What are the advantages and disadvantages of rigid-flex PCBs?
Rigid-flex PCBs are an innovative proposal, available on the market for several years, which allows you to effectively reduce the size of electronic devices, and at the same time obtain greater reliability in the perspective of long-term use. Therefore, they are more and more often reached out fo by electronics manufacturers. However, combining stiffness with flexibility is not an easy task, and thus the production costs of rigid-flex PCBs are correspondingly higher. What advantages and disadvantages does this solution have?
In pursuit of the miniaturization of electronics
In recent years, we have witnessed an impressive miniaturization of electronics. This can be observed for the example in computers. Today, in a small space, we can lock up enormous computing power, which previously required very large and extensive equipment. Rigid-flex boards perfectly fit the trend towards efficient electronics of a smaller size.
All thanks to the innovative method of connecting rigid plates and flexible circuits. This eliminates the need for classic connectors and bulky cables. In this way, we can obtain a higher density of components. Thus, the biggest advantage is the ability to create much smaller and lighter equipment.
High durability and reliability over the years
The possibility of eliminating numerous wires and connections makes electronic equipment less susceptible to short circuits and breaks in the circuit. The joints on the flexible surface of the tile can be effectively protected, e.g. with a resin. In this way, electronic equipment gains additional protection against high temperatures, moisture, chemicals, and mechanical damage caused by shocks and vibrations. Thus, rigid-flex PCBs allow you to obtain equipment with greater durability and reliability.
Rigid-flex PCBs are more expensive
The systems connecting rigid and flexible elements are more advanced and require the use of newer technology. At the same time, a very important issue is the design phase and the early removal of all shortcomings. Any errors in the production process generate much higher costs. The very production of rigid-flex tiles is also more expensive than classic tiles. However, as technology develops, it will be possible to gradually reduce these costs. This process is visible now. In the past, rigid-flex PCBs were used only in selected areas of industry, while today they are used in generally available electronic equipment.
No room for production errors
Rigid-flexible PCBs will turn out to be reliable and more durable only if the manufacturer manages to avoid popular production errors. One of the key factors is the proper integrity of the rigid and flexible elements. The places where these surfaces are joined are most vulnerable to damage. Therefore, the connection of rigid and flexible tiles often has to be additionally secured. Such damage is basically irreparable, it causes the need to scrap the device, and hence higher losses.