Also known as a flex circuit, a flexible printed circuit is a type of circuit board that, as the name suggests, features a high level of flexibility. Unlike rigid circuit boards, they can bend without breaking. Flexible printed circuits often consist of ribbons that can run between a computer and a display device. Even if you’ve seen or heard of flexible printed circuits, though, there are probably some things you don’t know about them. Below are five fast facts about flexible printed circuits.

#1) They’ve Been Around Since the 1950s

Contrary to popular belief, flexible printed circuits aren’t a new invention. They’ve actually been around since the 1950s, during which they were used in consumer electronics like TVs. Over the years, however, the use of flexible printed circuits has increased. They are now found in countless electronic devices, ranging from smartphones and laptops to smart appliances and human machine interfaces (HMIs).

#2) Better Protected Against Heat

While the main benefit of flexible printed circuits is their flexible and elastic construction, they also offer an exceptional level of protection against heat when compared to rigid circuits. Since they are flexible, they can be strategically installed in electronic devices to minimize the production of heat. In turn, flexible printed circuits are less likely to overheat than rigid circuits — something that could otherwise cause complete failure of a circuit board.

#3) They Are Available in 3 Circuit Classes

As explained here, flexible printed circuits are available in three circuit classes. Class 1 flexible printed circuits are frequently used in disposable electronics. Class 2 flexible printed circuits have slightly stronger inspection and testing requirements, making them ideal for mid-grade electronics. Finally, class 3 flexible printed circuits have the most stringent inspecting and testing requirements. As a result, they are generally used in sensitive applications like medical and military electronics.

#4) They Are Lightweight

Not only are they are better protected against heat, but flexible printed circuits are typically lighter than rigid circuits as well. The lightweight properties of flexible printed circuits allows them to be used in small electronics where other, heavier circuit boards aren’t possible.

#5) They Support Backlighting

You might be surprised to learn that flexible printed circuits support backlighting. Light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs, for instance, are often used in conjunction with flexible printed circuits. For an added effect, light guides can be incorporated as well. Light guides help to distribute the light produced by the LED bulbs, resulting in even brightness.