Mark Finstad

All the pieces that add up to the right fit.

“I am developing a flexible circuit for my application and will soon be ready for prototypes, followed by production a few months later. A lot of flexible circuit suppliers are out there. How do I know if a vendor is reputable and will meet my needs?”

Many variables must be considered when picking a flexible circuit supplier. Do your homework and find a vendor that is a good fit for the project. It is advisable to also select a vendor that will support your program from prototype through production. Multiple vendors could build to the same Gerber files and overall specifications, but the end-product could have differences due to processing and material variations between suppliers. Switching fabricators midstream can introduce significant risk at a critical time between prototype and production. Following are the items I recommend learning about a vendor before making your sourcing decision:

Circuit application/performance class. This is more about the IPC performance class rather than specific application, but mil-aero, implantable medical devices, and so on generally are specified as IPC Class 3, while most everything else is Class 2. IPC Class 3 is the highest reliability and overall performance class and is usually specified when the product is used in a life-critical application. Class 3 product typically requires more stringent processing controls, QA, and documentation. Suppliers that primarily serve Class 3 users typically “stay in their lane” and build all products to Class 3 performance level regardless of the requirement.

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