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72 DESIGN007 MAGAZINE I DECEMBER 2019 What You Need to Know About Flex What the Flex? by Andy Shaughnessy, I-CONNECT007 Sure, rigid PCBs are the industry's workhors- es. They brought us this far, and we are grate- ful for that. The PCB pays our mortgages and buys our boats and guitars. But PCBs are a lit- tle two-dimensional. On the other hand, flex seems to bring out the creativity in a team, turning the most laid- back designers into mad scientists. I think a lot of technologists see flex as the Silly Put- ty of the PCB world—a medium that can be squeezed, twisted, and changed in an almost infinite number of ways. A rigid board just doesn't offer you those options. I guarantee that some flex designers spend their lunch break experimenting with random pieces of flex. They form them into seeming- ly impossible shapes, occasionally duct-taping old PCBs onto the flex here and there to ap- proximate rigid-flex, and then they yell out, "Hey, Bob! Check this out." How many final flex products have come about this way? Flex circuits' unique characteristics lend them to experimentation. "Since the flex needs to move back and forth right here, what if we tried this? We'll just make it longer and have it twist around right here." And I understand why so many OEMs are moving (or being dragged) into flexible circuits. The more that the engi- neering managers learn about flex, the more appealing the idea sounds. Why restrict yourself to 2D?

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