Five Common Errors When Using Flexible Circuit Technology

The biggest issue in using flexible circuits is underestimating what is involved in having a successful start up program. Too often supply chain teams treat flex like a commodity, giving the process little time and attention. The result is usually poor quality, higher start up costs and delayed product introduction.

The following are five common errors companies make when starting up a project using flexible circuitry.

  1. Not doing due diligence with supplier selection: There are many flexible PCB suppliers to pick from, each with unique capabilities and problems. Assuming that “any supplier” can adequately meet your needs, or basing your selection strictly on price is a recipe for disappointment.
  2. Not involving your supplier in the design process: There are a lot of nuances in manufacturing a flexcircuit; the fact that it is flexible adds challenges for design that a hard board does not face. Your supplier can help design a product that is more reliable, easier to build and ultimately more cost effective. Forcing your supplier to build to print can result in more quality issues, poor on time delivery and a less reliable product.
  3. Using PCB CAD software to design a flex: This issue is related to the previous point, but PCB software does not avoid common manufacturing and quality design issues that are unique to a flexible circuit. Sharp corners, solder fillets near bend points, not accommodating material stability issues are just some of issues that standard PCB design software does not address.
  4. Compressed Timelines: Often the flex is the last element to be designed in the electronic package. When the product team finally gets around to addressing the flex circuit, they are already behind schedule. This time pressure can force short cuts. The result is a poorly designed product that will have numerous manufacturing and reliability issues for the duration of the product. Additionally, you will be forced to pay premium for quick turn production.
  5. Believing that Flex has no Limitations: Flexible Circuits can operate in dynamic flex applications that exceed millions of cycles. This sometimes causes one to assume that the circuit is indestructible. However, other elements such as mechanical abrasion, sharp bend radius and twisting can cause premature failure. A knowledgeable supplier can make you aware of any long term limitations for an application.

Flexible Circuits are often the most cost effective means for electronic packaging interconnection. They offer a host of advantages from durability, weight and design features. Avoiding the above mistakes can go a long way in assuring a successful product start up.