To ensure the integrity of rigid-flex PCBs, it is necessary to inspect and test them following a standardized set of procedures. IPC-6013 is a key performance specification for both flexible and rigid-flexible circuits. This blog will discuss what IPC-6013 and IPC inspection standards are, and why they are important for these PCB types.
Founded in 1957, the Institute for Printed Circuits (IPC) is a global trade association that represents the electronics industry with a core focus on electronics design, assembly, and PCB manufacturing. There are numerous IPC specifications that products can be tested on, ranging from raw material and design specifications to performance and assembly specifications. Performing IPC testing allows manufacturers to build more reliable products by following a set of proven standards. Companies can become certified by the IPC to perform testing on products and ensure they meet IPC specifications.
The IPC outlines a wide range of testing methods, including:
- Visual examination
- Dimensional measurements
- Chemical testing
- Mechanical testing
- Electrical testing
- Environmental exposure
- Material requirements
Performing these tests ensures that electronic products meet the necessary performance and manufacturing standards. However, it’s important to note that the testing of circuit boards is very application- and environment-specific. For example, PCBs used in aerospace applications require a more rigorous testing and inspection process compared to PCBs used in consumer products.
IPC-6013 is the standard for the qualification and performance for flexible circuits, including both flexible and rigid-flex PCBs. There are four different IPC classifications for circuit boards, each of which has different requirements for testing and inspection. These classifications include:
- Class 1. This group is assigned to general electronic boards with a limited life and simple function capabilities, such as those used in everyday consumer electronics.
- Class 2. Dedicated service electronic products make up this class, including low-level industrial applications and certain medical applications. These boards have extended life and higher reliability, and they follow more stringent standards than Class 1.
- Class 3. Class 3 PCBs are used in high-performance electronic products that cannot fail and are often used in demanding performance applications. These boards are very reliable and require high levels of testing and inspection for conformance to the requirements.
- Class 3A. This is the highest class for printed circuit boards. These boards must follow extremely stringent standards for testing and inspection as they are often used in critical aerospace and military applications.
The primary difference between each classification is the degree of inspection and permissible defects. For example, Class 1 and Class 2 boards can have minor cosmetic defects as long as they don’t affect the board’s overall function; however, Class 3 and Class 3A boards must be free from defects to ensure reliable performance with no failures in the end application.
Following IPC testing procedures is an essential step in ensuring the integrity of flex and rigid-flex PCBs. There are many possible ways to verify the quality of your raw materials and finished products; however, the guidelines set up in IPC-6013 are the most comprehensive and globally recognized starting point.
When choosing a rigid-flex PCB manufacturer for any application, it’s important to choose a company that can demonstrate the effectiveness of its products. Testing according to IPC-6013 standards is a globally recognized way of ensuring the quality, performance, and overall integrity of your PCBs. This type of testing is particularly critical in Class 3 and 3A boards, which require extremely tight tolerances and conformance to stringent high reliability standards.
Printed Circuits has been designing and manufacturing rigid-flex PCBs for over 40 years. We have an in-depth understanding of the industry demands for PCBs across a wide range of applications, and we primarily fabricate IPC-6013 Class 3 boards and above. Whatever your required board attributes or product yield, our state-of-the-art equipment and 65,000 sq. ft. manufacturing space allows us to meet your PCB needs. To learn more about the IPC-6013 specification or our rigid-flex PCBs, contact us today.