The biggest problem in using flexible circuits is to underestimate what is involved in having a successful boot program. Supply chain teams often treat flexibility as a commodity, giving little time and attention to the process. The result is generally poor quality, higher startup costs and delayed product introduction.
Following are five common mistakes companies make when starting a project using flexible circuits.
There are many flexible PCB vendors to choose 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.
There are many nuances in the fabrication of a flexible circuit; the fact of being flexible adds challenges to the design that a rigid board does not face. Your supplier can help design a product that is more reliable, easier to build, and ultimately more economical. Forcing your supplier to build for printing can result in more quality problems, less lead time and a less reliable product.
This problem is related to the previous point, but PCB software does not avoid common manufacturing problems and quality design that are unique to a flexible circuit. Sharp corners, weld fillets near points of curvature, not accommodating material stability problems, are just some of the problems that the standard PCB design software does not address.
Often, flex is the last element to be designed in the electronic package. When the product team finally solves the problem of the flexible circuit, it is already late. This time the pressure can force short cuts. The result is a poorly designed product that will have several manufacturing issues and reliability over the life of the product. In addition, you will be forced to pay more for quick production.
Flexible circuits can operate in dynamic flex applications that exceed millions of cycles. This sometimes leads one to assume that the circuit is indestructible. However, other elements such as mechanical abrasion, sharp bending radius and twist can cause premature failure. An experienced vendor can educate you about any long-term limitations to an application.
Flexible circuits are often the most economical means of interconnecting electronic packaging. They offer a number of advantages of durability, weight and design features. Avoiding the above mistakes can be a great step to ensure successful product startup.