Printed Circuit Boards have been around for some time, and since they hit the market, their impact on the electronic industry has been significant. Through these fantastic components, electronic manufacturers now have the ability to manufacture compact gadgets that function impeccably and with great power. Moreover, they come in three types, rigid, semi-flex, and flex, offering the advantage of variety. All these PCB types offer varying benefits, which are crucial to the electronics industry.
However, out of the three, only one is known as a hybrid PCB, the semi-flex circuit board. It goes by this name since it adopts both rigid and flexible characteristics. Due to these features and more, semi-flex or rigid-flex PCBs tend to have a lot of applications in the electronics industry. So which applications set these circuit boards apart? What makes these printed circuit boards unique? And how can you get yourself a semi-flex printed circuit board from the best manufacturers in the market?
Semi-flex PCB in a Nutshell
Semi-flex circuit boards are special types of PCBs that manufacturers produce using a unique PCB production process. The production process involves milling a portion of rigid FR4 till it reaches a 0.20mm (+/-0.10mm) thickness. Moreover, this production process makes the printed circuit board bendable to effectively fit inside small casings. However, these printed circuit boards are primarily utilized for a single bend installation, or they can’t be reused after their first installation.
Semi-flexible printed circuit boards are flexible to install circuit boards made entirely from FR4. Moreover, the flexing component of these types of PCBs is usually a slim FR4 core. However, the core doesn’t bend unlimitedly. Therefore, these circuit boards are primarily suitable for applications requiring technicians to install two in a single unit but at a certain angle.
Semi-flexible printed circuit boards are cheaper to manufacture than printed circuit boards made of polyimide.
Using PCB designing software, you can easily design a semi-flexible circuit board that can easily bend multiple times. Their ability to bend makes these circuit boards easy to install and maintain. And most importantly, these printed circuit board is that they are space efficient. Therefore you can utilize them in applications that require you to save on space.
Bending Radius of Semi-Flexible Circuit Boards
Single-layer rigid-flexible circuit boards have a minimum bending radius of 5.0mm, which exceeds the flexibility of polyimide circuit boards. And due to this flexibility, semi-flexible printed circuit boards have a lot of applications in different industries.
Moreover, when using semi-flexible circuit boards, you can easily achieve a bending angle of about 1800. With these bending angles, you can easily install this PCB in small spaces without having to go through an incredible hassle.
Additionally, semi-flexible printed circuit boards can change their shape to accommodate the issue of space limitation. Hence using these circuit boards, space should not be an issue.
The Difference between Flexible and Semi-Flexible Printed Circuit Boards
Regarding technological contrasts between semi-flex and flexible printed circuit boards, the one difference that stands out is that technicians utilize flexible polymers to create flexible PCBs. During the fabrication process of flexible PCBs, technicians build the circuit patterns into the board’s film using conductive components. They then add a thin coating to shield the circuit against external damage. The films technicians use to build these circuits make the entire circuit board flexible. Therefore, you can easily manipulate these circuit boards without damaging or cutting the current transmission.
On the other hand, semi-flexible PCBs are mostly made out of FR4. Moreover, these circuit boards only bend at specific areas that are specifically made flexible by manufacturers. As a result, these circuit boards can only bend at predefined points and in predefined ways or directions. Moreover, as per production, technicians utilize a milling process, as we saw earlier.
When you remove the flexible regions in semi-flexible circuits, you are left with a stiff PCB that resembles the traditional rigid printed circuit boards.
However, putting the production process and material differences aside, the most crucial difference between these two circuit boards is that semi-flexible PCBs don’t bend an unlimited number of times. That means that, even though these flexible points are efficient at first, with time, and several bends, these sections might get damaged. Therefore, technicians primarily utilize these PCBs in applications that require flex-to-install capabilities. However, some semi-flexible can repeatedly bend, allowing for easier future maintenance with little to no damage to the circuit.
On the other hand, the flexible printed circuit board bends unlimitedly with little to no damage occurring to the circuit board.
Pros of Semi-Flexible Printed Circuit Boards
To manufacture semi-flexible PCBs, manufacturers utilize epoxy resin FR4 and a selective milling process that helps them minimize the thickness of the FR4 in specific sections. By using this process, technicians can achieve impeccable flexibility in particular regions.
The PCB fabrication process of semi-flexible PCBs is simple; hence, it does not incur a lot of money. Moreover, semi-flexible PCBs are pretty ideal for applications that are cost challenging. Also, generally, semi-flexible printed circuit boards tend to be less expensive when compared to rigid PCBs.
Semi-flexible printed circuit boards have multiple applications in the electronics sector. Moreover, the production process of these circuit boards minimizes connector entanglements. After completing the PCB assembly process of these circuit boards, technicians can effectively bend them into the shape they want in the final product without adding flexible substrates. Doing so prevents the issue of reliability that arises due to the contraction that occurs on the flexible and rigid substrates. Therefore, using these circuit boards, you can enhance your gadget’s reliability while reducing the cost incurred in producing the circuit.
In designing and assembling semi-flexible printed circuit boards, specialists at these jobs only spend a little bit of time completing their tasks. That is because you can generate a semi-flexible PCB design pretty fast, assemble it without a hassle, and even integrate it into your boxes and housing without breaking a sweat. Therefore, these circuit boards help you save a lot of time.
Semi-flexible printed circuit boards have enhanced flexibility which helps them fit into pretty compact spaces. Therefore, you can use these circuit boards to generate compact and powerful gadgets. Moreover, this circuit board allows you more flexibility in developing your gadget’s design. That is because the circuit board’s specifications will not restrict you. Moreover, semi-flexible printed circuit boards provide flexible connections.
Semi-flexible printed circuit boards can bend locally. Therefore, they fit multiple applications that require unique PCB installations. Moreover, engineers can quickly get local bending that fits their product requirements using these PCBs. Therefore, instead of adjusting their designs to fit the preferred circuit board, they can adjust the semi flexible circuit board to fit the product design.
Application Areas of Semi-Flexible Printed Circuit Boards
Semi-flexible printed circuit boards have multiple applications in multiple areas due to their high quality and reliability. Some applications areas of these incredible printed circuit boards include:
Semi-flexible printed circuit boards play a crucial role in the auto industry. That is because, due to their design, they are great for utilization in applications with little to no dynamic stress of the region with bending properties. Therefore, you will mostly find these printed circuit boards in automotive parts.
Moreover, technicians also utilize these printed circuit boards to generate automotive parts such as:
- Airbag systems
- Antilock systems
You can also find these circuit boards in automotive engine control systems.
Manufacturers in the electronics industry have identified the usefulness of utilizing semi-flexible printed circuit boards to produce industrial electronics. That is because these circuit boards have enhanced reliability and impeccable flexibility.
Semi-flexible printed circuit boards are heavily utilized in the manufacturing industry to produce consumer electronics due to their ability to help generate compact gadgets. Therefore, you can find these circuit boards in hearing aids and cellphones, among other devices.
A couple of medical gadgets encompass semi-flexible printed circuit boards in their design. These gadgets include:
- Hearing aids
- Heart monitoring gadgets
Technicians in the telecommunication industry also heavily rely on semi-flexible printed circuit boards to produce gadgets for this sector. You can find these circuit boards in the following devices:
- GPS trackers
How can you find Semi Flexible PCBs?
There are multiple PCB production companies. However, not all of them offer quality semi-flexible PCB manufacturing services. However, companies such as Artist-3D have impeccable manufacturing capabilities and decades of experience in the industry. Moreover, to make your work easier, this company has an online website, artist-3D.com. Therefore you can access their site anytime and anywhere to gain impeccable semi-flexible PCB production services.
Other companies that also offer impeccable semi-flexible PCB service include:
- Bay Area Circuit
- Advanced Circuit
Semi-flexible printed circuit boards are crucial to the electronics industry and the world at large. Though most semi-flex PCB applications fall in the large machine, automotive, and data communication industries, we can expect this application to grow with time. These printed circuit boards satisfy the following requirements: low installation cost and time, impeccable system reliability, and 3D installation. Therefore, we hope this article has provided you with sufficient information about semi-flex printed circuit boards.