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Another dimension

Feeling the squeeze? Flexible printed circuits can offer a new dimension to designers looking to make savings in space and weight. By Keith Netting.

Interconnect technology has evolved on a similar path to mapping and 3d cartography. For a long time, we were happy with a 2d representation of our world, content in the knowledge that we could see or feel when our height was changing. The advent of 3d mapping and global positioning systems has opened a new dimension, where we can reference our position in latitude, longitude – and now by height.
Within the interconnect industry, embedded designers have in the past worked in 2d design systems to solve 3d packaging and interconnection problems. Some amazing things have been done, but at times – usually when there is a tight deadline – some adjustment of the design has been required once the hardware has been produced and fitted into the unit or system enclosure.
For static systems, this scenario can manifest itself as a length, connection, ease of assembly or residual stress issue. But for a dynamic situation, the problem can be masked for sometime thus potentially resulting in the distress of field failures.
Flexible printed circuits evolved initially as a means of interconnection to replace cabling in point to point interconnects. In their 30year plus history, they have proven to offer advantages in applications ranging from the most benign to the most aggressive, such as improved reliability and signal integrity, weight and space savings of typically 90% and higher circuit density.
Today, flexible circuit technologies not only offer point to point connection but the flexible and, if present, rigid areas also provide an excellent substrate for component integration in the space available between the terminations – something a cable harness could never do on its own.

Mike Richardson

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