Why Flex And Rigid-Flex Tooling Costs Are Higher?
Have you ever complained about high flex and rigid-flex PCBs tooling costs? In this article, we list several reasons why their tooling costs are much higher.
1. Flex Circuit Boards Require More Engineering
Besides the tooling process complexity, flex circuit technology also requires additional engineering programs (files) to be created. Some flex designs may also have stiffeners, pressure sensitive adhesive (PSA), coverlays, etc. All of these specifications require additional engineering programs to be created and the majority of the process cannot be automated. This requires an engineer to manually review the flex circuit design and create these custom programs.
2. Additional Routing Programs May Include:
One program to remove the rigid material from where the flex layers exist.
Another to remove the Pre-Preg material from the flex layers.
You need to create a specific unique routing program for the flex outline.
Need an additional routing program for the flex Coverlay.
Finally a program for the rigid area or the assembly array.
3. Production Quantities
For rigid-flex and/or flex prototypes and small volume runs, most are manufactured with laser cutting or some type of mechanical routing. This is used to create the surface mount features in the coverlays, part outline, and if required, the outline of the stiffeners. Electrical testing on these lower volumes is typically done with a flying probe.
For large volume, steel rule dies are typically more expensive to create then the laser cutting technique. The electrical test fixtures are also switched over to a hard wired test, which can be more labor intensive. Both can add an initial upfront expense, but it allows for a substantial reduction to the unit price of the part when large volume runs.