Gone are the days of settling for one-size-fits-all solutions because a Custom Flexible PCB allows you to shape your electronic designs according to your needs. Whether you are developing advanced wearable devices, medical instruments, aerospace systems, or IoT applications, the ability to customize the PCBs offers flexibility and accelerates your product selling point. These specialized Flex Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs) offer a wealth of possibilities. Flex PCBs empower businesses and innovators like you to create electronic designs that defy the limitations of traditional rigid PCBs.
This thorough study will examine each aspect of a Custom Flexible PCB, uncover the diverse options available for customization, and delve into the potential applications across various industries. So, let’s get started and discover a world where PCB innovation knows no bounds.
Custom Flexible PCB Options for Flexible PCBs
Flex PCB customers have various options to suit their specific design requirements. We’ll discuss the categories you can find your options in.
Customizing the Number of Flex PCB Layers
One key to customizing a Flexible PCB is determining the number of layers in a flexible PCB.
Flexible PCBs can be categorized into single-layer, double-layer, and multilayer designs.
- Single-layer flexible PCBs are suitable for simpler applications with minimal routing requirements.
- Double-layer flexible PCBs provide additional routing options in more complex electronic systems.
- Meanwhile, multilayer flexible PCBs are the ideal choice. These PCBs consist of three or more conductive layers, interconnected by vias, which enable complex signal routing.
Each additional layer expands the design possibilities, allowing for intricate circuitry and improved signal integrity.
Remarkably, flex PCBs have been created with an astonishing number of layers. The highest number of flexible PCB layers recorded to date is around 20 layers. These advanced multilayer flex PCBs are typically utilized in sophisticated applications such as high-speed telecommunications, aerospace systems, or advanced medical devices.
Customizing Your Flex PCB According to Material Selection
In addition to customizing the number of layers, buyers have a variety of materials to choose from when constructing their own flexible PCBs. The PCB’s performance, robustness, and suitability for particular applications are affected by the materials incorporated..
Here are some commonly used materials for custom flexible PCBs:
Known for its excellent flexibility, high-temperature resistance, and dimensional stability. Polyimide is popular for various applications, including aerospace, automotive, and consumer electronics.
Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET)
It’s cheaper but still widely used. Particularly found in medical devices, industrial controls, and consumer electronics. It offers good electrical insulation properties and ease of processing.
Polyether Ether Ketone (PEEK)
It’s a high-performance thermoplastic known for its exceptional mechanical strength, chemical resistance, and thermal stability. It finds applications in aerospace, automotive, and oil and gas industries.
Liquid Crystal Polymer (LCP)
This is a versatile material with excellent electrical properties, dimensional stability, and resistance to moisture and chemicals. It is commonly used in high-frequency and high-speed applications, such as RF/microwave devices and telecommunications.
Polyethylene Naphthalate (PEN)
Offers good thermal stability, chemical resistance, and moisture barrier properties, PEN is also popular. It is often used in flexible PCBs for solar panels, displays, and sensor applications.
The Many Applications
Custom Flexible PCB for All Kinds of Applications
You can also customize your Flexible PCB according to the applications or industries they will end up in. Let’s specify these areas.
The automotive industry demands reliable and robust electronic systems that withstand harsh conditions and perform exceptionally. Custom flexible PCBs are vital in addressing these car requirements, whether ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) or EVs (Electric Vehicles).
Protects against vibration and shock
Vehicles experience constant vibrations and shocks due to road conditions. Custom flexible PCBs are designed to absorb and withstand these mechanical stresses, ensuring the reliability and longevity of the electronic systems in the automotive environment.
The compact nature of flexible PCBs allows for efficient space utilization within vehicles. With their ability to be shaped and bent, they can conform to tight spaces and follow the contours of the vehicle’s interior.
Reduction of weight
Less weight is critical in the automotive industry to improve fuel efficiency and overall performance. A Custom flexible PCB can be made especially lighter compared to their rigid counterparts.
Tolerates high temperatures
Custom flexible PCBs can be manufactured using materials that offer high-temperature resistance. This is crucial in automotive applications where components may be subjected to elevated temperatures, especially in engine compartments or areas near exhaust systems.
The automotive environment exposes electronic systems to harsh conditions, including temperature variations, moisture, and chemical exposure. A Custom flexible PCB can be designed with protective coatings or encapsulation materials to enhance their resistance to water, dust, and other contaminants.
Electromagnetic Interference (EMI) Shielding
The flexible PCBs can be engineered to provide effective electromagnetic interference shielding. This is crucial in automotive applications to prevent unwanted electromagnetic radiation from interfering with other vehicle systems or external devices.
The design flexibility of custom flexible PCBs allows for the integration of various components, such as sensors, connectors, and microcontrollers, into a compact and efficient layout. This facilitates the implementation of advanced automotive features and technologies, including infotainment systems, advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS), and electric vehicle components.
Real-life examples of Custom Flexible PCBs in cars
Renowned automakers such as Honda and several Chinese Electric Vehicle (EV) companies like BYD and NIO leverage the benefits of custom flexible PCBs in critical automotive electronic systems. These flexible PCBs find applications in various machine parts, including instrument clusters, engine control units (ECUs), and infotainment systems.
Specifically, Honda employs flexible PCBs to ensure reliable and robust performance in their instrument clusters, ECUs, and infotainment systems, enhancing temperature resistance and vibration tolerance. Similarly, Chinese EV manufacturers like BYD and NIO utilize custom flexible PCBs in their machine parts, such as battery management systems, power electronics, and advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS), guaranteeing high reliability and optimal functionality.
Custom flexible PCBs offer unique advantages in medical applications, considering the stringent requirements for biocompatibility, sterilization, and signal integrity. They enable the development of sophisticated medical devices that are compact, light, and sturdy.
One prominent example is the pacemaker, a life-saving device that regulates abnormal heart rhythms. Leading brands like Medtronic and Abbott utilize custom flexible PCBs in their pacemaker devices. Further, St. Jude Medical produces cardiac monitoring devices that help diagnose and monitor heart conditions.
Similarly, medical imaging systems such as CT scanners employ custom flexible PCBs to enable high-speed data acquisition. Companies like >Canon Medical Systems Corporation utilize custom flexible PCBs.
Another application of custom flexible PCBs is in medical imaging systems, including MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) and CT (Computed Tomography) scanners. Brands like Siemens Healthineers and GE Healthcare incorporate custom flexible PCBs into their imaging systems.
Another area where custom flexible PCBs excel is the aerospace industry. Aircraft require electronic systems that are not only reliable but also lightweight due to stringent weight restrictions.
Custom flexible PCBs offer several benefits in the aerospace environment:
Aerospace applications demand lightweight, compact designs to maximize fuel efficiency and payload capacity. Custom flexible PCBs, being thinner and lighter than rigid boards, contribute to weight reduction while efficiently utilizing limited space within aircraft or satellite systems.
Stands up to extreme temperature.
Aerospace systems often experience extreme temperature fluctuations, especially during space missions or when operating in extremes ranging from -50°C to +125°C (-58°F to +257°F) or even wider ranges.
Resists mechanical stress
Aircraft and spacecraft are subjected to significant vibrations and shocks during takeoff, landing, and operation. Custom flexible PCBs are engineered to absorb mechanical stresses and vibrations, which can be quantified and measured using various methods.
Vibration is often measured in terms of acceleration, typically in units of meters per second squared (m/s²) or gravitational force (g). Frequency, measured in Hertz (Hz), represents the rate of vibration oscillations per unit of time.
Amplitude, measured in meters (m) or millimeters (mm), indicates the magnitude of vibration. Vibration levels are categorized based on standards like ISO 10816, providing guidelines for evaluating severity. A great custom flexible PCB is made with appropriate materials using damping techniques.
Reliability in high-altitudes
At high altitudes, atmospheric conditions can present extreme challenges for electronic systems. The air pressure decreases significantly, and the oxygen levels become lower compared to sea level conditions. For aerospace systems, airplanes commonly operate at altitudes ranging from 10,000 meters (32,808 feet) to 30,000 meters (98,425 feet) or even higher. Custom flexible PCBs are engineered to ensure the seamless operation of critical aerospace electronics in such high-altitude conditions.
The flexibility of custom PCBs allows for intricate and three-dimensional designs, making them suitable for complex aerospace systems.
- Curved surfaces, such as the interior panels of aircraft or the contours of satellite structures
- Instrument panels in aircraft often have non-rectangular shapes to fit the cockpit layout
- Antenna systems on satellites may have irregular shapes or 3D configurations to optimize signal reception or transmission.
- Avionics enclosures, which house critical electronic systems and components in aircraft, can have unique conditions or conform to specific aerodynamic requirements.
- Wearable devices such as head-up displays (HUDs) or flight crew equipment may require flexible PCBs to conform to the wearer’s shape or the device itself.
- UAVs, or drones, often have unconventional shapes and 3D configurations to enhance flight performance or carry specialized payloads. Custom flexible PCBs can be used in the control systems, communication modules, or camera systems
Real-life examples in avionics
Many famous companies utilize custom flexible PCBs in various machine parts within the aerospace environment, including avionics systems, flight control units, and satellite communications. For example:
Lockheed Martin, a renowned aerospace and defense company, incorporates custom flexible PCBs in their avionics systems to ensure optimal functionality and reliability.
Similarly, Honeywell, a leading aerospace technology company, relies on custom flexible PCBs in machine parts like flight control units and satellite communications.
For industrial applications, Several prominent brands and companies leverage these possibilities of Custom Flexible PCBs. Let’s explore a few examples:
Caterpillar Inc., a renowned construction and mining equipment manufacturer, incorporates custom flexible PCBs in their machinery. For instance, heavy machinery devices such as excavators, bulldozers, and loaders can benefit from customized, flexible PCBs to optimize control systems, enhance communication interfaces, and ensure efficient power management.
Power generation companies like Siemens Energy rely on custom flexible PCBs in their gas turbine systems used in the oil and gas industry. These flexible PCBs are customized to meet the demanding requirements of gas turbines, including temperature resistance, vibration tolerance, and high-speed data processing, to ensure optimal performance and reliability.
Prominent mining equipment manufacturers, like Komatsu Ltd., deploy custom flexible PCBs in their heavy machinery devices like haul trucks, excavators, and drills. Customized flexible PCBs can enhance control systems, monitor critical parameters, and improve safety in mining operations.
Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI), a major global player in heavy industries, including shipbuilding and construction equipment, employs custom flexible PCBs in their crane systems. These PCBs are tailored to withstand the demanding conditions experienced in crane operations.
Cranes and heavy lifting equipment
A Custom Flexible PCB is preferred in many crane systems. For instance, Liebherr Cranes are outfitted with custom flexible PCBs designed for precise control and load monitoring.
Many renowned telecom companies in the USA, Canada, and Europe utilize custom flexible PCBs in various devices and equipment to power efficient communication. Here are some famous examples:
AT&T deploys custom flexible PCBs in their microwave radio systems. These systems include devices like microwave transceivers or radios that enable high-frequency wireless communication over long distances. The custom flexible PCBs within these radios facilitate efficient signal transmission, amplification, modulation, and demodulation.
Base Transceiver Stations (BTS)
Giant companies like Ericsson utilizes custom flexible PCBs in their base transceiver stations. These stations, also known as BTS, are vital to mobile network infrastructure. Custom flexible PCBs are integrated into the BTS equipment, including the RF transceiver modules, signal processing units, and power management systems. The flexible PCBs enable precise RF signal handling, filtering, and amplification for the cellular network.
Canadian company Bell incorporates custom flexible PCBs in their VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminal) systems for satellite communication. These systems consist of devices such as VSAT terminals, which are used for bidirectional communication via satellite. The custom flexible PCBs in these terminals facilitate RF signal reception, transmission, and frequency conversion.
Nokia utilizes custom flexible PCBs in their RF transceivers. These transceivers combine RF signal reception and transmission capabilities within a single unit. The custom flexible PCBs integrated into Nokia’s RF transceivers enable efficient RF signal processing, filtering, amplification, and frequency conversion.
Get a sense of how to do it yourself with this video:
Custom flexible PCBs are Vodafone’s RF filter devices. These essential components select or reject specific frequency bands in telecommunications systems. The custom flexible PCBs in Vodafone’s RF filters enable precise filtering, impedance matching, and signal conditioning for frequency management.
Vector Network Analyzers (VNA)
Leading providers of electronic measurement solutions, like Keysight, incorporate custom flexible PCBs with microstrip and stripline configurations in their vector network analyzers.
Anritsu Corporation, a global test and measurement equipment provider, utilizes custom flexible PCBs in their signal generators. These flexible PCBs enable precise transmission line design, impedance matching, and signal integrity for telecom testing and calibration.
Rohde & Schwarz, a leading manufacturer of test and measurement instruments, incorporates custom flexible PCBs in their spectrum analyzers. These flexible PCBs enable precise signal path control, impedance matching, and transmission line optimization.
Prominent manufacturers of oscilloscopes and test equipment, like Tektronix, incorporate a custom flexible PCB in their high-frequency oscilloscopes. These flexible PCBs enable reliable analysis and visualization of RF waveforms and signals.
Custom Flexible PCBs in Consumer Electronics and the Internet of Things (IoT)
Custom flexible PCBs are also in consumer electronics and IoT devices. These versatile PCBs find applications in a wide range of consumer devices, including laptops, tablets, smartphones, smartwatches, and connected devices.
Work with Us
Collaborate with MV Flex Circuit, Your Best Ever Flex PCB Partner
We’ve explored the versatility and adaptability of Custom Flexible PCBs in our blog today.
The remarkable potential of customized Flex Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs) cannot be overstated. Whether you are working on cutting-edge wearable devices, medical instruments, aerospace systems, or IoT applications, harnessing the flexibility of Flex PCBs provides a significant advantage for your product’s success. By incorporating these specialized PCBs into your electronic designs, you gain the power to push the boundaries set by traditional rigid PCBs.
We are here to fuel your success
Collaborating with MV Flex Circuit means gaining access to a wealth of benefits. Whether you are developing advanced wearable devices, cutting-edge medical instruments, revolutionary aerospace systems, or groundbreaking IoT applications, we are here to help. Our Flex PCBs offer the flexibility and adaptability you need to bring your innovative ideas to life.
But it’s not just about the PCBs – it’s about our work together. When you choose us, you’re not just getting a supplier; you’re gaining a collaborator passionate about helping you achieve your goals.
So, why wait? Contact us immediately!