Rigid Flex for Medical Applications
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Today’s medical devices need to be smaller with greater functionality than ever. To meet this demand for miniaturization, medical device manufacturers need to package their electronics so that they can fit within a small form factor. Rigid flex technology provides the perfect solution to this challenge, allowing designers to compress electronic packaging into a single board, with better reliability.
Types of Medical Device Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs)
Printed circuit boards (PCBs) are the foundation of modern electronics. They electrically connect and mechanically support electronic devices. PCBs are fabricated with an electrically conductive material—typically copper—and are a necessity for nearly all electronic products. They can be as simple as one layer of circuitry, or sometimes very complex with dozens of layers, depending on the application.
The medical industry typically depends on three types of PCBs for medical devices: rigid, flex and rigid-flex. Rigid PCBs are usually the most cost effective electronics packaging solution. Flexible PCBs are an effective solution for limited space applications and can be bent hundreds of thousands of cycles without failure. They are ideal for medical devices and wearable electronics and offer great connectivity and packaging options to other electronic components.
Rigid-flex PCBs consist of a combination of rigid and flexible board components. The rigid portion is ideal for mounting and connecting components in densities mimicking rigid PCBs. While the flexible portion allows the board to bend or fold to fit into small enclosures and eliminate the need for connectors and cables between hard boards.
Rigid Flex Benefits & Capabilities
Rigid flex circuits eliminate the cables and connectors between hard boards, making them well-suited to electronic devices with multiple connections between rigid boards. They are also the ideal solution to ultra-small and dense packaging, where there is just no room for connectors, in today’s medical devices.
Rigid flex circuits are extremely reliable in static or dynamic flex applications. Because of their versatility, they can be a more cost-effective solution than similar cables with connectors.
Medical Device PCB Applications
Thanks to the high versatility of flex and rigid-flex PCBs, they have been widely integrated across many applications in the medical industry. Since rigid-flex PCBs eliminate the need for connectors, they reduce costs and the required amount of installation space. Their ability to be folded into tight spaces makes them very useful for medical devices & equipment. As innovations in medical technology continue to decrease the size and weight of devices—particularly those which are wearable or portable—rigid-flex PCBs will continue to be sought after throughout the medical industry.
Some of the more common medical devices that require flexible and rigid-flex PCBs include:
- Defibrillators: These devices restore normal heartbeats by administering electric shocks to the heart tissue. There are different types of defibrillators, including implantable defibrillators, wearable defibrillators, automated external defibrillators (AEDs), and the manually controlled external defibrillators commonly used in medical facilities. In all types of defibrillators, PCBs control the electrical components that allow these devices to operate.
- Drug delivery systems: Drug delivery systems provide controlled release of medicines. There are many types of devices used for these purposes. One of the most common examples would be infusion pumps, which infuse drugs such as insulin or analgesics into patients. In all systems, PCBs ensure precision and reliability.
- Handheld devices: Many medical devices are handheld instruments, cameras or tools where comfort of the operator during use, is of primary importance. Flexible and rigid-flex PCBs allow the electronics to fit the space available in these devices. An added bonus with rigid-flex technology is its resistance to degradation during autoclave sterilization of medical devices.
- Handheld monitors: Portable medical monitors provide reliable monitoring of vital signs, such as blood pressure, pulse oximetry, and body temperature. Flex and rigid-flex PCBs facilitate reliable device function and have contributed to size reductions and portability in recent designs.
- Medical imaging equipment: Medical imaging devices are essential in diagnosing and treating internal medical issues in patients. Equipment such as MRI, X-ray, pill cameras and CT scan machines all rely on PCBs to operate.
- Pacemakers: Pacemakers regulate heartbeat rhythms by sending out electrical impulses. Some are required to function continuously, while others only operate periodically in a more responsive nature. In all cases, PCBs are essential to device operation.
There are many more applications for medical device PCBs. Contact us if you have a particular application and are interested in flexible or rigid-flex circuitry.
The Importance of UL Approval Ratings for Medical Device PCBs
Underwriter Laboratories (UL) is a third-party certification company founded in 1894. UL sets industry standards on product construction, capabilities, and testing standards. Products featuring the UL seal have been tested and found to be free from reasonable risk of fire and electric shock, ensuring safety and longevity.
Throughout the medical industry, UL approval rating is valued for insurance purposes. Obtaining UL recognition for flame-rated packaging is essential to meet insurance carrier requirements for product liability. At Printed Circuits we have the most extensive library of UL 94 V-O approved constructions in the industry – saving you the cost and time delay of obtaining UL recognition.
Why Choose Printed Circuits for Medical PCBs?
Our Manufacturing Equipment
Registering thin laminates with other materials of varying dimensional stability demands state-of-the-art equipment and processes. At Printed Circuits, we manufacture our circuits with the most advanced equipment on the market. Our facility features Laser Direct Imagers from Orbotech, and UV/CO2 laser drill/routers, X-ray smart drill, ENEPIG line and other process technology essential for high quality, high reliability circuits – allowing us to build most of our boards to IPC 6013 class III, or beyond
Printed Circuits uses microsectioning, X-ray verification, thermal stress analysis, automatic optical inspection, electrical testing, and CMM dimensioning during in-process testing and final acceptance of your circuit boards.
We use clean rooms for material layup, flying probe electrical testing, and controlled impedance modeling and test/verification to ensure that you receive the best rigid flex circuits available.
Our products are built to the highest manufacturing specifications in the industry –IPC 6013 class III. Printed Circuits is certified to ISO 9001:2015, registered with the US Department of State for ITAR, and we have the most comprehensive library of constructions approved to UL 94 V-0 standards in the industry, allowing you to certify your product to UL without the wait and cost of obtaining UL approval.
Volume and Delivery
Backed by decades of experience with flex and rigid flex circuits, we have the expertise needed to manufacture high-volume production runs as well as small-volume prototyping. We’re able to deliver quick prototypes in as little as three weeks, and high-volume orders in six to eight weeks.
To ensure successful product integration and launch, Printed Circuits offers design assistance to every client, and particularly those who are new to flex and rigid flex design. We’re capable of working with very thin dielectric materials, materials with dissimilar X/Y dimensional stability, and very thin circuit board composites. We work with mechanical, electrical, process, CAD and layout engineers alike – offering design recommendations provide optimized manufacturing yields and cost reduction.
Some customers request several different designs when prototyping new concepts and products. We are happy to accommodate, enabling you to check and test your assumptions on impedance performance, cross talk, EMI shielding and antenna structures before production begins.
Most of our work meets IPC 6013 class III requirements or beyond, making us the ideal provider of rigid flex circuits for medical device applications. We have excellent quality management systems, finely tuned processes, and the experienced personnel needed to deliver defect-free, high-quality and highly-reliable medical electronics components.
Our customer satisfaction surveys consistently return high marks for responsiveness, design assistance, high quality, and affordability. Quality audits from our customers further speak to the strength of our processes, personnel, and equipment.
Printed Circuits is pleased to offer cutting-edge solutions to the packaging challenges posed by modern medical device technology. If you’d like to partner with us on your next product or project, contact us today.