Artist 3D’s rigid-flex PCBs are becoming increasingly popular in the electronics industry due to their high speed, low cost, and superior performance. These boards combine rigid & flexible layers, providing the best of both worlds – extreme flexibility and excellent strength and durability. Quick-turn rigid-flex PCBs offer the same benefits but with the added advantage of a faster lead time. This article explores the advantages of Artist 3D’s quick-turn rigid-flex PCBs and how they can be helpful in various industries. We will also discuss the production process, and the considerations engineers must take when manufacturing them. Finally, we will provide tips for selecting the correct rigid-flex PCB for your application.
What is Quick Turn Rigid Flex PCB?
The Quick Turn Rigid Flex PCB is a printed circuit board (PCB) type that combines a flex PCB’s flexibility with the rigidity of a rigid PCB. It provides the advantages of both rigid and flexible circuits in a single package, enabling greater design flexibility and reducing the cost and complexity of the overall system.
The Quick Turn Rigid-Flex PCB Manufacturing Process
The manufacture of a quick turn rigid flex PCB involves the following steps:
1. Preparing the Base Material
Preparing/cleaning the laminate is the first stage in the manufacture of the board. Before using further manufacturing methods, engineers need to carefully clean the laminate including a copper layer with an adhesive.
2. Circuit Pattern Generation
These days, circuit pattern generation is taking place in the following two methods:
- Screen printing – This method is common since it can produce the necessary circuit patterns/deposits directly onto the laminate’s surface. Not more than 4 to 50 microns thick overall.
- Photo Imaging – In this technique, the laminate is in close contact with a dry photoresist sheet that contains the necessary circuitry. Engineers then transfer the design from the photomask to the laminate by subjected the assembly to UV light. The laminate with the desired circuit layout then remains after the engineers have chemically removed the film.
3. Etch the Circuit Pattern
After the production of the circuit pattern, engineers then etch the copper laminate containing the circuit pattern. They either dip the laminate in an etch bath or spray it with an etching solution. To get the required results, they etch both sides of the lamination simultaneously.
4. Drilling Procedures
The manufacturers must now drill the necessary number of holes, pads, and vias. To drill precise holes, they employ high speed equipment. Also, they use laser drilling techniques to produce incredibly small holes.
5. Through-hole plating
Once they have bored the holes to the necessary specifications, they chemically coat them, then put copper in them. This creates electrical connectivity from layer to layer.
6. Apply Cover Lay or Cover coat
It’s important to apply Cover Lay or Cover coat to the top and bottom sides of the flex circuit to protect them. By doing this, you protect the circuit from damaging weather, strong chemicals, and solvents.
7. Cutting out the Flex
Next, the engineers proceed to blanking or cutting out each individual flex board from the production panel. Hydraulic punching typically helps manufacturers to produce rigid-flex PCBs in large quantities. Conversely, small production runs of prototype rigid-flex PCBs involves a specialized blanking knife.
8. Electrical testing and verification
The boards go through rigorous electrical testing for circuit performance, quality, and circuit performance in relation to the design criteria. A variety of testing techniques such as grid and flying probe tests exists.
Factors to Consider When Manufacturing Quick Turn Rigid-Flex PCB
Quick-turn Rigid Flex Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs) require careful consideration and special attention during manufacturing. Some of the critical factors to consider when manufacturing Quick Turn Rigid-Flex PCBs include:
The design of the PCB should ensure that the board’s layout is suitable for the application and meets the desired performance requirements. This step includes considering the number and size of components, the number of layers, and the number of vias.
The choice of substrate materials is critical as it determines the flexibility, strength, and weight of the PCB. The selection of material should depend on the application and desired performance.
- Manufacturing Process:
The manufacturing process should ensure that the PCB fabrication comes to completion quickly and accurately. The process should include photolithography, etching, plating, and soldering.
The testing process ensures that the PCB is functioning as intended. This step includes electrical, mechanical, and environmental testing.
Quality control is an essential factor when manufacturing Quick Turn Rigid-Flex PCBs. It should include assessing the board for compliance with design specifications, process control, and visual inspection.
Applications of Quick Turn Rigid-Flex PCB
The following are some of the standard applications for quick-turn rigid-flex PCBs:
- Aerospace and defense: Quick-turn rigid-flex PCBs have the ability to withstand harsh environments and high vibration levels. They are, therefore, suitable for aerospace and defense applications. Additionally, they are well-suited for use in applications where weight and space are critical considerations.
- Medical devices: Quick-turn rigid-flex PCBs have a high reliability and ability to withstand sterilization processes. Consequently, they are frequently applicable in medical devices, such as patient monitors, defibrillators, and insulin pumps, due to their.
- Industrial equipment: Quick-turn rigid-flex PCBs are helpful in industrial equipment, such as automation systems, robotics, and control panels, due to their ability to withstand high temperatures and harsh environments.
- Telecommunications: Quick-turn rigid-flex PCBs are helpful in various telecommunications applications, including cellular phones, base stations, and satellite equipment. This suitability is due to their high level of performance and reliability.
- Consumer electronics: There is use of quick-turn rigid-flex PCBs in consumer electronics, such as wearable devices, smart home devices, and portable devices. Their compact size and ability to withstand rugged conditions makes them suit this field.
Pros Of Quick Turn Rigid-Flex PCB
Quick-turn rigid-flex PCBs offer the following benefits to their users:
- Improved Reliability: Since this type of PCB incorporates rigid and flexible components, it can withstand higher levels of vibration and shock than traditional PCBs. This feature makes it ideal for use in applications where high levels of vibration and shock are a possibility.
- Cost Savings: Compared to traditional PCBs, these boards are less expensive to produce. This aspect is due to their simplified design and reduced number of layers. As a result, manufacturers can save money on material costs, labor costs, and development time.
- Faster Turnaround Time: Quick-turn rigid-flex PCBs offer shorter turnaround times than traditional PCBs. This feature is because they require fewer layers, which reduces the time needed to design and manufacture them. As a result, manufacturers can quickly bring their products to market and reduce their time.
- Design Flexibility: Quick-turn rigid-flex PCBs offer a high level of design flexibility. This aspect is because these boards can accommodate components of various sizes and shapes, allowing for more design options. As a result, manufacturers can create complex PCBs that meet their specific requirements.
- Improved Electrical Performance: Quick-turn rigid-flex PCBs offer improved electrical performance compared to traditional PCBs. This aspect is due to their improved signal integrity, which reduces the amount of signal noise and improves signal reliability. This feature makes them ideal for applications with high signal integrity levels.
Cons Of Quick Turn Rigid-Flex PCB
Despite their numerous merits, quick-turn rigid-flex PCBs come with the following demerits:
- Cost: Quick-turn rigid-flex PCBs are more expensive than traditional rigid PCBs. They require more complex processes and materials to construct, so they can appear cost prohibitive. This fact is especially actual for small production runs.
- Space: Quick-turn rigid-flex PCBs require more space than traditional rigid PCBs. The flexible portion of the board needs more surface area to bend around and is usually thicker than rigid PCBs, which can take up more space when installed in an enclosure.
- Design Limitations: Quick-turn rigid-flex PCBs also have design limitations that can be difficult to work around. The flexible portion of the board typically requires more space than the rigid portion, so the placement of components can be low. In addition, the number of layers and the size of features is also low.
- Time: Quick-turn rigid-flex PCBs require more time to design and manufacture than traditional rigid PCBs. The flexible portion of the board needs careful design to ensure that it will bend adequately, and the entire board requires special care during construction to ensure that it will last.
- Durability: Because quick-turn rigid-flex PCBs have a flexible material, they can be more prone to damage than traditional rigid PCBs. The flexible portion of the board can be easily damaged if exposed to too much stress or heat, which can lead to costly repairs or replacements.
- Complexity: Quick-turn rigid-flex PCBs are more complex than traditional rigid PCBs and require more specialized equipment to design and assemble. This feature can be a challenge for some companies not used to working with such complex boards.
Tips for Selecting the Right Rigid-Flex PCB for your Design Rut
There are several factors to consider when selecting a rigid-flex PCB for your application:
- Flexibility: Determine the amount of flexibility needed in the PCB. A PCB with more layers and higher flexibility will be more expensive but may be necessary for specific applications.
- Size and shape: Consider the size and shape of the PCB and how it will fit into your device or system.
- Performance requirements: Please consider the performance requirements of the PCB, including the required transmission speed, operating temperature range, and signal integrity.
- Cost: Determine the budget for the PCB and consider the trade-offs between price and performance.
- Manufacturing capabilities: Choose a manufacturer to produce the PCB to your specifications. This includes manufacturing the PCB with the required layers, thickness, and materials.
- Reliability: Consider PCB reliability and choose a manufacturer with a proven track record of producing high-quality, reliable PCBs.
- Lead time: Consider the lead time for the PCB manufacturing and delivery. If you have a tight deadline, choose a manufacturer with a shorter lead time.
From the above details, Artist 3D’s quick-turn rigid-flex PCB is a versatile, reliable, and cost-effective solution to many challenges when designing and manufacturing electronics. Its modular design and quick turnaround time allow for greater flexibility, cost savings, and improved quality assurance. Additionally, using the company’s rigid-flex PCBs reduces total number of layers used in a PCB, allowing for more efficient and compact designs. By leveraging the advantages of quick-turn rigid-flex PCBs, businesses can enjoy the benefits of faster production, improved reliability, and cost-effectiveness.