A flexible substrate is a thin, heat-resistant material that is typically made of polymers like polyimide and polyethylene terephthalate (PET). In many of today’s computing and electronics devices, the tiny PCBs that transmit signals between the control prompts and screens are often made of flexible substrates.
Manufacturers have increasingly turned to flexible substrates for PCBs because the material has a flexible quality that makes it easier to insert these boards into tight, thin places. Moreover, PET substrate can handle the stresses and temperatures of a vast range of working environments and still provide optimal frequencies with minimal components.
What are the uses of flexible substrate?
Flexible substrate materials are used throughout the industrial and medical sectors for a wide range of applications and technologies. The flexibility and durability of the material has rendered it suitable for small devices and intense working environments where factors like vibration and high levels of heat often come into play. Some of the primary uses include the following:
1. Automobile Features
The automotive industry is adopting flexible substrates due to the increased reliance on computing technology in today’s automobiles. With the advent of smart cars, automakers need ways to incorporate various smart components into the automotive framework without adding extra weight to the vehicle designs.
With flexible substrates, automakers can equip new vehicles with Wi-Fi connectivity, voice commands and sensing capabilities. Thanks to the low cost of flexible components, automakers can also add these features at reasonable prices. Moreover, flexible substrates can handle the various tremors and vibrations that accompany the bumps and often gravelly terrain of the nation’s open roads.
With today’s demand for devices that work on the go, manufacturers are making computing and electronic devices that are more compact than ever. These developments have all been made possible by flexible substrate boards, which can be slotted into tiny gadgets that fit in the palm of a hand. Flexible substrate PCBs are used in thin, lightweight devices like smartphones, digital cameras, miniature video recorders and tablets.
In devices that generate high temperatures, the components within must have the flexibility and durability to withstand intense levels of heat. For these reasons, flexible substrates have become crucial to the workings of microwave ovens. Each time you heat a cup of coffee in less than 60 seconds, you rely on a set of processes facilitated by flexible substrate PCBs, which transmit the signals from the input pad to activate the microwaves that heat foods and beverages.
4. Industrial Applications
At factories and processing plants, the machines that line the conveyor belts endure vast amounts of stress during a working day. In decades past, these devices relied largely on conventional electricity and compressed air power because PCBs were too sensitive and cumbersome for the stresses of the industrial environment. Thanks to the durability and heat resistance of flexible substrates, industrial machines can now be incorporated with computing technology and perform a wider range of heavy-duty processes.
5. LED Lighting
LED lighting has grown in popularity as an efficient and energy-saving alternative to fluorescent tubes and incandescent bulbs. As with all the competing types of lights, one of the main concerns about LEDs is heat generation, which can waste energy and impact temperature setting in a working environment. Thanks to the heat-dissipative qualities of flexible substrate PCBs, heat has become a non-factor in LED lighting systems.
6. Medical Devices and Implants
Due to the small size and flexible nature of PCBs made with this super-thin substrate, the material has become an essential element of the newer devices used in the medical industry. Flexible substrates are used today in everything from surgical tools to electronic implants.
7. Power Electronics
When combined with thin copper layers, flexible substrates can be used in the industry of power electronics. For the large facility devices that use high volumes of power to operate at maximum levels, flexible substrates are essential due to their stress-resistant durability.
How are flexible substrates used in PCB?
Flexible substrates are used to make multi-layered boards, complete with microchips, interfaces and integrated circuits. From the outside, these boards have the same appearance of today’s sleek, simple, unencumbered PCBs. The main difference is that these boards have a flexible quality with significant bending allowance.
One of the other big differences of PCBs made with flexible substrates is the minimal array of components required. These devices can function at high density with just a small amount of surface space. This has made flexible substrate PCBs ideal for small devices that require high-performance capacities for a multitude of functions.
Flexible substrates are used in PCBs because its flexibility renders it resistant to the impacts of tremors, vibrations and intense levels of heat. All the while, flexible substrate PCBs can withstand these stresses with utmost performance capability. In some of the toughest situations at factories and power facilities, flexible substrates make it possible to deliver optimal signal integrity.
PCBs made of flexible substrate function with minimal errors, thanks to the lack of wiring components or mechanical connectors. The assembly methods are also relatively similar on flexible PCBs, which make these boards functional and compatible in a range of applicable devices. Overall, flexible substrates make PCBs more reliable, robust and high-performing. As such, PCBs made of this material have become increasingly favored over their rigid counterparts by today’s manufacturers.