidation of the copper foil; 2) Cover for the areas which it do not need to do surface treatment. 3) The solder resist function in the SMT. The usual colors are yellow, black and white in Best Tech.

Coverlay
FPC with yellow coverlay

The EMI shield uses mixed composite metal as the shielding material and has excellent OSP performance and corrosion solvent resistance. It is superior to similar products in the market in shielding and winding characteristics. The EMI shield is suitable for flexible printed circuits. It has high shielding, bending and heat resistance. The usual color is black in Best Technology.

EMI material

After pressing the cpverlay, the FPC will press a layer of EMI shield as a conductive layer to shield the external electromagnetic interference. EMI shield is mainly used in 3C products such as notebook computers, GPS, ADSL and mobile phones, because they all produce noise due to high-frequency electromagnetic interference, which affects the quality of communication.

FPC with EMI shield
Rigid-flex with EMI shield

If you want to know more design guild about the EMI shield, please feel free to contact us at sales@bestfpc.com

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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.

.

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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Did you heard of etch 6L FPC to be 2L FPC?

We received a special project, one of our customer need 2L FPC, and want the thickness between two copper layers to be 0.15mm. Because this customer is specialized in RF product, he need so thick dielectric(0.15mm) between two copper layers.

What does it means?

  1. Firstly, for adhesive material, it means “adhesive + Polyimide + adhesive” should meet 0.15mm. If Adhesive is 25um, two adhesive layer totally 50um, the minimum Polyimide thickness will be 4mil.
  2. Secondly, for 4mil Polyimide, it usually refers to adhesive-less material. So if deduct 50um adhesive, it require 6mil adhesiveless material. 6mil adhesiveless PI is very hard to purchase, need to customize, have MOQ limit, and lead time will be very long.

Is there any solution to meet customer’s need?

After discussed with our engineers and manufacture department, we put forward one suggestion. Draw an stack up with 6L FPC, it’s made up of three double-sided FPC. Etch out one copper layers in TOP and Bottom double-sided FPC. And for the middle double-sided FPC, we’ll etch out two copper layers, only leave Polyimide and adhesive. 

By doing this, it finally will only leave two copper layers, and the thickness between two copper layers is 0.15mm. (As below stack up show)

To be honest, when customer put forward to his design requirement, I was amazed, 0.15mm material is so hard to purchase. But our engineers and manufacture department find a good solution for our customer. Our customer are satisfied with our work.

If you have similar need, pls feel free to contact us. We can help you make it come ture.

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Do you know why the golden finger need to add the PI stiffener?

Stiffeners are an important element in most flex designs and as such need to be engineered into the design and fully documented in the data set to ensure the form fit and function of the finished flex circuit parts. Some designs may have complex stiffener requirements that may impact the manufacturability of the flex circuits and may create added complexity in the component assembly process. For these designs we recommend that our customers consult with an engineering team to ensure the flex circuit is manufacturable and will meet your requirements.

Several days before, I received an rigid flex pcb inquiry form our customer, required to add a FR4 stiffener for golden finger area to meet the total thickness 0.3mm. Attached the picture as below, please kindly check it.

Rigid flex pcb add stiffener for golden finger area Gerber file picture

Do you know it is not available to add a FR4 stiffener for golden finger area? Because of  the FR4 stiffener is too hard, it will be bad for golder finger connector to a ZIP( Zero Inserion Force). Because the FR4 stiffener tolerance is bigger than PI stiffener, if the stiffener thickness it a bit of big or small. It will be very easy to lead to the golden finger is not contact well and maybe because of it’s too loose to fall out. Or it is not able to insert to the connector due to it is too thick.

Normally, we usually to use make it as 0.2mm,0.3mm,0.5mm(FPC+PI stiffener) for golden finger area. Attached one of our FPC +PI stiffener for golden finger picture for your reference, please kindly check it. Are you have similar design? It is 2layer red oil flex pcb. 1/2oz copper, 1mil PI, red solder mask instead of coverlay, board thickness 0.14mm, ENIG1u’’, minimum copper plated 25um, white silk screen, 3M467 tape on bottom side. Add the PI stiffener on the golden finger area to meet 0.3mm total thickness.

FPC+PI stiffener for golden finger area to meet 0.3mm total thickness

By the way, are you have any trouble in sourcing the connector for match the FPC golder finger? If yes, pleas also feel free to contact us. We can according to your gerber file to advise the right connector part number for you. If you would like to learn more details, please free to contact us by e-mail sales@bestfpc.com.

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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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How to avoid fake exposed copper for Flex-Rigid PCB?

Did you meet the situation? When your Flex-Rigid PCB product produced, but PCB vias has fake exposed copper phenomenon, which might caused worse problem. (Such as below picture show)

Detailed picture for fake exposed copper

Today we’ll share some info with you, wish it can be helpful to know more about it.

Why fake exposed copper happens? There are two main reasons:

  1. Reason one: Just use screen to plug via holes in the solder mask process(have not used aluminum pluged), which caused the solder mask poor in via holes and the hole edge have fake exposed copper.

2) Reason two: When the boards printed not so well on first time, need to be washed and perform a second printing. If the solder mask in holes didn’t clear up, it will cause the solder mask cannot plug through the holes, plug holes not full, then fake exposed copper occurs.

fake exposed copper

How to improve this situation?

1) Suggestion one: Plug vias with resin, and then do the solder mask. It can avoid fake exposed copper.

2) Suggestion two: Can considering change the stack up, such as change 4 layer flex-rigid PCB(1L PCB + 2L FPC + 1L PCB), replace the TOP/Bottom PCB layer with FPC. And use coverlay, the coverlay can cover the vias, which can help solve this problem.

If you have any further question, pls feel free to contact us.

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Why the FPC or rigid flex add the EMI shield?

Do you know what is the EMI shield? Do you know what is the EMI shield used for  and what kind of products need to add the EMI shield? Today let’s know why the FPC or rigid flex add the EMI shield together.

What’s EMI?

When your flexible PCB or rigid-flex PCB application requires limits in electromagnetic and /or electrostatic interference, EMI shielding should be applied.

Electromagnetic interference (EMI) also called radio-frequency interference (RFI), when in the radio frequency spectrum, is a disturbance generated by an external source that affects an electrical circuit by electromagnetic induction, electrostatic coupling, or conduction. The disturbance may degrade and effect the performance of the circuit or even do not get work. EMI is caused by electrical pulsing.

Whats is our EMI shield?

With EMI shielding film design, the Flexible PCB has best flexibility as well as the thinnest overall thickness. Compared to silver ink printing and copper layer design, the flex circuit cost will be lower, and the shielding capability will be in a higher degree. No need extra shielding material, like metal cover. EMI shielding film such as Tatsuta can replace the copper layer design, then to save cost without compromising on the flexibility of the board.

EMI consists of an additional layer of selectively specialized laminate on the surface of the coverlays. It has 3-layer construction consisting of an electrically conductive adhesive, a reinforced layer and an insulation layer. The insulation layer is black in color as well as friction resistant. The EMI shielding film is laminated under heat and pressure. The conductive adhesive flows into the coverlay opening which then adhere and electrically connects to the ground. Attached the EMI shield stack up for your reference, hope it will be helpful to you.

EMI shield

The normally used EMI shield is TSS200 from Toyochem. The thickness is 200um. It has the excellent flexibility, electrical conductive reliability, chemical resistance, non-Halogene and UL type. If you would like to learn more details, please contact with me.(sales@bestfpc.com), we will be very glad to share the TS 200 EMI shield specification with you. Attached some of our FPC and Rigid flex with EMI shield for your reference, hope you will be interested in.

Rigid-flex pcb with EMI shield
FPC with EMI shield

EMI Shielding application filed

Our EMI shield required customers are mainly specialize in wireless communication, 5G phone, radar, drone, camera and new energy automobile. EMI shield is becoming more and more popular in the designs of flexible printed circuit and rigid-flex printed circuit board. Many flexible PCB or Rigid-flex circuits are sensitive to either absorbing or emitting EMI. If EMI shield is out of control, it can negatively impact the performance of the design and or effect the circuit function.

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