Flexible Printed Circuit Boards in Medical Device Design

Flexible Printed Circuit Boards in Medical Device Design

21 Mar 20234 min readBrandon Tillman
Flex printed circuit board, or flex assembly Flex printed circuit board, or flex assembly

Flex assemblies, also known as flexible printed circuit boards or flexible printed circuits (FPCs), offer flexibility and durability which is essential to wearable medical devices, a key feature to the evolution of medical technology. FPCs have become an essential component of wearable medical devices. They can be designed and engineered to mirror shapes found within the body and can also withstand the daily wear and tear that comes with the usage of a wearable medical device, such as hearing aids or vital sensors.

Flexible Materials Enable Unique Designs

Flexible printed circuit boards are created with flexible material which can be applied to the many specifications required for a wearable medical device. This flexibility allows engineers to design the FPC to confine to tough angles, as the circuit offers 360-degree bendability without breakage. These traits allow FPCs to be used for extended purposes among a variety of products specific to the wearable devices market.

FPCs Offer Essential Reliability

Reliability is an essential component of any medical device, and FPCs provide a decreased risk of wire protection failure due to the minimization of connection points throughout the circuit. Interconnection points are a potential cause of electronic failures or malfunctions. The reduction of these points in FPCs helps reduce the possibility of interconnection defects, overall increasing the device’s reliability.

FPCs are also smaller in size and weight compared to a traditional PCB. This allows the circuit to fit into small and unusual places commonly seen in wearable medical devices. FPCs can also withstand a wide temperature range, making them suitable for harsh conditions inside and outside of the body.

Surface Mount Technology Reduces Cost and Time to Manufacture

While there are many advantages to utilizing FPCs for wearable medical devices, the circuit has some intricacies in production, storage, and repairs. Here at ATL Technology, we are fully equipped to handle the production, protection, and storage of FPCs.

To begin the process, the engineering team will want to know the product shape and layer structure requirements for the desired FPC. From there, the team will start designing the FPC which will create a file output and an analysis of the circuit.

We then use our surface mount technology line, placing components directly on top of the FPCs, instead of threading the parts through the board. Placing components on top of the FPCs helps to reduce manufacturing costs and increases the speed of manufacturing. Next is soldering your choice of sensor to the FPC.

Protection Options Ensure the Integrity of Your Assemblies

As FPCs can be sensitive to damage when unprotected, ATL has the internal capability to provide conformal coating onto the FPC. Conformal coating is a protective, non-conductive coating that can be applied directly to the FPC. Its purpose is to protect electronic circuits from damage due to contamination, salt spray, moisture, fungus, dust, or corrosion caused by harsh or extreme environments. Applying conformal coating and electrically insulating your boards maintains long-term surface insulation resistance and ensures the integrity of your assemblies. In addition, ATL provides another option to protect your FPC, through low-pressure molding. Low-pressure molding is a one-step process that encapsulates and seals protected electronics. This technology is primarily used for encapsulation, or over-molding of electronic assemblies, things like battery packs, microswitches, solenoids, sensors, connectors, and even your wire harnesses.

If you have flexible circuit design or flexible printed circuit board needs for your medical device, ATL technology can review your application and provide seamless production as your design and manufacturing partner.

Engineer to engineer series intro graphic Engineer to engineer series intro graphic

Watch Our Recent Flex Assemblies Engineer-to-Engineer Video

Click below to learn more about flexible printed circuit boards in this recent video from our Engineer-to-Engineer Series, by our expert, Jamie Shand.


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