The use of flexible printed circuit boards (PCBs) allows designers to develop tightly packaged electronics where connections need to be made in three axes or where the assembly is required to flex during operation.
However, they have disadvantages too – assembly can be difficult and repair is often impossible.
Now, assembly and connection technology expert Harting has developed an alternative solution based on 3D-MID (Mechatronic Integrated Device) technology that is capable of replacing flexible circuit boards. In addition, use of this technology means that cost savings of up to two-thirds can be achieved.
Harting’s new injection-moulded thermoplastic component carriers include integrated circuit tracks, allowing electronic components to be fitted directly onto the component carrier, thereby replacing flexible circuit boards. The carrier therefore also serves as the connection between the PCB and electronic components such as LEDs, ICs, photodiodes and sensors.
Electronic components can be mounted directly on the new component carriers using automated processes, dispensing with the often-complex processes involved in processing flexible circuit boards and so reducing costs by up to two-thirds.
Populated component carriers are supplied using tape & reel packaging, so they can be processed by automatic assembly systems, just like other surface-mount (SMD) components. Two different sizes are currently available and customer-specific sizes can also be manufactured.
In suggesting applications for the new component carriers, Harting has identified three examples where they can replace flexible circuit boards:
- Components at a 90° angle to the circuit board: for example, when sensors need to be positioned normal to the circuit board;
- Clearance from the circuit board: so that a temperature sensor can be used to measure the temperature in the housing without being influenced by the waste heat from other components on the PCB;
- Antenna function: the component carrier can be manufactured using different base polymers so the required antenna material properties can be factored in, such as dielectric constant and loss factor.
More information can be found on the Harting website.