When most people think of circuits, they envision rigid printed circuit boards (PCB) and flexible printed circuits (FPCs.) Nearly all electronic devices feature one or both of these circuit types. Circuits, of course, are electrical components consisting of conductive pathways, resistors, capacitors and/or other elements. They are designed to control the flow of electricity. While most circuits are, in fact, classified as either a PCB or FPC, there’s a third type of circuit available: rigid flex.

Overview of Rigid Flex Circuits?

Rigid flex circuits are circuits with properties of both rigid PCBs and FPCs. They are typically made of multiple layers, and they are used for the same purpose of controlling the flow of electricity as all other circuits. Rigid flex circuits, however, live up to their namesake by featuring both rigid and flexible properties.

Some parts of a rigid flex circuit are rigid, whereas other parts are flexible. This is why they are known as “rigid flex circuits.” Other types of circuits are either rigid or flexible. Rigid PCBs are rigid materials. FPCs, on the other hand, are flexible. Rigid flex circuits are both rigid and flexible. They feature characteristics of both rigid PCBs and FPCs.

How Rigid Flex Circuits Are Made

Most rigid flex circuits are made by laminating multiple layers together. Some of these layers are typically rigid, and others are flexible. Regardless, the layers are laminated together to form the rigid flex circuit.

Benefits of Rigid Flex Circuits

What are the benefits of rigid flex circuits exactly? Thanks to their flexible layers, they can fit into small electronic devices. Many mobile devices feature rigid flex circuits. Mobile devices are small and compact. While they may not support a rigid PCB, mobile devices can almost always support an FPC or rigid flex circuit.

Rigid flex circuits typically weigh less than rigid PCBs. The lower weight, of course, makes them ideal for small electronic devices. Rigid flex circuits are both smaller than rigid PCBs, and they weigh less than their rigid counterparts.

Another benefit of rigid flex circuits is durability. They can withstand both hot and cold temperatures. If you’re looking for a new circuit type to use in extreme environments, you may want to choose rigid flex for this reason.

Not only are they durable, but rigid flex circuits are long-lasting. With their flexible layers, they can bend without breaking. Rigid PCBs may fail when deformed, resulting in the loss of connection between the circuit and the wire or wires to which it’s connected. But rigid flex circuits can bend, after which they’ll return to their original shape without succumbing to damage.