Flex Design: Should You Do It Yourself?


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Should you design your own flex circuits? I say, come on in--the water’s warm! The more flex applications the better! The industry has an army of very sharp CAM operators that turn bad designs into something manufacturable. In most cases, they catch the things that could cause trouble down the road.

Figure 1: What’s the worst thing that could happen if you design your product badly?

That said, recently I’ve worked with three companies that had real problems with flex circuit designs that they did themselves. Two were rigid-flex designs and the other was a dynamic flex; all three were flex applications that the customer had never tried before. The rigid-flex programs had unacceptable failures after first production runs. The dynamic flex application was a train wreck--it shut down production of a high-profile product.

This is just my opinion, and it’s worth the price you’re paying for it, but I’d like to propose four applications or situations where it might not be a good idea to do it yourself--especially if it’s your first flex design or you have limited experience designing this type of flex. At the very least, get another set of eyes to review your design before having circuits built. Here are the four situations:

1. Dynamic circuits

Does your flex circuit have to move as part of your product’s function? Designing a dynamic circuit, especially a multilayer dynamic flex, is much trickier than a flex-to-install and also more prone to field failures. I have rarely seen enough life testing of prototypes to be statistically significant--sometimes these circuits can work fine at the prototype stage but have an unacceptable failure rate in production.Read the full article here.Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the December 2013 issue of The PCB Design Magazine.

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