Circuit boards play an important role in the function of countless electronics. Featuring conductive pathways, as well as various electronic components, they are the basis on which electronics operate. From smartphones and tablets to calculators, digital watches and more, you can find circuit boards in most electronics. There are different types of circuit boards, however, including printed circuit boards (PCBs) and flexible circuit boards (FCBs). So, what’s the difference between a PCB and an FCB?

What Is a Printed Circuit Board (PCB)?

The most common type of circuit board, a PCB is a traditional circuit board that’s designed to route electrical signals through conductive pathways. If you open up an electronic device, you’ll probably discover one or more PCBs. They are stiff boards with conductive pathways connecting the individual components. They are called “printed circuit boards” because they made through printing, allowing for a high level of customization.

There are three primary types of PCBs: single sided, double sided and multilayered. A single-sided PCB only has copper on one side of a single layer, whereas a double-sided PCB has copper on both sides of a single layer. Finally, a multilayered PCB features multiple layers with alternating sides of copper. Multilayered PCBs have become widely popular because of their ability to support more electrical components when compared to single-sided and double-sided PCBs of the same size.

What Is a Flexible Printed Circuit (FPC)?

An FPC, on the other hand, is a special type of circuit board that’s characterized by a flexible construction. Also known as a flex circuit, it’s commonly used in small electronics. Small electronics don’t always support full-sized PCBs. As a result, manufacturers use FPCs.

FPC are unique because, unlike PCBs, they can bend and flex. Furthermore, they typically offer greater heat dissipation than their PCB counterparts, which can prolong the electronics in which they are used. All FPCs are made using a flexible substrate, such as polymide.

FPCs can be further categorized as rigid flexible or flat flexible. A rigid flexible FPC features internal and external circuitry. They are typically made of multiple layers, with circuitry located both internally and externally. In comparison, a flat flexible FPC is characterized by a flat design, allowing for smaller profiles.

In Conclusion

Both PCBs and FPCs are hardware components in electronics that feature conductive pathways. The difference is that the latter features a flexible construction, meaning it can bend and flex without breaking or otherwise sustaining damage.