Rigid Flex PCB Manufacturer of 2 to 30 Layers

Posted by

Introduction to Rigid-Flex PCBs

Rigid-Flex PCBs are a innovative solution that combines the best features of both rigid and flexible printed circuit boards. This hybrid technology enables the design of complex, three-dimensional electronic assemblies that can fit into compact spaces and withstand harsh environments. Rigid-Flex PCBs are widely used in various industries, including aerospace, military, medical, and consumer electronics, due to their reliability, durability, and space-saving capabilities.

What are Rigid-Flex PCBs?

A Rigid-Flex PCB is a printed circuit board that consists of both rigid and flexible substrates, which are laminated together to form a single, integrated structure. The rigid sections provide structural support and house the majority of the electronic components, while the flexible sections allow the board to bend and fold, enabling 3D configurations and dynamic flexing.

Advantages of Rigid-Flex PCBs

  1. Space savings: Rigid-Flex PCBs enable more compact packaging of electronic components, reducing the overall size and weight of the device.
  2. Enhanced reliability: The integrated design of Rigid-Flex PCBs eliminates the need for connectors and cables between rigid sections, improving signal integrity and reducing the risk of mechanical failures.
  3. Improved flexibility: The flexible sections of the PCB allow for dynamic flexing and 3D configurations, enabling the design of devices with complex shapes and movable parts.
  4. Cost-effective: Rigid-Flex PCBs can reduce assembly time and costs by eliminating the need for multiple separate boards and connectors.
  5. Harsh environment resistance: Rigid-Flex PCBs can withstand extreme temperatures, vibrations, and shocks, making them suitable for use in demanding applications.

Rigid-Flex PCB Manufacturing Process

The manufacturing process for Rigid-Flex PCBs is more complex than that of traditional rigid PCBs due to the integration of flexible substrates and the need for precise alignment and lamination. The following steps outline the general manufacturing process for Rigid-Flex PCBs:

  1. Design and layout: The PCB design is created using CAD software, taking into account the placement of components, the routing of traces, and the location of the flexible sections.

  2. Material selection: The appropriate materials for the rigid and flexible substrates are selected based on the specific requirements of the application, such as the desired flexibility, temperature resistance, and dielectric properties.

  3. Substrate preparation: The rigid and flexible substrates are cut to size and cleaned to ensure proper adhesion during lamination.

  4. Patterning and etching: The conductive patterns are transferred onto the substrates using photolithography and etching processes. This step is performed separately for the rigid and flexible sections.

  5. Lamination: The rigid and flexible substrates are aligned and laminated together using heat and pressure to form a single, integrated structure.

  6. Drilling and plating: Holes are drilled through the laminated board for component mounting and via formation. The holes are then plated with copper to establish electrical connections between layers.

  7. Solder mask application: A solder mask is applied to the board to protect the conductive traces and prevent short circuits during soldering.

  8. Surface finishing: A surface finish, such as ENIG (Electroless Nickel Immersion Gold) or HASL (Hot Air Solder Leveling), is applied to the exposed copper areas to enhance solderability and protect against oxidation.

  9. Cutting and profiling: The laminated board is cut and profiled to the desired shape, including the formation of the flexible sections.

  10. Quality control: The finished Rigid-Flex PCB undergoes thorough quality control inspections to ensure that it meets the specified requirements for functionality, reliability, and durability.

Designing Rigid-Flex PCBs

Designing Rigid-Flex PCBs requires careful consideration of several factors to ensure optimal performance and manufacturability. Some key design guidelines include:

  1. Bend radius: The minimum bend radius of the flexible sections should be determined based on the thickness and material properties of the flexible substrate to prevent damage during flexing.

  2. Strain relief: Proper strain relief should be incorporated into the design, such as the use of curved traces and gradual transitions between rigid and flexible sections, to minimize stress concentrations.

  3. Stiffener placement: Stiffeners can be added to the flexible sections to provide additional support and prevent excessive bending in certain areas.

  4. Trace routing: Traces should be routed perpendicular to the bend axis to minimize stress during flexing. The width and spacing of traces should also be optimized to ensure proper signal integrity and manufacturability.

  5. Component placement: Components should be placed on the rigid sections of the board whenever possible to avoid stress on the solder joints during flexing.

  6. Layer stack-up: The layer stack-up should be designed to ensure proper signal integrity, impedance control, and EMI shielding, while also considering the mechanical properties of the rigid and flexible substrates.

Rigid-Flex PCB Layer Count and Thickness

Rigid-Flex PCBs can be manufactured with varying layer counts and thicknesses to accommodate different design requirements. The number of layers in a Rigid-Flex PCB can range from 2 to 30 or more, depending on the complexity of the circuit and the space constraints of the application.

Typical layer counts and thicknesses

Layer Count Rigid Thickness (mm) Flex Thickness (mm) Total Thickness (mm)
2 0.5 – 1.0 0.05 – 0.2 0.6 – 1.2
4 0.8 – 1.6 0.05 – 0.2 0.9 – 1.8
6 1.2 – 2.4 0.05 – 0.2 1.3 – 2.6
8 1.6 – 3.2 0.05 – 0.2 1.7 – 3.4
10 2.0 – 4.0 0.05 – 0.2 2.1 – 4.2
12+ 2.4 – 4.8+ 0.05 – 0.2 2.5 – 5.0+

The thickness of the rigid sections is typically greater than that of the flexible sections to provide structural support and accommodate the majority of the electronic components. The flexible sections are usually kept as thin as possible to ensure adequate flexibility and minimize the overall thickness of the assembly.

Factors affecting layer count and thickness

The choice of layer count and thickness for a Rigid-Flex PCB depends on several factors, including:

  1. Circuit complexity: More complex circuits with a higher number of components and interconnections may require a higher layer count to accommodate all the necessary routing.

  2. Signal integrity: Higher layer counts can provide better signal integrity by allowing for more optimal trace routing and the use of dedicated power and ground planes.

  3. Mechanical requirements: The thickness of the rigid and flexible sections must be chosen to ensure adequate structural support and flexibility for the specific application.

  4. Space constraints: The overall thickness of the Rigid-Flex PCB must be compatible with the available space within the device enclosure.

  5. Cost considerations: Higher layer counts and thicker boards generally increase the manufacturing cost of the Rigid-Flex PCB, so a balance must be struck between performance and cost.

Applications of Rigid-Flex PCBs

Rigid-Flex PCBs are used in a wide range of industries and applications due to their unique combination of flexibility, reliability, and space-saving capabilities. Some common applications include:

  1. Aerospace and military: Rigid-Flex PCBs are used in avionics, satellites, and military equipment due to their ability to withstand harsh environments and provide reliable performance in compact spaces.

  2. Medical devices: Rigid-Flex PCBs are used in implantable devices, surgical instruments, and diagnostic equipment, where they enable the design of compact, lightweight, and reliable electronic assemblies.

  3. Consumer electronics: Rigid-Flex PCBs are increasingly used in smartphones, wearables, and other portable devices to enable slim, flexible designs and accommodate the growing demand for functionality in compact form factors.

  4. Automotive electronics: Rigid-Flex PCBs are used in vehicle control systems, infotainment systems, and sensors, where they provide reliable performance in the harsh automotive environment and enable space-saving designs.

  5. Industrial automation: Rigid-Flex PCBs are used in robotics, motion control systems, and other industrial equipment, where they enable the design of compact, high-performance electronic assemblies that can withstand the rigors of the factory floor.

Choosing a Rigid-Flex PCB Manufacturer

Selecting the right Rigid-Flex PCB manufacturer is crucial to ensure the quality, reliability, and cost-effectiveness of your electronic assembly. When choosing a manufacturer, consider the following factors:

  1. Experience and expertise: Look for a manufacturer with extensive experience in producing Rigid-Flex PCBs and a proven track record of delivering high-quality products.

  2. Manufacturing capabilities: Ensure that the manufacturer has the necessary equipment and processes in place to produce Rigid-Flex PCBs with the required layer counts, thicknesses, and features.

  3. Quality control: Choose a manufacturer with stringent quality control processes and certifications, such as ISO 9001, to ensure consistent product quality and reliability.

  4. Technical support: Look for a manufacturer that offers comprehensive technical support and design assistance to help optimize your Rigid-Flex PCB design for manufacturability and performance.

  5. Cost and lead time: Consider the manufacturer’s pricing and lead times to ensure that they align with your budget and project timeline.

  6. Minimum order quantity: Some manufacturers may have high minimum order quantities for Rigid-Flex PCBs, so be sure to choose a manufacturer that can accommodate your volume requirements.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

  1. What is the typical turnaround time for Rigid-Flex PCBs?
  2. The turnaround time for Rigid-Flex PCBs can vary depending on the complexity of the design, the layer count, and the manufacturer’s capacity. Typical lead times range from 2-5 weeks, but expedited services may be available for urgent projects.

  3. How do I ensure the reliability of my Rigid-Flex PCB?

  4. To ensure the reliability of your Rigid-Flex PCB, follow best design practices, such as incorporating strain relief, optimizing trace routing, and selecting appropriate materials. Additionally, choose a reputable manufacturer with strict quality control processes and test your assembly thoroughly under realistic operating conditions.

  5. Can I use standard PCB design software for Rigid-Flex PCBs?

  6. Yes, most standard PCB design software packages, such as Altium Designer and Cadence Allegro, support Rigid-Flex PCB design. However, designing Rigid-Flex PCBs requires additional considerations and constraints compared to traditional rigid PCBs, so it is important to familiarize yourself with the specific design guidelines and best practices for Rigid-Flex PCBs.

  7. How do I select the right materials for my Rigid-Flex PCB?

  8. The choice of materials for your Rigid-Flex PCB depends on the specific requirements of your application, such as the desired flexibility, temperature resistance, and dielectric properties. Common materials for the flexible substrate include polyimide and polyester, while the rigid substrate is typically FR-4. Consult with your manufacturer and refer to material datasheets to select the most appropriate materials for your design.

  9. Are Rigid-Flex PCBs more expensive than traditional rigid PCBs?

  10. Yes, Rigid-Flex PCBs are generally more expensive than traditional rigid PCBs due to the added complexity of the manufacturing process and the use of specialized materials. However, the overall cost savings achieved through reduced assembly time, elimination of connectors, and improved reliability can often justify the higher initial cost of Rigid-Flex PCBs in many applications.


Rigid-Flex PCBs offer a powerful solution for designing compact, reliable, and flexible electronic assemblies across a wide range of industries and applications. By combining the benefits of both rigid and flexible substrates, Rigid-Flex PCBs enable the creation of complex, three-dimensional circuits that can withstand harsh environments and provide optimal performance in limited spaces.

When designing and manufacturing Rigid-Flex PCBs, it is essential to consider factors such as bend radius, strain relief, component placement, and layer stack-up to ensure the best possible results. Choosing an experienced and capable Rigid-Flex PCB manufacturer is also critical to ensure the quality, reliability, and cost-effectiveness of your electronic assembly.

As the demand for more compact, lightweight, and functional electronic devices continues to grow, the use of Rigid-Flex PCBs is expected to increase across various industries. By staying informed about the latest developments and best practices in Rigid-Flex PCB design and manufacturing, engineers and product developers can leverage this innovative technology to create the next generation of cutting-edge electronic devices.