Rigid-Flex PCBs in Aerospace Electronic Assembly

Technology in the aerospace electronics industry is rocketing forward, with innovations being developed. The aerospace industry requires exceptional reliability, performance, and durability due to the environmental conditions for operation. Rigid-flex PCBs, manufactured by a domestic, turnkey, and high-quality electronic contract manufacturer, have many advantages compared to other options in aerospace electronics. Reduced weight and size can help meet space constraints and ensure that these electronic components can handle any environment they need to operate within. Finding the proper electronic contract manufacturer with on-site engineers with the right certifications, in a facility using state-of-the-art equipment and methods, can make your aerospace design and innovation a reality.

Close up of a printed circuit board.

What is a Rigid-Flex PCB?

A rigid-flex PCB is a flexible circuit with a thin substrate that demonstrates high levels of bendability, tensile strength, and flexibility. Rigid-flex PCBs can be molded into complex shapes that allow them to be used in a diverse range of applications across many different industries. Rigid-flex PCBs are often used in wearable technology, minuscule devices and aerospace piloting. The materials used in rigid-flex PCBs are usually only a few microns thick but can still be durable and reliably etched. Rigid-flex PCBs were introduced at the beginning of the 20th century in the telephone industry, made significant advances in the mid-20th century as flexible circuits became more desirable in advancing technology, and have continued to advance, keeping pace with technological advancements. Flex classes can vary depending on the level of inspection and testing required, along with the performance requirements. Class one is suitable for general electronics, class two for more sophisticated electronics, and class three is suitable for high-reliability electronic components, such as those used in the highly regulated aerospace industry.

What are the Advantages of Rigid-Flex PCBs in Aerospace Electronic Assembly?

There are many advantages of using rigid-flex PCBs in aerospace electronic assembly. Rigid-flex PCBs can be routed at nearly every angle within the tight confines of devices such as satellites while still having a sufficiently high conductor density. Rigid-flex PCBs have a distinct advantage of adaptability over ribbon cables or other options. In addition, using rigid-flex PCBs offers 360-degree bendability, superior resistance to vibration and other disruptions in even the harshest environments, small and flexible cables that take up far less space than other options, the ability to be warped without the risk of breakage, and significantly reduced product weight due to a compact, lightweight PCB design. The rigid-flex PCB design permits better airflow and heat dissipation than other options. Assembly costs are often relatively lower due to lower counts of interconnections and components used in manufacturing. Finally, using rigid-flex PCBs provides far less risk of assembly errors since the process is standardized and streamlined. Rigid-flex PCBs are often the best choice when connecting complex electronic internal systems.

In many cases, redesigning a product to use rigid-flex PCBs over other options may be worth the investment to take advantage of the benefits of reduced weight. The weight reduction can be as high as 75% compared to other options due to the fragile substrates made of material as thin as 12-120 microns. Designs that use rigid-flex PCBs can reduce the cost of the electronic connections by over half compared to other PCB construction.

Aerospace Applications for Rigid-Flex PCBs

Many technologies in the aerospace industry can benefit from the use of rigid-flex PCBs. The flexible technology allows for the integration of semiconductors onto a flexible substrate, allowing for advanced computing and sensing capabilities. For one example, wearable technology, such as a flip-down visor mounted to a helmet that can project remote 3D holographic images, can eliminate the need to look away from a potential target to read operational data during flight. Rigid-flex PCBs are used to drive this optical system. The flexibility, reliability, performance, and light weight make it practical for avionics. The advantage of rigid-flex PCBs is that they make the most advanced technology possible in aerospace applications.

Finding the Right Manufacturer for Rigid-Flex PCBs

When incorporating rigid-flex PCBs into aerospace technology, finding an electronic contract manufacturer who is prepared to see your project through is essential. The aerospace industry is heavily regulated and requires a quality, domestic electronic contract manufacturer with suitable suppliers, processes, engineers, and certifications for all aspects of the project. Before finalizing your manufacturing partner, ensure you have completed all due diligence. Your ECM should have AS 9100 certification using the ISO 9001 standard as a foundation. When discussing materials for your rigid-flex PCB project, make sure you understand how your ECM handles supply chain management and that they have a team of vetted suppliers who can ensure that your project is completed with legitimate, quality components.

Rigid-flex PCBs have an essential role in aerospace electronic manufacturing. Any technology that can be worn, carried, or driven can benefit from the advantages of rigid-flex PCB technology. Finding a domestic, turnkey electronic contract manufacturer with a team of onsite engineers who have obtained and maintained the proper certifications for aerospace manufacturing using rigid-flex technology can make your innovation a reality. The advantages of rigid-flex PCBs are that they can reduce the device’s weight while improving performance and reliability. When planning your project, find an electronic contract manufacturer who can be relied upon to use rigid-flex PCBs in your aerospace technology best.

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Why Partner with Levison Enterprises?

In the rapidly advancing landscape of aerospace electronics, the call for innovation and reliability has never been more pressing. Levison Enterprises is a beacon of excellence, offering cutting-edge solutions with our rigid-flex PCB technology. As the aerospace industry demands unparalleled performance and durability, our domestically manufactured rigid-flex PCBs emerge as the optimal choice. With reduced weight and size, they meet stringent space constraints and ensure resilience in any environmental condition. Partnering with Levison Enterprises means access to turnkey solutions backed by state-of-the-art facilities and certified engineers, guaranteeing your aerospace designs reach new heights of success. Embrace the future of aerospace electronics with Levison Enterprises and revolutionize your innovations today. Contact us today to learn more.