It’s important to understand what a flexible PCB is before estimating its cost. Even for individuals with years of expertise buying these kinds of circuit boards, several elements might affect the price of a flexible PCB, and this can occasionally lead to confusion for purchasing staff in electronics manufacturers. To receive an exact price for your design and the production of a high quality, dependable, flexible circuit board, it is essential to understand these variables.
What Is A Flexible PCB?
Electronics of the Flexible Printed Circuit (FPC) variety provide special advantages over conventional connectivity. These lightweight, flexible, high-assembly density circuits are made of polyester film or polyester amide. They are the ideal option for applications that demand great dependability due to their flexibility and foldability, as well as superior heat dissipation performance. FPCs are a flexible and affordable alternative to conventional circuit boards since they are simple to install and can withstand millions of bends.
Factors That Determine FPC Cost And Price
Due to the numerous benefits of flexible PCB, it is expected to come with a higher cost compared to traditional rigid PCBs.
Materials used in a double-sided flexible PCB, such as sheet material and reinforcement materials, have a significant impact on its price. The thicknesses of the sheet materials used in flexible PCBs typically range from PET to PI and are between 0.0125mm and 0.10mm, while the copper thickness can be between 13Oz and 3Oz. These elements, along with the brand of the materials used, cause substantial price variances in the sheet material. Steel sheet, FR4, aluminum sheet, and PIF CCL copper foil are just a few of the materials that can be used to reinforce the PCB. Each of these materials affects how much a flexible PCB costs differently. In conclusion, a flexible PCB’s price is significantly influenced by material selection.
The cost variance in the fabrication of flexible PCBs is caused by several variables, including the technique used for surface finishing. There are many alternatives available, each with its price implications, from immersion tin to gold plating. The flexibility of the circuit board’s shape during production, the usage of dry film or silk-screened circuits, and other elements all affect how much it costs in the end.
3. Processing Factor
The design and manufacturing complexity of the board itself, in addition to the material and manufacturing method, affects the price of flexible circuit boards. As an illustration, the price for drilling 1,000 holes might vary significantly depending on the size of the holes, with greater diameters being more expensive. Similar to how to line width and spacing can affect the cost, tighter specifications result in greater production costs and a higher scrap rate. Even when the same material and manufacturing technique are used, these factors contribute to the broad variety of pricing seen in flexible PCBs.
4. Panel utilization
Flexible PCBs are built on copper-clad laminates, which the manufacturer supplies in predetermined sizes. The flexible PCB manufacturer determines the usage rate of these laminates by factoring in things like the quantity demanded by the customer, the number of layers, the production method, and the material utilized. This computation aids in estimating the cost of the raw materials used to manufacture flexible circuit boards.
5. Copper Foil Thickness
Standard copper foil comes in a variety of thicknesses that are measured in micrometers. Eighteen micrometers (1/2 OZ), 35 micrometers (1 OZ), 70 micrometers (2 OZ), 105 micrometers (3 OZ), and 140 micrometers are typical thicknesses (4OZ). It’s important to remember that the cost of copper foil rises with its thickness.
6. The Fixtures & Test Cost
1_Milling Expense: The cost of flexible PCB prototypes or small-batch production frequently excludes milling costs. However, using fixtures becomes necessary and expensive when mass-producing something;
2_Testing Fees: The production and testing processes needed to create testing fixtures are included in testing fees. Flexible PCB prototypes are often tested using flying probes, whereas mass production uses test fixtures. When compared to a flying probe test, using test fixtures is generally more expensive.
Because bigger dimensions require the use of specific materials and equipment, flexible PCB vendors frequently alter their quotes dependent on the size of the flexible circuit board.
Three basic categories of flexible PCBs exist double-sided, single-sided, and multi-layered. Single-sided flexible PCBs are the least expensive and easiest to produce of all of these. Next in complexity and cost are double-sided flexible PCBs. Contrarily, multilayer flexible PCBs are the most difficult to manufacture, which is reflected in their greater price. A flexible PCB’s production will become more difficult and expensive the more layers it has. For instance, due to its higher level of complexity, making a 6-layer flexible PCB will cost more than producing a 4-layer one.
9. Acceptance Criteria
The customer’s specifications will directly affect the yield rate attained by the flexible PCB maker. For flexible PCBs, the IPC-A-6013 standard establishes the pass rate requirements. A Class 3 manufacturing run may only produce a 90% yield, but a Class 1 production run needs a 98% yield. This variation in manufacturing costs results in a wide range of final product pricing because of the discrepancy in production standards.
10. Flexible PCB Manufacturers
It is well known that a product’s quality is impacted by the skills, expertise, and experience of the maker in addition to the raw materials used. This is particularly evident in the sector of flexible printed circuit boards, where even two distinct producers may have variable costs when making the same good, leading to a range in prices. This is because different producers use various process tools and methods, which causes variances in both production effectiveness and product quality. Some manufacturers may have state-of-the-art equipment, and highly skilled and experienced technicians, while others may have outdated equipment and less qualified personnel. This difference in technical know-how and equipment quality directly translates into differences in the cost of production and, therefore, the final price of the product.
11. Payment method
Flexible circuit board producers currently charge between 5 and 10% more or less for their products, depending on how they are paid. Prices change as a result of this.
12. Different regions cause price diversity
Prices in China typically rise as one travels from the south to the north. There are certainly regional variations, which lead to pricing diversification. Therefore, geographic variances influence pricing differentiation.
Additionally, choosing a Chinese or foreign flexible PCB manufacturer will cost differently. China produces a sizable number of flexible circuit boards each year and has accumulated extensive production experience thanks to its well-developed infrastructure and industrial chain. In comparison to other places throughout the world, it produces flexible PCBs at a cost-effective rate while maintaining good quality.
13. Different plating methods
Partial electroplating incurs a cost approximately 15 percent higher than full electroplating.
14. Surface finish
A cost disparity of around 5 percent exists between the gold-plating process for the gold finger and the tin-plating process.
The quantity of flexible PCBs in an order has a significant impact on the overall cost. For larger or bulk orders, flexible PCB manufacturers typically provide discounts or reduced rates.
16. Lead Time
Expedited costs increase as the urgency of the production task increases.
Tips to Reduce the FPC Cost
It is clear from the analysis of the flexible PCB pricing structure that a variety of elements, including the quantity, size, line width & spacing, board thickness, copper thickness, reinforcing materials, and production methods (such as drilling, gold fingers, and surface finish), affect the cost of the boards. You can take into account the following ideas to lower the cost of flexible PCBs:
- Avoid using multilayer flexible PCBs when not necessary.
- Larger orders tend to have lower costs.
- Avoid small minimum apertures.
- Immersion Gold is recommended as the surface finish for flexible PCBs.
- There are two options for gold finger surface finishes hard gold and sinking gold. Hard gold is more expensive.
- Plan production ahead of time. Urgent orders come at a higher price.
- Use manufacturability design checks, optimize your design, comprehend the qualities and requirements of your materials, employ suitable drilling procedures, and change line width and spacing.
- Reduce the quantity of blind & buried holes because they are more complicated, take longer to process, and produce less. The overall cost can be decreased by reducing the number of holes.
- Enhance panel utilization for reduced overall manufacturing cost.