Flexible printed circuits have become an increasingly popular alternative to rigid circuits in recent years. First appearing around the turn of the 20th century, they are characterized by a unique design in which the circuitry is placed on one or more flexible substrates. Flexible printed circuits typically cost more than their rigid counterparts. If you’re willing to pay the higher price, though, you’ll find they are worth the investment for the following reasons.

Fits into Small Devices

The flexible, bendable nature of flexible printed circuits allow them to squeeze into small electronic devices where rigid circuits cannot. Smartphones, for example, are often manufactured with flexible printed circuits for this reason. The small, handheld design of smartphones means that larger, non-flexible circuits like rigid circuits can’t be used. Manufacturers have found a solution to this problem by using flexible printed circuits instead.

Supports Multiple Connectors

Printed circuit boards can also be used in place of multiple connectors or even multiple rigid circuits. If an application currently requires several connectors and/or rigid circuits, a single printed circuit board may be used in its place.

Multiple Backlighting Solutions

Some printed circuit boards are manufactured with backlighting to illuminate the device or its buttons and keypad. The most common types of backlighting solutions used in printed circuit boards include light-emitting diode (LED), fiber optics and electroluminescent (EL), all of which are capable of producing illumination. With that said, many manufacturers and companies prefer LED backlighting for their printed circuit boards. LED backlighting is energy efficient, making it particularly useful in portable electronic devices where printed circuit boards are frequently used.

Military-Grade Specs

There are three classes of printed circuit boards, with class 3 offering military-grade specifications. Class 3 printed circuit boards are produced using the most stringent inspection and performance standards, which is why they are commonly used in military applications. Class 2 printed circuit boards, on the other hand, have less stringent requirements, making them popular for use in consumer electronics.

Extremely Thin Design

Printed circuit boards are very thin, with their individual PET layers measuring just 0.05 mm thick. Rigid circuits, on the other hand, are much thicker, restricting their usage in certain applications where size is a concern.

Also known a flex circuits, printed circuit boards are becoming more and more common. They can bend and deform under pressure without breaking or otherwise sustaining damage, which isn’t something that you’ll find with traditional rigid circuits.