Flex PCBs are used in a variety of electronic applications due to their versatility and flexibility. However, their unique design requires careful handling and preparation prior to assembly.
One essential step in this process is Pre-Bake Flex PCB, which involves heating the PCBs to remove moisture and prevent damage during assembly.
In this blog, we will explore why Pre-Bake Flex PCB processes are essential for a quality assembly and provide six tips for ensuring optimal performance.
What is Flex PCB Pre-Baking?
Flex PCB pre-baking is a critical process that involves heating the PCBs to a specific temperature for a set period of time prior to assembly.
The purpose of pre-baking is to remove any moisture that may be trapped within the PCB layers, as moisture can cause damage and defects during assembly.
This process ensures that the flex PCBs are in their optimal condition for assembly, reducing the risk of costly mistakes and improving overall performance.
Pre-baking is an essential step in the production of flex PCBs and requires careful consideration to ensure the best possible results.
Flex PCB Pre-Baking
Polyimide Materials: Hydroscopic Characteristics
Polyimide materials are commonly used in the manufacturing of flexible printed circuit boards due to their high-temperature resistance, flexibility, and durability.
However, it’s important to note that polyimide materials are hydroscopic, which means they have a tendency to absorb moisture from the environment.
This moisture can negatively impact the performance of flexible PCBs, leading to defects and failure during assembly or use.
To mitigate these risks, it’s essential to properly handle and store polyimide materials in a controlled environment with low humidity levels.
Additionally, pre-baking flexible PCBs before assembly is a crucial step in removing any moisture that may have been absorbed by the polyimide materials, ensuring optimal performance and reducing the risk of defects or failure.
Understanding the hydroscopic characteristics of polyimide materials is an important aspect of producing high-quality flexible PCBs.
Pre-Bake Flex PCB Process
The process involves heating the flexible PCBs to a specific temperature for a set period of time to remove any moisture that may have been absorbed by the polyimide materials, which can negatively impact the performance of the flexible PCBs.
The Pre-Bake Flex PCB process is typically performed in a controlled environment with low humidity levels to prevent moisture absorption during the heating process.
The temperature and duration of the Pre-Bake Flex PCB process vary depending on the specific flexible PCB design and materials used. However, it’s important to carefully follow the manufacturer’s guidelines to avoid damage or defects during the Pre-Bake Flex PCB process.
Proper pre-baking of flexible PCBs ensures that they are in their optimal condition for assembly, improving overall performance and reducing the risk of costly mistakes.
Understanding the pre-bake flex PCB process is essential for producing high-quality flexible PCBs for a variety of electronic applications.
Flex PCB Process
Standards for Pre-Bake Flex PCB
To ensure the consistent and reliable performance of flexible printed circuit boards, various standards have been established to guide the pre-bake process.
Provides guidelines for the design and manufacture, not only for rigid printed circuit boards but also flexible printed circuit boards. This standard includes recommendations for the pre-bake process, such as the recommended temperature range and duration for specific materials and designs.
IPC FA 251
Also provides guidelines for the assessment of the reliability of flexible printed circuit boards. This standard includes testing protocols for the pre-bake process to ensure that flexible PCBs meet specific performance and reliability requirements.
DuPont Pyralux Standards
A set of guidelines developed by DuPont for the manufacture of their Pyralux flexible circuit materials. These guidelines include recommendations for the pre-bake process, as well as other critical steps in the production of flexible circuits, to ensure that the materials are processed consistently and reliably.
Possible Effect if you Skip Pre-Bake Process in Flex PCB
Skipping the pre-bake process in the production of flexible printed circuit boards can lead to a variety of issues that can negatively impact the performance and reliability of the boards.
This occurs when the adhesive layer between the coverlay and the flexible PCBs substrate fails, leading to the separation of the layers. This can cause issues such as short circuits or open circuits, leading to a loss of functionality in the FPCB.
Flex PCB Coverlay
This occurs when the bond between the different layers of the flexible PCBs fails, causing the separation of the layers. This can lead to loss of electrical connectivity or signal integrity issues, negatively impacting the overall performance of the FPCB.
This occurs when the adhesive bond between the stiffener and the flexible PCBs fails, causing the separation of the stiffener from the board. This can cause issues such as warping or deformation of the flexible PCBs, leading to failure during assembly or use.
Flex PCB Stiffener
Pre-Bake Flex PCB Tips
Pre-baking flexible printed circuit boards is a crucial step in ensuring their optimal performance and reliability. To ensure that flexible PCBs are properly pre-baked, it’s important to follow best practices and guidelines for the Pre-Bake Flex PCB process. Some tips for pre-baking flex PCBs include:
Bake circuits at 250°F (121°C) for 1 hour
One of the most important tips for pre-baking flexible printed circuit boards is to bake the circuits at the recommended temperature and duration.
The recommended temperature for pre-baking most flexible PCBs is 250°F (121°C), and the duration is typically around 1 hour.
However, it’s important to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for specific materials and designs, as these can vary depending on the type of flexible PCBs being used.
It’s important to note that pre-baking for too long or at too high a temperature can lead to over-baking or damage to the flexible PCBs, so it’s crucial to carefully monitor the temperature and duration during the Pre-Bake Flex PCB process.
By following this tip and the other best practices for pre-baking flexible PCBs, it’s possible to produce high-quality and reliable electronic devices.
Solder units upon 2 hours of unit removal from the oven
Another important tip for pre-baking flexible printed circuit boards is to wait at least 2 hours after the flexible PCBs have been removed from the oven before soldering them.
This is because the flexible PCBs need time to cool down and stabilize after the pre-bake process, which can help ensure that they are less prone to warping or deformation during the soldering process.
Soldering flexible PCBs too soon after the pre-bake process can result in issues such as thermal shock or delamination, which can negatively impact the performance and reliability of the electronic device.
Waiting at least 2 hours before soldering allows the flexible PCBs to cool down and stabilize, reducing the risk of these issues.
Allowing flexible printed circuit boards to cool down after the Pre-Bake Flex PCB process is an important tip to ensure their performance and reliability.
This is because flexible PCBs can become unstable and deform if they are exposed to rapid temperature changes or thermal shock.
Once the Pre-Bake Flex PCB process is complete, it’s recommended to leave the flexible PCBs in the oven with the door open or to remove them from the oven and place them on a flat and stable surface to cool down gradually.
Rapid cooling, such as placing the flexible PCBs in a freezer or exposing them to air conditioning, can lead to thermal shock and result in issues such as cracking or delamination.
Applying flux to the surface of flexible printed circuit boards is an important step in the Pre-Bake Flex PCB process, as it helps to ensure strong and reliable solder joints during assembly.
Flux works by removing any oxides or contaminants from the surface of the flexible PCBs, allowing the solder to adhere more effectively.
When applying flux to flexible PCBs, it’s important to use a high-quality and appropriate flux that is recommended by the flexible PCBs manufacturer.
The flux should be applied evenly to the surface of the flexible PCBs using acid brushes or other suitable applicators.
Use Acid Brushes to apply flux
Acid brushes are small brushes with bristles made of natural or synthetic materials, such as horsehair or nylon, that are designed for applying flux and other chemicals to surfaces.
They are widely used in electronics manufacturing for applying flux to flexible PCBs, as they provide excellent control and precision when applying small amounts of flux to specific areas.
When using acid brushes to apply flux to flexible PCBs, it’s important to choose a brush with bristles that are suitable for the type of flux being used.
The brush should be dipped into the flux and then gently applied to the surface of the flexible PCBs in a thin and even layer. It’s important to avoid using too much flux, as this can result in issues such as incomplete solder joints or flux residue buildup.
By using acid brushes to apply flux, it’s possible to ensure even and precise application that can improve the overall performance and reliability of electronic devices.
Minimize the dwell time
Minimizing the dwell time is an important consideration when pre-baking flexible printed circuit boards.
Dwell time refers to the length of time that flexible PCBs are left to cool after they are removed from the oven following the Pre-Bake Flex PCB process.
To minimize dwell time, it’s important to remove flexible PCBs from the oven as soon as the Pre-Bake Flex PCB process is complete and allow them to cool in a controlled environment.
This can include placing the flexible PCBs in a temperature-controlled room or using a cooling fan to speed up the cooling process.
By minimizing dwell time, it’s possible to ensure that flexible PCBs maintain their structural integrity and are ready for assembly with strong and reliable solder joints.
Pre-Bake Flex PCB Recommendation By Surface Treatment
When it comes to pre-baking flexible printed circuit boards for assembly, it’s important to consider the type of surface treatment that has been used on the PCBs. Depending on the type of flexible PCBs and surface treatment used, different pre-baking recommendations may apply.
For HASL, Lead‐free HASL and ENIG:
For HASL, Lead‐free HASL, and ENIG surface treatments, the minimum recommended Pre-Bake Flex PCB conditions are 2 hours at 105°C.
This temperature and duration are necessary to ensure that any moisture or other contaminants that may be present are properly removed from the surface of the flexible PCBs.
It’s important to note that these are minimum recommendations and that the optimal Pre-Bake Flex PCB conditions may vary based on factors such as the specific type of flexible PCBs being used, the complexity of the design, and the environmental conditions in which the flexible PCBs will be used.
For Rigid and Rigid/Flex PCB’s FR‐4 and Polyimide:
The Pre-Bake Flex PCB process is an essential step in the preparation of flexible printed circuit boards for assembly. The optimal Pre-Bake Flex PCB conditions can vary based on several factors, including the type of flexible PCBs being used and their thickness.
|PCB Thickness||Minimum Oven Hour||Degree Celsius|
|1.0 mm||2 hours||120° C|
|1.8 mm||4 hours||120° C|
|4.0 mm||6 hours||120° C|
For Immersion Tin, Immersion Silver, and OSP
For flexible PCBs that use immersion tin, immersion silver, or organic solderability preservatives (OSP), it is generally not recommended to Pre-Bake Flex PCBs.
This is because these surface treatments are designed to be highly resistant to oxidation and other forms of environmental damage.
Pre-baking these PCBs can actually cause the surface treatment to break down and become less effective, potentially leading to performance issues or other problems during assembly.
Pre-baking flexible printed circuit boards is an important step in ensuring that these components are properly prepared for assembly.
By exposing flexible PCBs to elevated temperatures for a period of time, it’s possible to remove any moisture or other contaminants that may be present, reducing the risk of issues such as delamination, solderability problems, or other performance issues.
Overall, by understanding the best practices for pre-baking flexible PCBs and following the recommended guidelines for different types of flexible PCBs and surface treatments, it’s possible to ensure that these components are properly prepared for assembly and will provide reliable, high-performance results over time.