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18 The PCB Magazine • March 2017 As increasingly more designs move to flex- ible materials to take advantage of space, weight or packaging benefits, it has been clear that flex- ible circuits require a different set of rules than their rigid counterparts. We spend substantial time working through the design to ensure that the flex is as robust as possible. We also spend quite a bit of time on material selection, again to ensure that the flexible circuit withstands the flexing that will be required and performs prop- erly in the end environment. One thing we do not often talk about is what happens behind the scenes during the fabrica- tion and assembly of the flexible circuit. What types of special handling considerations are in place throughout the manufacturing process to accommodate these thin materials? When you are auditing a potential new supplier, what should you be asking about and looking for in their procedures? Undoubtedly, the largest source of defects in flexible circuit manufacturing can be traced back to material handling. Drawing from my own knowledge and soliciting the expertise of several industry veterans involved in flex cir- cuit manufacturing—David Moody with Len- thor Engineering, Anaya Vardya with American Standard Circuits, Jim Barry with Eltek, and Mike Vinson with Averatek—I have put togeth- er an insider's view of the nuances involved in manufacturing flexible circuits. Fabrication Everyone agreed that it is the handling of the thin flexible materials that is the key to the successful manufacturing of flex and rigid-flex designs. A wrinkle, ding or dent in the copper material can easily, and will most likely, cause a defect. In fact, wrinkles are typically the leading cause of defects for trace and spaces errors in by Tara Dunn OMNI PCB Flex Material Handling: An Inside Peek FEATURE COLUMN: FLEX TALK

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