Not all electronics contain a Printed Circuit Board (PCB). While PCBs are common, Flexible Printed Circuits (FPCs) are on the rise. Also known as flex circuits, they feature a flexible design. You can bend an FPC without breaking it. The same can’t be said for a PCB, which may crack or otherwise sustain permanent damage when bent. The flexible properties of FPCs make them ideal for use in smartphones, disposable cameras and other small electronics. Before investing in an FPC, however, there are several things you should know.

#1) Available With Flexible Substrates

There are different ways to make FPCs, one of which involves the use of flexible substrates. A flexible substrate is a material that can bend and flex. Conductive pathways are printed on the flexible substrate, thus creating the FPC. Common materials used for flexible substrates include polyimide and polyester.

#2) Can Replace Multiple PCBs

You might be surprised to learn that a single FPC can replace multiple PCBs. PCBs and FPCs are both circuits, and they are used for the same purpose of controlling the flow of electricity. FPCs are simply flexible, whereas PCBs are rigid and not flexible. Because they are flexible, FPCs take up less space. This allows manufacturers to use a single FPC instead of multiple PCBs.

#3) Available in Different Circuit Classes

FPCs are available in different circuit classes. There are three circuit classes in which FPCs are designed. Class 1 FPCs have the minimum inspection, testing and performance requirements. Class 2 FPCs have moderate inspection, testing and performance requirements. Class 3 FPCshave the highest levels of inspection, testing and performance requirements.

#4) Commonly Used in Aerospace and Defense

While FPCs are used in nearly all industries, they are particularly common in aerospace and defense. This is because FPCs are lightweight and compact. Traditional PCBs are typically heavier and larger. For aerospace and defense applications, these properties make them a poor choice. Instead, FPCs are preferred. Whether Class 1, 2 or 3, all FPCs are lightweight and compact, making them ideal for aerospace and defense applications.

#5) Available With Backlighting

You can order an FPC with or without backlighting. Backlighting consists of a lighting system that’s placed in the back of an FPC. Some FPCs use light-emitting diodes (LEDs) for backlighting. Others use fiber optic or electroluminescent (EL) backlighting. When turned on, the backlighting system will illuminate the FPC.