Managing the Challenges of Flex and Rigid-Flex Design


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PCB designers working with flex or rigid-flex technology face many potential risks that can derail a project and cause costly design failures. As the name implies, flex and rigid-flex designs comprise a combination of rigid and flexible board technologies made up of multiple layers of flexible circuit substrates, attached internally and/or externally to one or more rigid boards. These combinations provide flexibility for the PCB designer working on dense designs that require a specific form factor. Rigid-flex allows the PCB design team to cost-efficiently apply greater functionality to a smaller volume of space, while providing the mechanical stability required by most applications.

Rigid-flex technology is usually applied when a product needs to be compact, lightweight and/or flexible. Examples of end products where flex and rigid-flex systems are found include smart phones, modern televisions, digital cameras and laptops. As flex and rigid-flex boards are becoming more complex, modern design tools must be able to understand the unique design constructs and rules that surround these designs.

The Key Benefits of Flex and Rigid-Flex

The major benefits of flex and rigid-flex technology implementation and why design teams need to adopt this methodology include:

  • Reduced cost and increased reliability by eliminating physical connectors used in the traditional “design-separately-then-assemble” approach to systems design.
  • Improved signal integrity through the removal of cross-sectional changes to the conductors (eliminating physical connectors and their associated solder connections).
  • Physical space requirement reduction since parts can be placed, and traces can be routed, in three dimensions.
  • Improved electromechanical functionality including dynamic bending, vibration and shock tolerance, heat resistance, and weight reduction.

To read this entire article, which appeared in the recent issue of Flex007 Magazine, click here.

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