Printed circuit boards are an integral part of electronics. These boards play a significant role in the production of PCBs. There are various types of circuit boards. FPC which is known as the flexible printed circuit is a type of circuit board. PCBs are just like the backbone of any electronic device. They serve as the basis on which an electronic device operates.
From the manufacturing of tablets to smartphones, digital watches, calculators, and the likes, a circuit board is important. FPC also plays an important role in the production of some electronics. The use of FPC in the electronic industry is increasing. This material is known for its features and benefits. Here, we will be discussing everything about FPC.
What is FPC?
FPC is a type of PCB called flexible printed circuit. The introduction of this technology has revolutionized the electrical interconnection approach. FPC helps to get a reduction of weight, space, and costs. The flexible printed circuit has a portion that is bendable. Flexible printed circuits are applicable in the production of certain electronics.
These circuits are high-flexible boards that are made of polyester film or polyimide. They are lightweight, thin, and have a great bending property. Wifi FPC is also made of thin insulating substrates. FPC is used in several applications due to its great features.
The flexible nature of this circuit and its compactness make it an ideal option for some applications. FPC circuit has replaced several types of wiring usually done by hand, in several applications. The flexible films represent the framework of an FPC.
Just like a PCB, an FPC has some elements; the dielectric substrate film, protective finish, adhesive material, and electrical conductors. The dielectric substrate film is the base of FPC. The electrical conductors represent the circuit’s traces. FPC is commonly applied in the production of small electronics.
What is the difference between an FPC and a PCB?
An FPC is different from a PCB. PCB is the commonest type of circuit board. It is a traditional circuit board that routes electrical signals via conductive pathways. For every electronic device, you will find one or more PCBs. Although a PCB and an FPC have the same electrical function, they are different.
An FPC can twist and bend while a standard PCB can’t do that. Due to this reason, the two boards undergo different production processes and have different designs. The base layer of a PCB makes use of reinforced glass. The commonest material used is the FR4. This possesses great mechanical force and provides the stability required.
The base material for an FPC is polyimide. Polyimide has great flexibility abilities; however, it can’t provide enough mechanical support. As regards adhesives, printed circuit boards consider chemical and thermal properties since they don’t bend. FPC uses adhesives that will allow the board to bend effectively. Therefore, the adhesive needed for a flexible printed circuit has different chemical, thermal, and mechanical properties.
When we take a look at the copper film in a PCB and an FPC, we will see a difference. There are two types of copper films. The rolled annealed and the electrodeposited copper film. Rolled annealed is the ideal option for an FPC due to its flexible qualities. While electrodeposited copper is ideal for PCB production. The type of copper used plays a significant role in the performance of these boards.
From the explanations above, one can easily tell the difference between these two boards. The difference is evident in the materials, production processes, and design specifications. Therefore, it is important to know the difference between these two boards to avoid errors.
Benefits of FPC PCB
Flexibility: Since FPC can be flexible it relieves users of the stress of space and weight that circuit boards often produce. FPC can be bent to different levels during installation. This allows the enhancement of the functionality levels of different electronics.
Capacity for design freedom: FPCs feature ensures design freedom. These printed circuits aren’t just restricted to double layers. This will benefit engineers as they can come up with complicated configurations with various interconnections. Furthermore, flexible printed circuits can accommodate various components. The capacity for design freedom gives engineers the ability to exercise creativity and diversity.
Long-term performance: The properties of FPC enable them to be durable. Flexible printed circuits have low ductility and mass. This helps them to fight the impact of vibrations and as such, result in improved performance. When electronics last long, it is a big advantage for users. Users will enjoy their electronics more if they remain in good working condition for a long time.
Improved system reliability: Circuit failures occur at the point of interconnection. Therefore, flexible printed circuits ensure that there are minimal interconnections to enhance the dependability of a circuit.
Ideal for high-temperature application: FPC contains polyimide material that makes them resist high temperatures. These circuits can also be resistant to materials such as oils and acids. Flexible printed circuits can resist high temperatures like 400°C. This makes these boards an ideal option for high-temperature usage.
Accuracy of designs: The margin of error in designs is minimal since automated machinery is used for designing FPC circuits. This is an important characteristic of advanced electronic devices. The majority of today’s advanced electronic devices make use of FPC since it has a high level of precision. For instance, electronic devices utilized in medical settings need a high level of precision.
Limitations of an FPC PCB
Flexible PCBs or FPCs have several benefits, but they also have their limitations. Since these circuits are specifically designed for some applications the initial costs for prototype and circuit design are much higher. If cost is a major concern, the FPC technology is only ideal for production volumes that are slightly low.
When FPCs need to be reworked, they are always difficult to modify or repair. In this case, you need to remove the film that covers the circuit, carry out the intervention and restore the protection. FPCs are a recent technology and not all manufacturers can handle this technology. Also, extreme care is needed during the assembly phase of the PCB. If care isn’t taken, the circuit can get damaged.
FPCs are used in manufacturing electronic devices due to their properties. FPC comprises an insulating polymer film with electronic circuits of different patterns. These circuits are housed in a thin polymer coating that provides an extra layer of shielding. FPC electronics can also be manufactured with the use of photolithographic technology.
There are a large amount of insulating materials engineers can utilize to shield the circuit from electrical interference, weather, and wear. FPCs are available in a single layer, multilayer, and double-sided. FPC electronics can be an ideal replacement for stiff boards and connectors. Also, they can be stacked in different configurations.
As the demands for FPC electronics continue to grow, they are becoming more popular in the electronics industry. FPC fingerprint is also a common technology.
Applications of FPC
FPCs are a great lightweight and thin wiring material. These circuits play a significant role as extremely functional modules. Flexible printed circuits are used in several applications such as;
Mobile phones: Since FPCs are lightweight and extremely thin; they can save the volume of a device and easily connect the buttons, battery, and microphone. For instance, the FPC adapter is used for mobile phones.
Automobile: Flexible printed circuits are used in the automobile industry. These circuit boards are used for designing the led light, automotive powertrain, and the sensor for engine control of a car.
Medical equipment: These materials feature special properties that make them ideal for designing some medical equipment like an ultrasonic probe.
Robotics: FPC is flexible and as such, robotics engineers used it as wiring material for the legs and arms of a robot. It is used in the moving areas of robots.
Computer and LCD screen: The IC configuration and the thin thickness of FPC enable engineers to convert the digital signal into an image and display it via the LCD screen.
Solar cells: FPCs are used for the production of solar cells. These circuits are lightweight and flexible, hence; they are ideal for this application.
Disk Drive: Regardless of the type of disk drive, the thin thickness and extreme flexibility of FPC help to complete the reading of data quickly.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the basic elements in FPC production? The basic elements in FPC production are base material, bonding adhesive, and metal foil. The base material is the framework of the laminate. Adhesives are the bonding medium for making a laminate while metal foil is the conductive element of the laminate.
What are FPC antennas? FPC antennas are thin and flexible antennas commonly utilized in the wireless industry. An FPC antenna comprises polyimide and conductive material for the antenna topology.
FPCs are utilized in various devices such as cameras, printers, smartphones, and laptops. They are also used in several industries such as automobile, medical, robotics, etc. For the past years, FPC technology has continued to grow.
The rise in the use of smaller and more flexible devices has resulted in improvement in the FPC industry. Wifi FPC can improve connection reliability, reduce assembly costs and time, and allow the implementation of new applications.