What are flexible Circuit Boards?
Flexible circuit boards are generally foils composed of polymide base material and applied copper layers. Similar to separation of rigid PCB materials (e.g. FR4 or Ceramics), the individual PCBs are cut out of a larger panel.
The flexible circuit boards can be used individually or in combination with other circuit board materials, e.g. FR4 (rigid materials). In this case, they are referred to as rigid-flex PCBs.
Applications of flexible Circuit Boards
Due to their advantages, flexible printed circuit boards are used in almost all areas and sectors of electronics, e.g. Automotive, Consumer Electronics or Medical technology.
Especially in the case of compact housings or installation spaces, flexible circuit boards are often used because of their bendability, twistability and foldability. Among other benefits, it makes them for example an attractive substitute for cables and plugs.
Advantages of flexible Circuit Boards
As the name suggests, this type of circuit board is characterized in particular by its flexibility. Due to the material properties and structure, it is especially suitable for the realization of compact and complex setups that are confronted with space- and weight-minimizing requirements.
Flexible circuit board materials are characterized by their extraordinary high resilience. In contrast to rigid substrates, bending, twisting or folding of the materials is possible without any problems and leaving any permanent damage.
Due to their extraordinary high resiliance and minimization of connection points between assemblies, flexible PCBs always function reliably even under challenging conditions.
The substitution of plug-in and line components and the associated savings reduce complexity and costs through simpler assembly and mounting.
Laser Processing of flexible Circuit Boards
The cutting of flexible circuit board materials is the origin and also the parade discipline of the laser as a depaneling tool. The quality of the cutting edges and the effective cutting speeds that can be achieved with this tool are correspondingly high.
A wide variety of material thicknesses and compositions of flexible PCBs can be separated without any problems. This comprises, among others, flexible, semi-flexible, rigid-flex and HDI rigid-flex materials, including potential copper layers. The ablation of materials, for example in the case of cover layers can also be performed inimitably with the laser. With no other tool the diverse requirements of the materials can be taken into account so easily, and this with very gentle and high-precision processing of the substrate.
Neither on the laser entry side nor on the laser exit side the tool leaves any residues that could have a negative impact on the quality of the substrate or entire circuit board. With LPKF's CleanCut technology in particular, a carbonization-free cut edge and thus an abosolute maximum in terms of technical cleanliness can be guarenteed.
In this way, the yield of circuit board production and also the reliability of the assemblied boards in the field can be significantly increased in relation to other processes.
Benefits of Laser Processing
The laser is a powerful but equally filigree and precise tool. The precision of the systems cannot be reproduced by other cutting processes and the laser also sets new standards in terms of design freedom. When layouting the PCB, limitations such as straight contours or minimum radii no longer have to be taken into account.
Another benefit of the laser is its gentle processing of the material. In contrast to other separation processes, no mechanical stress is induced into the material and thermal stress is also negligible due to the controlled proportioning of the energy input. Damage to the substrate or applied components is avoided in this way.
A further bonus of the laser is its enormous flexibility. Through a simple, fast and automated adjustment of the processing parameters, different (flexible) materials can be processed on the same system. In addition to cutting, drilling and ablation of materials is also an option.