A printed circuit board, or PCB, is a device that uses discrete wiring to connect various electrical components together into a single unit. There are three types of PCB: rigid, flex, and rigid-flex. While each of these options serves the same overall function, they feature some differences in their construction, properties, and design. In this blog, we will identify and discuss how these boards differ.
Rigid PCB vs. Flex PCB
Rigid PCBs and flexible PCBs fulfill the same basic purpose but feature many differences. Flexible PCBs typically have higher price points than rigid PCBs, as they are able to bend in order to fit the desired application. Flex PCBs are also able to flex without failing for hundreds of thousands of cycles. In addition to their differences in price and flexibility, the following factors differentiate rigid and flex PCBs:
Rigid PCBs utilize a solder mask during the manufacturing process. In contrast, the manufacturing process for flexible PCBs typically includes an overlay or cover-layer. This is necessary to ensure that the board’s exposed circuitry remains protected.
The strength and thickness of rigid PCBs typically come from glass, which serves to reinforce the board. Flexible PCBs do not offer the same levels of strength, but rather utilize a more flexible base material, such as polyimide.
Although both styles of PCB offer decent amounts of durability, this durability manifests differently for each. Rigid PCBs offer higher levels of strength, while flexible PCBs are better able to absorb vibrations and other shocks.
Their strength and thickness mean that rigid PCBs weigh slightly more than flexible PCBs, which are typically more lightweight. This is a beneficial property for the electronics industry, which frequently creates small devices that require lighter components.
In more extreme environments, flexible PCBs have an advantage over rigid PCBs. Flexible PCBs will generally offer higher levels of resistance to high temperatures. Rigid PCBs, on the other hand, are more prone to becoming damaged or warped.
Sophistication of Design
For more simplistic consumer devices, such as toys or musical keyboards, rigid PCBs typically work very well. However, flexible PCBs are more sophisticated in design, and are thus the ideal choice for highly complex products.
The Rigid-Flex PCB Difference
The rigid-flex PCB combines the best qualities of rigid and flex PCBs, resulting in a board that is ideal for use across a vast array of industries. It utilizes both rigid and flexible materials, and offers the following advantages:
- Circuit routing density
By combining the flexibility of flex PCBs with the high strength of rigid PCBs, the rigid-flex PCB works immensely well in complex applications. This type of PCB is highly reliable. It also provides the lightweight benefits of flexible PCBs, and its small size makes it ideal for situations that require a space-saving circuit board.
The many advantages of rigid-flex PCBs mean that this option is typically more expensive than both rigid and flex PCBs. However, it is the ideal choice when one cohesive, reliable solution is needed for sophisticated products.
Custom Circuit Board Assemblies from CCK Automations, Inc.
At CCK Automations, Inc., our experts design custom circuit board assemblies that are uniquely tailored to the specific needs of each customer. We are dedicated to continually meeting our customers’ injection molded plastics and electrical needs. To learn more about our PCB solutions, contact us today.
Printed circuit boards (PCBs) interconnect electrical components on a self-contained board. These boards are essential to the function of most electronics, and as such may be found in a countless devices. Manufacturing specifications and materials for PCBs will differ based on the application requirements. The insulating surface of the board or substrate can receive a deposit of conductive material to create circuits, and a range of components can interconnect through the circuitry by soldering them to the board substrate.
To help you determine the ideal board for your application, the team at CCK Automations has compiled the following list of the various types of PCBs we offer and their applications.
Single layer PCBs have only one layer of substrate or base material. The substrate is non-conductive but uses circuits on one side made from copper or another conductive material. As the simplest board in terms of design and manufacturing, single-layer PCBs are inexpensive but also less desirable due to their limited design capabilities. When products require more complexity, a double-layer PCB may be ideal.
Double-layer PCBs have a conductive layer on each side of the non-conductive substrate. Gold-plated holes or pads can connect components to each side of the board. Surface-mount technology or through-hole technology are the two primary methods for connecting components to the boards.
- Surface-mounting connects the components to the board by soldering small leads to the board substrate. This method can facilitate a wide variety of functions.
- Through-hole technology uses small wires fed through holes in the board substrate. Soldered wires connect the board and the component.
Devices and equipment that require more than two layers require multi-layer PCBs. Each layer is sandwiched between a top and bottom substrate to create thick, compounded board designs. Multi-layer PCBs accommodate a high level of board complexity. When a board requires a substrate with sturdy construction, a rigid PCB improves on more than just complexity.
Rigid PCBs have a solid substrate made with a rigid material, such as fiberglass, that keeps the board from twisting. Each layer joins with heat and adhesive. A variety of industrial control mechanisms and consumer electronics rely on rigid PCBs as durable and long-lasting solutions.
When electronic devices require more flexibility to conform to space requirements, a flex PCB is often advantageous. Flex PCBs are so named for the flexible substrate that allows them to bend and conform to various shapes. These boards also allow a range of shifting and turning during use and can be built in a single-sided, double-sided, or multi-layer format. Flex PCBs are the preferred board technology for aerospace, military, medical, automotive, transportation, consumer electronics, communications, and industrial electronics.
Rigid-flex PCBs share many of the advantages of flex PCBs and rigid PCBs, combining the primary benefits of both. Rigid-flex boards use the rigid substrate of rigid boards, but flex at joints to help them conform to specific space requirements. This type of board minimizes or eliminates connectors to reduce reliability issues while increasing labor and yield transmission.
High-Density Interconnect (HDI) PCB
HDI PCBs push the limits of size and performance through high-precision manufacturing technology. Manufacturers employ advanced lamination processes, laser-drilled microvias, multiple layers of conductivity, and delicate tolerances and lines to deliver compact performance. HDI PCBs provide an ideal solution for small components in cutting-edge devices and designs with complex routing.
High-frequency PCBs are frequently used in technology that relies on frequencies or special signal transmissions above one gigahertz. Using materials with advanced laminations and impedance controls can further enhance high-frequency PCBs to improve their performance in demanding applications.
PCB Assemblies From CCK Automations
Printed circuit boards come in a wide range of types to meet the demands of various applications. Each board type has advantages and disadvantages, from the inexpensive single layer PCB to the complex HDI PCB. The specialists at CCK Automations can assist you in selecting the ideal board type for your application.
Our capabilities include designing simple and complex boards of every type to fit your exact specifications. Our in-house PCB manufacturing capabilities include full design and assembly. We do not manufacture bare PCBs. When you rely on our in-house manufacturing, you will benefit from quick turnaround times, low delivery costs, and the highest quality finished product.
Contact us for more information about our custom PCB solutions or request a quote today.