An Introduction to Flexible Printed Circuits (FPCs)

Jun 7, 2021

Circuits are the foundation on which nearly all electronic devices are built. Consisting of resistors, conductive traces, capacitors and diodes, they are used to carry data between an electronic device’s individual components. While some electronic devices have rigid circuits, though, other have flexible printed circuits (FPCs).

Overview of FPCs

An FPC is a type of circuit that’s defined by its flexible properties. In other words, they can bend without breaking. The same can’t be said for rigid circuits. Rigid circuits can’t be bent — at least not without breaking or otherwise sustaining damage. They are known as “flexible printed circuits” because they can bend and flex without breaking.

Applications for FPCs

FPCs are used in many electronic devices, particularly those that require small and flexible circuits. Even if you’re unfamiliar with them, you’ve probably used an electronic device with an FPC. Most smartphones, for example, have an FPC. Smartphones have a limited amount of space. To maintain their small size and low-profile design, manufacturers often use FPCs instead of rigid circuits.

Tablet computers are also designed with FPCs. Manufacturers use FPCs in tablet computers for the same space-saving reasons as smartphones. These are just a few applications for which FPCs are used. You can find FPCs in dozens of other electronic devices.

How to Choose an FPC

While all FPCs feature a flexible design, they are available in different types. When shopping for an FPC, there are several things you should consider. You can find them in different classes. Class 1 FPCs are those that meet the minimum inspection, testing and performance requirements as defined by the IPC-6013. Class 2, on the other hand, are those that have moderate inspecting, testing and performance requirements. Finally, class 3 FPCs are those that have the highest level of inspection, testing and performance requirements.

There are four primary variations of FPCs as well. The variation type refers to the overall design and materials used in an FPC’s construction. Type 1 FPCs are designed with a single layer, which features an insulating material on both sides to provide access to its conductors. Other types are designed with more layers and different materials.

You may want to choose backlighting for your FPC. FPCs support several types of backlighting, the most common of which is light-emitting diode (LED). You can choose an LED-backlit FPC to provide illumination. It can illuminate the electronic device’s display or legends from underneath, resulting in a higher level of usability.

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