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Recent global printed circuit market research reveals that flexible circuits still only account for about 13–15% of the overall printed circuit market (PCB 76.2B in 2015 vs. flex 12.7B in 2015). PCBs have been in existence since the 1960s and nearly anybody who designs printed circuits first designs a rigid printed circuit board. There are many experienced PCB designers working confidently all around the world.
They understand the manufacturing capabilities and limitations very well as they have been designing these inherent components of the electronics industry for decades.
Flexible circuits, on the other hand, tend to be a little intimidating and mysterious to traditional PCB designers. Suddenly engineers in the development group are coming to their designers with questions about flexible circuits and these otherwise very experienced men and women find themselves without answers to questions they could answer in their sleep if they pertained to a traditional PCB.
It’s understandable that there are still questions about flexible circuit design vs. traditional PCB design based on the number of PCBs vs. flexible circuits manufactured worldwide, annually. However those of us in the flexible circuit fabrication market are often asked even the simplest of questions: what kind of software do I need to design a flexible circuit?
What kind of files must I submit for quotation/fabrication of a flexible circuit? These are questions that arise from the lack of experience in flexible circuit design. Below we will address some of the common concerns we hear from PCB designers and help to clarify some of the unknowns and show that the vast experience gained as PCB designers carries over to the flexible circuit design as well.
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Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the April 2015 issue of The PCB Magazine.