Utilizing Layout Options for Rigid-Flex Design

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A rigid-flex design PCB is part of many electronic devices that can change their shapes, which is an especially useful feature that allows them to withstand some level of deformity before breaking. Typically, you can expect to find many similar components within these kinds of circuits, such as parts like traces attached to flexible ribbons. If you want to design these circuits professionally, there is no way to do it other than using the proper software specially designed for rigid-flex boards.

A rigid-flex design is becoming increasingly important in today’s age due to its use in various systems and instruments. Industries have begun to demand more specialized equipment and instruments for various functions and purposes, which is where the rigid-flex design comes into play. Some systems are fairly complex and need several boards with unique form factors, creating the need for ideal software that effortlessly integrates various design modalities into a unified interface. For this reason, the need for specific design software with cohesive design environments is compulsory. It provides greater flexibility and simplifies the complex procedure into a single process, making it ideal for rigid-flex design PCBs.

Rigid Flexible Printed Circuit Board

Hemeixinpcb has created innovative rigid-flex design PCB products after studying market trends and combined them with its core HDI PCB technology to create some of the most cutting-edge electric components you can find anywhere. Rigid-flex design is done to create high-quality products well-suited for high-reliability applications with very specific and precise features. Following the technological revolution of the past 10 years, rigid-flex design PCB manufacturing is becoming an incredible solution for 3D product assembly and advanced component surface mounting.

Let’s explore details about utilizing layout options for rigid-flex design and other helpful tidbits you need to know.

Layout for Rigid-Flex PCB Design

Rigid-flex design PCBs implement the use of a ribbon and are somewhat similar to multi-board designs, except that the latter utilizes an alternative means of connection. A rigid-flex design system can be carefully designed using a hierarchical schematic design, which involves separating various blocks according to their functions into different schematics.

These are then linked together via hierarchical schematics divided into different levels, each representing a specific function. A helpful way to conceptualize this is to imagine puzzle pieces linking together as part of a bigger schematic.

Before beginning the layout process, you must target the boards containing differing functional blocks in the system you’ve created. To achieve this, you must use the right design software with an easily utilized layer stack manager to help define the material arrangement in every part of your PCB.

There is a benefit to splitting functionality onto various boards depending on their functional blocks when seeking to design the layer stack optimally.

The rigid-flex design PCB has various firm and flexible sections. Therefore, you can use the tactic mentioned above to determine the number of layers needed for each section of your board.

This advantage effectively minimizes your production costs by controlling the layers you’ve created in various rigid portions of your board. So, your system has a complex layering that creates operational smoothness based on the layout’s density. However, other portions of the system may work optimally with just a few layers, depending on your design proficiency.

Once you’ve successfully layered your system and created an optimal rigid-flex design PCB by incorporating differing schematics in various areas of your board, you can easily utilize the routing tools for efficient routing throughout the ribbon.

Realizing Where the Pain Comes From

Undoubtedly, defining the layer stack in every part of the rigid-flex design is incredibly important. You will need an easily utilized layer stackup manager to make this possible, allowing you to make distinctions between signal layers. This significantly improves the functionality of your routing tools, which can work effortlessly to produce the desired outcomes by connecting with the suitable ground plane.

After defining various parts of your board, you can create preliminary layouts in different zones. Structuring your schematics is possible by using the hierarchical schematics described above, making it possible to reuse them in different projects. A rigid-flex design PCB requires an optimal connection between the ribbon and board, which is why the software program must be mastered and utilized in the proper way.

You can access different types of stackup managers and choose the one that makes your process the easiest. 3D visual tools make it easier to check your board flex without relying on exporting your design to different programs. These tools separate the PCB design software from other available options that use different programs to create a 3D visual of your rigid-flex design.

Designing Rigid Flex PCB Boards the Right Way

As we’ve already discussed, optimizing your rigid-flex design involves creating an ideal layer stack, overlaying various layers as well as your ribbon, while creating seamless links between various layers.

When using software tools for rigid-flex design, you should manage to create simple outlines intuitively without relying on external programs. Capturing differing schematics for various zones in your system makes it possible to create the perfect rigid-flex design PCB board and do it correctly.

Once you’ve completed your rigid-flex design, you can ask your mechanical team to begin working on the packaging without switching between different programs. Your design software must work to integrate various features and tools into a unified program or environment, allowing everyone involved in the project to work collaboratively with ease.

However, you should always consult your manufacturer before creating a rigid-flex design since you need to know whether your ribbon should stay static or dynamic. Other important limitations and criteria must also be double-checked to ensure you are creating your rigid-flex design appropriately.

For example, your layer count and thickness must be carefully determined to avoid making any errors, which is why the manufacturer can help you send the appropriate pre-built stackup files.

Once your manufacturer sends you the appropriate files and data, you can use your design software to easily utilize the stackup files for different projects, depending on your preferences. This is a major benefit for rigid-flex design that reduces the project time considerably and allows you to define your stackup based on previous requirements automatically.

Rigid-Flex PCB Command Set-Up and Layer Stack Design

Rigid-flex design can be fairly complicated for beginners, but eventually, you’ll get the hang of it and realize how the electronic devices in your home function. For example, you will begin to understand how your laptop monitor works since it utilizes a rigid-flex design PCB.

When creating the optimal layer stack design and command setup, you must find the right design software to use that unifies all design tools within a single program.

Limiting to a single program makes it easier to collaborate with different teams on the same project and helps you create a rigid-flex design that can bend and flex a lot.

As we’ve already discussed, your rigid-flex design PCB board will have separate flex and rigid portions or zones that require appropriate software. Industries are becoming more demanding of the rigid-flex designs they are after, such as those incorporating various form factors and layer counts. For the best rigid-flex design PCB command setup and layer stacking, you should avoid manually creating and stacking your layers. The best way to achieve this process is to use the best software to create a unified design environment, making it easy to define layer stacks and implement various controls and limitations.

There are many interesting design software options out there that you can utilize for rigid-flex design command setup and layer stack design. Some important things you need to look out for when choosing the right software include a unified design environment, CAD tools, 3D visualizers, etc.

 If you’re worried about properly using these design features, you will be glad to know that the appropriate software makes it super easy to locate the required commands, which are highly intuitive. If you spend time on the right design software for your rigid-flex design PCB, you will understand the intricacies through trial and error. For example, your board will have flex and rigid regions, which are defined easily by using your stackup manager, which is fairly straightforward to understand. Since the commands are usually in one spot, you can define your layer stacks and reuse them for different projects, saving a great deal of time.

Using the wrong software may involve a lot of processes and wasted time learning different commands and visiting different programs to achieve a micro goal for your rigid-flex design PCB. So, it’s worth spending some time checking online reviews and consulting the manufacturer to upgrade and optimize your software. When creating the perfect rigid-flex design, it helps to use cutting-edge design interfaces that seamlessly connect your layer stack up and help you visualize them. 3D visualizing features also help your mechanical team develop the appropriate packing for your rigid-flex design.

When trying to learn new designing skills by focusing on rigid-flex design PCBs, using software like Altium can allow you to benefit from advanced tools and insights from industry experts.

Layer Stackup, Ribbon Design, and Routing

You can expect to find rigid-flex design circuits in various electronic devices, including cell phones and laptops. Rigid-flex design ribbons are typically incorporated to improve the connections between multiple boards in one device. Rigid flex designs are suited for electronics that are folded, such as iPads, laptops, flip phones, etc. Industries are beginning to utilize these rigid-flex designs for high-density connections via a connector instead of implementing bundles of wires.

Rigid-flex design circuits can be effectively designed by consulting your manufacturer and asking them to evaluate the fabrication capabilities. Your design must not only work in theory but should also operate smoothly based on your requirements. Determining whether your ribbon for the rigid-flex design remains dynamic or static will take some careful consideration. Hence, it may need multilayer routing depending on the way you need it to connect with the printed circuit boards.

However, manufacturers will make the process easier for you by offering stackup files for your rigid-flex design PCB. This eliminates the need for guesswork since you won’t have to waste time redesigning your rigid-flex design PCB and can move to fabrication quickly. Keeping with your manufacturer’s requirements will ensure that your rigid-flex design works optimally and your project does not take as long as it would without your manufacturer’s insights.

As mentioned above, rigid-flex designs need the ideal design software with all the necessary routing tools and simple commands for an intuitive stack manager. Your rigid-flex design will have flex and rigid zones where the stack manager will help you define the arrangement. Then, it follows that your routing tools will facilitate the routing process across the ribbon with the same efficiency as it would on a rigid surface.

Rigid Flex PCB Design Done Right

When using the right design software for your rigid-flex designs, you will quickly realize that you can easily define the layer stacks for every board and the flex zones while incorporating an intuitive layer stack manager. However, you’ll need to define every layer on every surface while determining how they connect. When optimizing your rigid-flex designs, you should realize that it shouldn’t take various programs and tens of commands to get your design sorted. So, you should never settle for anything less than the best design software out there and consult the manufacturer to stay in accordance with their requirements.

Defining layer stacks is the first part of the design process, which is followed by defining the flex zones straight into the PCB layout. This step lets you define the outline of the entire board, making it possible to efficiently allocate the appropriate layer stacks to various portions of the board. Many people complicate the routing process across the ribbon, but it should be the same as for any circuit or board.

Defining the stackup, laying out the components, and defining the links across all boards and circuits allows you to begin the next stage of the process. You can refer to certain design rules checking features to point out any problems in a simple format, allowing you to make corrections as you go. However, you must diagnose the problem by running simulations and checking the form factors using 3D visualizing tools. Since your design software is likely a unified design environment, you don’t have to switch to other programs to run simulations efficiently. Any corrections are easily implemented by using your 3D visualizer to verify the form factors in your rigid-flex design without creating the need to export or replicate your work onto separate programs or windows.

Rigid-Flex PCBs in IoT Devices

Many market analysts have expressed a growing demand for rigid-flex design PCBs in IoT devices. The rigid-flex design makes it possible to power the IoT devices because the circuit boards are small and compact but produce enough power for high performance. It makes them highly suited for IoT functions since you need fewer wiring connectors, reduce the occupied space and weight of the device, and minimize the thermal stress, which contributes to improved PCB reliability.

Statistics indicate that there are more than 12 billion IoT devices in the world today, which is higher than the number of non-IoT devices. Since IoT will continue to grow exponentially in the coming years, you can expect rigid-flex design PCB production to also increase. Some examples of IoT devices include sensors, appliances, and hardware devices, which are often used for home security, activity tracking, motion detection, and others. Since electrical functionality is of the utmost importance, rigid-flex designs are being utilized more than ever in these IoT devices, especially foldable products. However, there is still some work being done to improve the effectiveness of MCAD tools to upgrade and develop superior electronic products.

Clearances in Rigid-Flex PCBs

When using ECAD tools, you can only visualize your computer-aided design layout in 2D. This method only provides insights on traces, pads, and outlines. Although this is important, you won’t understand or conceptualize how the components align in the vertical dimension. For rigid-flex designs, clearances are needed to save space and prevent your board from colliding. Without an appropriate 3D view, you cannot gauge whether your components will collide and if they will efficiently fit into your enclosure.

Depending on the design software you use, you may be able to place various electrical components in non-ideal places. Although you will not violate any rules in doing so, you will still increase the risk of collision during the assembly process. Before the manufacturing process begins, your manufacturer will have to spot this discrepancy or error if he feels it will interfere or cause problems during assembly. So, it helps to have an MCAD tool to ensure you can spot any errors proactively and not have to rely on your manufacturer’s keen eye. These clearances are required to ensure your design is suitable for production.

Fit to Enclosure and Structural Integrity

Rigid-flex design PCBs must have properly implemented components in the flex sections to prevent deformation. Some fractures may appear on the ribbon if it is continually flexed, which is why it’s useful to have enough clearance so the board can travel through a complete range of motion.

Your rigid-flex design boards must be designed to provide enough space to prevent static deformation from increasing the longevity of the manufactured devices. Rigid-flex design PCBs have clearance standards that designers must consider to ensure different board sections can fold together.

Implementing the right mechanical design tools for your rigid-flex designs makes it possible to maintain your flex board within its mechanical enclosure. You can use programs like Solidworks to import the 3D rigid-flex design board and assess it against the enclosure design.

The lines and sections you highlight using the ECAD tool can later be visualized more appropriately using the MCAD application. If you notice any discrepancies, you can easily swap the components to ensure that the structural integrity is maintained and that your rigid-flex design board fits within the enclosure.

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