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Content archived on 2024-05-29

Flexible circuits processing, performance and reliability using lead-free soldering process


Flexible circuit boards are a functionally pivotal and rapidly growing technology for electronics goods. Applicationsinclude: computer peripherals (e.g. flat panel displays, ink-jet printers, disc drives), hand held devices (e.g. GPS, personaldigital assistants, membrane keyboards), telecommunications (mobile phones), automotive (e.g. engine controls,dashboards/connections), smart cards (antenna foils), aerospace (lightweight, compact systems) and medical devices (e.g.sensors). The drive to use flexible circuits is based on the technologies ability to: reduce size, weight, assembly time andcost, accommodate relative movement between component parts, increase system reliability (reduced interconnect), improvecontrolled impedance signal transmission and heat dissipation and enable three dimensional packaging.These benefits have resulted in a significant increase in the use of flexible circuits for electronics and systems assembly,particularly consumer products. The global market size has been estimated by various bodies to be between 4 billion to 7billion with anticipated growth rates up to 15% per year.Flexible circuits are most commonly manufactured using one of two base materials, either polyimide or polyester. Theformer is favoured where soldering is required, the latter is generally used in low cost applications. Both flexible circuitmaterial systems are sensitive to temperature (continuous service temperature: polyimide ~177C, polyester ~74C), whichraises considerable concerns as to their capabilities of withstanding the higher soldering temperatures, which will beimposed by lead-free solder and its impact on their operating properties. As flexible circuits are developing into such asignificant technology for electronic products, with a major role in manufacturing and assembly being played by SMEs, it isessential that an understanding of the impact of this major change in technology on flexible circuits is #

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Granta Park, Great Abington
United Kingdom

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