Printed circuit boards are mostly found in electronic devices as they serve several functions. They serve as the backbone of electronic devices. There are several types of circuit boards based on their ability to bend. These circuit boards are rigid and soft boards. We will focus on soft PCBs in this article.
What is a Soft PCB?
A soft PCB is also known as a flexible printed circuit board. It is a circuit board that can bend, fold, or twist into any shape. This circuit board is a good invention in the electronics industry as it serves several purposes. A soft PCB is very lightweight and flexible. However, the processing of this circuit board requires further protocols like material handling, special clamping, and more.
Soft PCBs are often used in wearable devices as they can stick to the body easily. These PCBs aren’t simple or cheap to produce. Hence, they are usually designed by companies that need them. The materials used for this PCB must not be too flexible so that it breaks the board when twisted or bent.
Before the advent of soft boards, electronic producers incorporated rigid boards. In few products like wrist watch, there was less space for rigid boards. However, there was a need for flexible circuit boards in some devices. Therefore, soft circuit boards came into existence.
Also, soft PCBs have made it possible to produce hand-carry electronic products like flexible keyboard. You can easily roll and put this keyboard in your bag. Furthermore, flexible circuits have a great impact in oil & gas sector. These boards have the ability to withstand high temperatures.
Soft PCB manufacturing process involves steps that are similar to that of multilayer PCB. Also, soft boards are usually designed from a thin insulating polymer film. The applications of these boards keep growing every day. Also, soft PCBs can be single sided, double sided, and multilayer.
Materials used in Soft PCB
There are some basic materials used in the production of soft circuit boards. These materials are essential for the performance of a soft PCB.
Insulators separate electrical conductors. These materials fail to conduct current themselves. Also, they serve as support to other components in the circuit. Examples of insulators include solder mask, polyimide, and polyethylene naphthalene.
Conductors enable the free flow of electrical current. The most commonly used material for conductor is copper. This is because copper is a highly conductive material. However, other materials used for conductors include, silver, carbon, aluminum.
Adhesives serve as a binding for surface mount components. Also, the uses of adhesives depend on the thickness of conductor and customer requirements. Examples of adhesives include acrylic and epoxy. Some soft PCBs don’t require many adhesives.
Finishes serve as protection. They protect the metal surface against oxidation. Also, the application of the circuit board determines the final finish. There are several types of finishes you can use. These include immersion gold or silver, tin, palladium gold.
Benefits of Soft PCB
Soft PCBs offer a lot of benefits. These circuit boards aren’t just flexible; they have got good features which make them relevant in the electronics industry.
Soft PCBs are light weight. These PCBs are usually created from plastic or epoxy. Also, soft circuit boards don’t feature substrate core. Their small weight is a result of the SMD components available in them. Also, soft PCBs comprise the thinnest substrate materials.
One of the greatest advantages of a soft PCB is its size. Therefore, this circuit board can fit into a small space. It can be simply adjusted in small spaces. Also, it has negligible width just like paper.
Resistance to high temperature
Soft PCBs can resist high temperatures and as such, are ideal for use in oil and gas sector. In oil and gas sector, rigid boards can easily melt out. The ability of these PCBs to withstand temperature depends on the material used for their fabrication.
People often believe that soft PCBs don’t usually have great capability like rigid boards since they are just flexible. Soft circuit boards have great capability as they improve the general performance of electronic devices by enhancing component density.
Soft PCBs can stand the test of time if treated well. These boards are very durable since their manufacturing takes place under precise conditions. Also, these boards are usually coated with formulated materials.
Soft PCBs integrate less mechanical connectors. Also, there is a minimal use of interconnection points. Therefore, the system proves to be more reliable. Furthermore, this PCB enables increased heat dissipation.
Applications of Soft PCB
Soft PCBs are specifically used in some applications. They are not as common as rigid PCBs, but they have found their way in some applications.
Soft PCBs are commonly used in wearable devices like spy microphones, wrist watches, smart cameras, and more. These circuit boards have proved to be very useful in the production of wearable devices.
Print-heat of printers integrates soft PCBs that offer a pathway to link signal with the arm of the disk drive.
Soft PCBs are ideal for use in consumer electronics like cameras, calculators, entertainment devices.
These PCBs are ideal for producing some medical devices. There are several wearable devices in the medical field. For instance, soft PCBs are available in heart monitor devices, body-mounted sensors, and fitness trackers. Patients can wear these devices to regulate and monitor some issues in their body.
Soft PCBs are ideal for use in the production of robotic arms, bar code equipment, processing machines, and more. Some industrial devices feature soft boards.
The use of soft PCBs keeps growing across various sectors. These PCBs is ideal for use in main electronic sectors like wearables, consumer, electro-medical devices, and automotive.
There are several electronic devices that use soft PCBs. These devices include computer keyboards, consumer electronics, and wearable devices. Soft circuit boards were majorly introduced to utilize the flexible areas of a product. Due to their flexibility and lightweight, the production equipment used for fabricating these boards can be light.