The Rigid Flex PCB Manufacturing Process Explained

Rigid flex PCB manufacturing
Rigid flex PCB manufacturing
Resource: https://hackaday.com

Rigid flex PCB manufacturing varies from that of rigid or flexible boards, but only slightly. This guide traces the stages of fabricating these types of circuit boards, so you can get an overview of what goes on during the process. We will also be providing tips on how to choose a rigid flex PCB manufacturer for your project.

Rigid and Flex PCB

Rigid PCB is used to mean a circuit board that will not bend and, instead, is extremely stiff. To make it rigid, this type of board has its core made of a non-flexible material such as FR4, a glass-fiber material hardened with epoxy resin, and sometimes also polyimide or a metal like aluminum.

A flexible PCB (FPC) is a circuit board that can be flexed to go into tight spaces, or even around a curve. The main layer of these PCB types, also called the substrate, is a flexible material such as polyimide (Kapton) or other flex-type materials such as polyester.

Most often, an application may require a board that contains both flexible and rigid sections. Combining a rigid and flex PCB produces what is called a rigid-flex PCB. This type of PCB has rigid layers to serve as interconnections or bendable areas, and rigid parts to provide strength. Below, we show you how these types of PCBs are made.

Design stage of the rigid flex PCB manufacturing process
Design stage of the rigid flex PCB manufacturing process
Resource: https://youtu.be/30BjuzD3fWI

Rigid Flex PCB Manufacturing

Rigid PCB manufacturing involves a number of steps, many of which resemble those of standard rigid PCBs. They include designing the board based on the application requirements (or customer specifications), board fabrication, and board assembly. Read more about these rigid flex PCB manufacturing steps below:

1. Flex Rigid PCB Design

The first step in any PCB manufacturing process is to create a schematic diagram, lay out components, check for design errors, and produce gerber files. This serves as a roadmap for the board’s construction, and is usually done using high-end CAD software.

The flex rigid PCB design process involves creating a stack-up with layers of material – from the base layer up to the top layer – that will be used in the fabrication of the board. During this step, the PCB designer will also consider and select the materials to use.

Because rigid flex PCB materials include those from the rigid and flexible technologies, there are usually added considerations. These include determining if a single-sided or double-sided flex layer should be used, and if cutouts slots or other features need to be included.

2. Rigid Flex PCB Prototyping

At this stage, a prototype is made and tested to ensure that the design works as expected. It essentially provides the opportunity to make any changes before the actual board fabrication process begins.

During the prototyping stage, the rigid flex stackup or mock PCB is tested for mechanical strength, flexibility, and any other physical characteristics according to application requirements.

It’s also at this stage of the rigid flex PCB manufacturing process that engineers check for any potential electrical issues such as impedance matching, or crosstalk, before committing to larger production runs.

3. Rigid Flex PCB Manufacturing

The rigid flex PCB can now be produced. The fabrication process shares many steps with standard PCB manufacturing, but it may involve additional components such as laminating bonds and different layers.

Rigid flex PCB manufacturing involves preparing the layers and materials, laminating them together, drilling vias and plating if required, cutting out any slots, then testing for electrical performance again.

The rigid flex PCB layer stackup with have the flexible layers laminated or bonded between the rigid layers. Finally, a coverlay or cover coating is added and the board is cut to size. The rigid flex board is then cleaned in preparation for assembly.

4. Rigid Flex PCB Assembly

Depending on the customer needs, components may be installed onto the rigid flex PCB board. These include surface mount and through-hole components. Both the flexible and non-flexible portions of the board can be assembled.

If a flex section is to be mounted with components, it is common practice to have it strengthened by adding a stiffener. This is done to prevent damage to the solder joints due to flexing.

During the rigid flex PCB assembly process, components are soldered in place either by hand or using automated machines. This step is followed by a final test to ensure that all connections work correctly and the board meets

5. Rigid Flex PCB Testing

Once the rigid flex PCB board has been assembled, it moves to quality assurance (QA). Here, it’s visually inspected and tested for any faults or issues that may have occurred during production.

This may include electrical tests like measuring impedance or crosstalk, as well as visually inspecting for any signs of damage or defects. After QA passes, the rigid flex PCB board is ready for shipment and use.

These five steps detail the general process for rigid flex PCB manufacturing, from design to final testing. At each stage, quality and precision are key factors in ensuring that the board meets all customer requirements and specifications.

Rigid Flex PCB Manufacturer

Choosing an experienced and reputable rigid flex PCB manufacturer is the best way to get quality boards that meet your design requirements. A good PCB manufacturer will be able to provide you with detailed information concerning the materials used in their fabrication process.

Additionally, they should have a long-standing reputation for producing high quality boards that are compliant to all relevant industry standards. This is essential if you want the best board possible that is reliable and accurate.

Need help with rigid flex PCB manufacturing for your project? Our team of experts is here to help you succeed. We have the knowledge, experience, and equipment to get the job done right. Get in touch today for more information on our services, or to receive a free rigid flex PCB quote.

Conclusion

Rigid flex PCB boards offer many benefits in the world of electronics, from improved reliability and space savings to better performance. When designed and manufactured properly, these boards can extend the life of a product, improve usability, and make it easier to assemble components. The five steps outlined in this article describe the events that occur in the production of rigid flex PCBs, from design to final inspection.

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