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What are Sculptured Flex Circuits?

The Sculptured Flex technology modifies the standard flexible circuit technology by substituting the male connector pins for copper traces that are unsupported that extend beyond the board’s edge. These copper traces have varying thicknesses; the connector parts are thicker and more durable, while the remaining portions of this circuit are thin enough just to allow for flexing and bending. Due to its ability to increase space efficiency while reducing PCB width by doing away with connectors, sculpted flex is becoming more and more popular.

In order to assemble a connector on conventional flex circuit boards, the board must feature PTH appropriate for receiving the connector pins as well as the solderable pads that works great for the pitch matching of the surface mount ZIF socket.

Once this connector gets soldered to the PCB, additional support is required to relieve stress at the board’s junction as well as the connector. However, all of the above can be avoided with sculptured flex circuits.

Sculptured flex circuits begin with 7 oz. of thick copper. This creates the traces of copper that will stick out from the circuit board so as to produce the connector’s pins. Following the removal of the undesirable copper, more careful etching decreases the remaining traces to a thickness that support high flexibility, while plating using metals like tin, gold, and copper increases the traces’ thickness present at the different edges. While maintaining the majority of this circuit, the selective sculpturing results in thicker traces occurring at its edges.

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Its base dielectric must then be removed from beneath its thicker traces utilizing back-baring technology. Fabricators choose to pre-punch or drill its base dielectric so as to reveal the traces which will later become connector pins rather than ablate or remove the dielectric with lasers.

When Should You Use This?

  • Integrated design lowers labor expenses for assembly (savings for the customers)
  • Getting rid of connecting parts reduces weight and improves flexibility.
  • Offers exceptionally high performance and dependability
  • Whenever there are design constraints on space, this is used

Features

  • A crucial component of this conductor designs are fingers.
  • Tailored to fit any mating board pitch as well as configuration
  • Available formed or straight contacts
  • Traces of unsupported termination
  • Because it is thicker, the terminal point can be used as the connector right away.
  • Removes any mechanical connection points, as well as ensure more reliable connection.

Advantages of Sculptured Flex Circuits

Sculptured flex circuits are excellent for plugging in straight in sockets of female connectors or attaching directly to Circuit boards using a quick insertion procedure to interface with connectors delivering solder cup termination. They are therefore appropriate for space-constrained, tough applications. By not requiring mating or wire stripping connectors, it also saves money.

A conventional product having contact-area configurations present on the opposite or same side is possible with the sculptured flex circuits, enabling the mirroring of signal layouts in-between two Circuit boards.

They inherit the advantages of flex circuits, including greater signal integrity as well as strong resilience to damages from vibration and bending, because sculptured flex is essentially a flexible circuit. For different differential signals, of low voltage, as electrical connectors present in-between display boards as well as Circuit boards, and in place of cable jumper assembly in high-vibration applications, sculptured flex circuits can therefore be a common product that is readily accessible off-the-shelf.

HD televisions and large display applications are also excellent candidates for sculpted flex, particularly when it comes to simplifying cable jumper assembly. Additionally, by using FPC connectors with an extremely low pitch, manufacturers may easily achieve tight tolerances required for dependable connections.

A common use for sculptured flex circuits is in jumpers, sometimes known as the sculptured jumpers, which offer a straightforward but affordable method of connecting rigid circuit board with the panel-mounted components. Users can attach the unsupported and exposed fingers of the sculptured jumpers directly to SMD pads or thread them via PTH directly on the SMD pads.

In conclusion, sculptured flex circuits does have a variety of advantages, including:

  • removing the requirement for the ZIF connectors
  • lowering the cost of assembly labor
  • expanding adaptability
  • Increasing performance and dependability

Considerations in Sculptured Flex Circuits Design

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The industry classifies Sculptured Flex Circuits as a subset of Differential Copper Circuit boards. These Bump Plated Circuit boards are another type included in this group. Although bump plated Circuit boards have extensively plated surface mount pads present at its ends, sculptured flex Circuits have uncovered metal fingers that allow bare metal interconnections similar to plug-in connectors. Often, these plated surface mount pads have a plating layer that is thicker than 5 mils.

Top-quality sculptured flex circuits made of beryllium copper, stainless steel, or aluminum could be produced by manufacturers for use in commercial applications. When developing sculptured flex circuits, polyimide is regarded as the most frequently used material for its dielectric; however, the choice also varies depending on the thermal and mechanical requirements of the application. Fabricators can still use PEN or polyester as the dielectric where necessary.

The application mostly determines the hardness and thickness of finger conductors as well as the type of copper to use for the sculptured flex circuits. Although no specific restrictions are available when creating artworks to serve sculptured flex circuits, the fabricator must be adequately informed of the copper and dielectric requirements.

Summary

Single-sided or double-sided flex circuits without or with PTH make up the majority of the sculptured flex circuits. Also, they are sculptured thick pins that resemble terminals and continue these copper traces present on its flex, but go beyond the limit of the main dielectric material.

Because they can be soldered directly onto SMT pads, PTHs, or plugged into the female connectors, sculptured flex circuits offers an infinite number of contact configuration options. This eliminates the requirement for connectors, reduces the cost involved in assembly and of the materials needed, and increases the system’s dependability and performance.