Flex and Rigid-Flex PCBs – PCBgogo’s PCB Manufacturing Capabilities

Printed circuit boards come in many forms, shapes and sizes. PCBs can be distinguished on the basis of frequency, on the basis of material used, or on the basis of the number of layers used. 
Rigid, Flex and Rigid-Flex are commonly known types of PCBs. Rigid PCBs are the ones you are more likely to come across whereas Flex and Rigid-Flex are the rarer variants but there are a few qualified manufacturers who can manufacture them for you.
Image Courtesy: PCBgogo
PCBgogo is providing Flex and Rigid-Flex PCBs as a part of their PCB manufacturing capabilities. Here we will discuss what Flex and Rigid-Flex PCBs are, how they differ, their applications, some basic rules you should keep in mind when designing your PCB.  
What are Flex and Rigid-Flex PCBs?
Flexible PCBs as the name suggests offer more flexibility and that is why they are specifically designed to fit into electronic devices/products as opposed to building devices around the circuit board. They are also used as connectors for electronic devices and as individual circuits.
Image Courtesy: PCBgogo
As for Rigid-Flex PCBs, they are a hybrid between rigid and flexible printed circuit boards and integrate elements from both. The flex part of the PCB penetrates the rigid sections of the PCB. The flexible part of the PCB may not always be laminated permanently, it could also be connected to the PCB through a connector.
Image Courtesy: PCBgogo
If you choose to go for the rigid-flex PCB then you have to decide which layer should be the flexible one in your design stack-up. Your stack-up design is basically the consequent layers of copper and insulating material in your PCB. It is usually advised to keep your middle layer as the flex layer but you can choose whichever if required. Also, keep in mind that flex and rigid-flex PCBs can also have multiple layers just like rigid PCBs.
Image Courtesy: PCBgogo : Single sided Flex PCB
Image Courtesy: PCBgogo : Double sided Flex PCB
Image Courtesy: PCBgogo : Multiple layer Flex PCB
Why are Flex/Rigid-Flex PCBs costly?
Flex PCBs are more costly. Why? you ask, well they are more complex to build and require more material and dedicated processes. The flex PCB manufacturing process will include the rigid PCB manufacturing process steps along with additional steps. To compare, rigid PCBs require an 8-step manufacturing process whereas flex PCBs require a 17-step manufacturing process. They will also require additional materials as compared to rigid PCBs.
Image Courtesy: PCBgogo 
Applications of Flex PCBs
Rigid-flex and Flex PCBs have a wide range of applications owing to their advantageous ability to bend and fold into a compact space when required. This is precisely why flex PCBs are preferred...