FPC (Flexible Printed Circuit): The Manufacturing Process

Thanks to the miniaturization of all the components, a very small electronic device like our mobile phone can implement a lot of functions. FPC (flexible printed circuit) is one of those components.

In this post, we’ll introduce to you what FPC is and its manufacturing process.

What is FPC?

Flexible printed circuit
Source: www.eeweb.com

FPC is a thin insulating polymer film that conductive circuit patterns are printed on and typically it’s supplied with a thin polymer coating to protect the circuit.

The material and the structure grant the FPC flexibility, which allow it to be the connection of different components in different layers.

Now it’s one of the most crucial interconnection technologies in use for the manufacture of many most advanced electronic products such as the mobile phones mentioned, tablets, desktop computers, notebooks and so on.

With these in mind, let’s take a look at the manufacturing process of FPC.

Manufacturing process of FPC

Generally, FPC are made through a photolithographic technology sheet by sheet. Recently, a more advanced way to produce FPC is RTR (roll to roll) lamination.

First let’s learn about photolithographic technology:

Flow chart of the FPC manufacturing process

Photolithographic technology

1. Shearing:

To optimize the material utilization, cut the material as working size for different design and layout concern.

2. CNC (computer numerical control) drilling:

To fit customers’ design and process demand, drill different holes on boards, such as alignment holes, testing vias, components holes, etc.

3. Plating through hole:

Since both the top and bottom layer are not conductive, plate copper on the hole-wall after drilling to realize pattern connection between layers. This process applies to the making of double-sided flexible boards.

4. Dry film lamination:

To create an etching resist layer, pass pre-treated boards through hot roller to laminate dry film on it.

5. Exposure:

Transfer the designed circuit pattern image to dry film laminated on the foil to create an exposure area.

6. Development:

Cast UV (ultraviolet) light on the dry film, the dry film on the exposure area will be polymerized and hardened, and the dry film on non-exposure area can be removed and expose copper.

7. Etching:

After development, non-exposure area will be moved away by chemical reaction and the protected area will be remained.

8. Stripping:

After etching, remove the dry film covering the circuit pattern and make pattern exposed.

9. AOI (automated optical inspection):

Use AOI tester to check the quality of circuit.

10. Coverlay pre-lamination:

The board will be covered with insulating layer called ‘coverlay’ to protect the circuit.

11. Hot press:

The board with coverlay pass through hot press machine to form adhesion between copper and coverlay.

12. Metal finish:

Coat the bonding area with nickel or gold to protect and keep the terminator’s function.

13. Screen printing:

If there’re needs to print visible information like logos or numbers onto the boards, silk screening will be applied.

14. Test:

Carry out electrical and functional test to detect the defects of finished circuits.

RTR lamination

RTR is a new generation of FPC production method.

The main feature of RTR method is that it can complete the whole front process, from drilling to hot press, of all the FPC at the same time.

Therefore, once the RTR method reaches its stable capacity, the production efficiency will have a great enhancement.

Given the advantage of the RTR method, many manufacturers has made investments to equip RTR production line.

 

So much for this post. Feel free to let us know if you’re interested in knowing more about it, or that you have any question about FPC.

Note: We do not own the images used in this post. Feel free to contact us if they belong to you, and we’ll take them down as quickly as we possibly can.

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