Rigid flex printed circuit boards (PCBs) provide compact electronics packaging, enabling increasingly necessary miniaturization for the medical device industry. PCBs are an integral component of modern electronic devices. They consist of electrically conductive materials that support the connectivity between electronic components. Rigid flex PCBs, in particular, offer added benefits that make them ideal for many medical applications.
Since our establishment in 1977, Printed Circuits has become a leading manufacturer of rigid flex PCBs, with the experience and knowledge required to develop the right solution for customers in the medical device industry. Also, most of our PCBs are built to IPC 6013 class III, for the ultimate in high reliability – never fail packaging so critical to medical device performance.
Medical devices typically use one of three types of PCBs, each of which offers unique benefits. The three PCB types include:
Rigid PCBs offer the most cost-effective solution for electronics packaging. However, their rigidity may not work with applications requiring more flexibility, or when the designer wants the electronics to fit into a very small, thin, or constricted mechanical format. Rigid PCBs, though inexpensive, sometimes cannot accommodate these types of requirements.
Flex PCBs help save space in applications with tight space requirements. They also can survive hundreds of thousands of flex cycles without failure. Their optimal flexibility makes them suitable for many types of wearable electronics and medical devices. Additionally, they feature excellent connectivity and offer multiple packaging options for other types of electronics.
Rigid flex PCBs comprise a combination of both flexible and rigid parts. While the rigid component assists with connecting and mounting electronic components in similar densities to rigid PCBs, the flexible element enables bending or folding to make the board small enough to fit in tight spaces. Rigid flex PCBs’ flexible nature also eliminates the need for any flex cables and their associated connectors, to provide electrical interconnection between hard boards.
Another key advantage of rigid flex PCBs is their thinness. These boards typically contain thin dielectrics of .001-.002″. This slim profile makes rigid flex boards a great option for ultra-light and ultra-thin packaging applications. Thin copper layers, HDI, and adhesiveless laminates further contribute to these compact, light, and thin solutions. Excellent examples of rigid flex PCBs used in these applications are pacemakers, implantable defibrillators, drug delivery systems, and micro health diagnostic and monitoring systems.
Rigid Flex PCBs from Printed Circuits eliminate the need for connectors and cables between hard boards. Subsequently, they’re ideal for use in electronic devices featuring several connections between rigid boards. In the medical industry, these boards are vital for dense and ultra-small packaging that doesn’t have enough space for connectors. Often, when a design has four or more rigid boards that need to be interconnected, a rigid flex design can be a more cost effective solution.
At Printed Circuits, 85% of our board constructions qualify for UL certification and approval – saving the designer the cost and lead time required to obtain approval to UL 94 V-0 – speeding your design to market, as well as affording flexibility to change your design without requalification.
Also unique to Printed Circuits, is that almost all of our rigid flex PCBs are manufactured to IPC 6013 class III requirements – the ultimate in high reliability – never fail electronic packaging.
These PCBs are especially dependable in dynamic flex applications, where interconnectivity using flex cables with connectors will eventually fail. All of these advantages offer a highly reliable solution for creating thin, compact, and flexible packaging options for medical devices.
The mission-critical nature of their applications requires rigid flex PCBs to meet various qualifications and industry standards to confirm their safety and reliability. One of these certifications is UL certification, specifically UL 94 V-0 certification.
Underwriters Laboratory (UL) is an independent safety science organization that has established certain standards and testing procedures to verify products’ environmental and physical safety. UL has a long history of both reliability and integrity regarding product safety. The UL mark proves to customers that products are trustworthy, giving buyers comfort in knowing that these products are worth the purchase. UL certification is especially crucial for PCB manufacturers as it represents compliance with the industry’s strict safety standards. As a result, this certification gives PCB manufacturers a major advantage over uncertified competitors.
One of the main qualifications for PCB manufacturers to acquire is the UL 94 V-0 certification, which verifies electronic components’ electrical safety and fire protection. This certification is difficult to obtain and assures that a PCB won’t sustain a flame, should an electronic device sustain a short or other electrical failure.
Obtaining this particular certification requires PCB fabricators to take a certain approach, which could include one of the following:
- Submit their individual constructions
- Specify UL 94 V-0-rated materials
- Mix and match individually certified constructions
However, these approaches come with certain potential issues that can disqualify medical PCBs from UL certification, such as changes to products made after submission. At Printed Circuits, we ensure our rigid flex PCBs meet the UL 94 V-0 qualification with each construction immediately upon fabrication, preventing the need to go through lengthy and potentially challenging submission and testing processes.
If you require rigid flex PCBs for medical applications such as medical imaging equipment or other devices, Printed Circuits has more than 44 years of experience to provide you with the right solution. Our UL-certified designs give designers and customers instant access to these PCBs, bypassing the delays and costs they may experience with other products.