Flexible flat cables (FFC) and flexible printed circuits (FPC) are vital components in many industrial processes and applications. For anybody just getting into electronics and the field of printed circuits, a picture of an FPC and FFC can look very similar. However, they both offer different features and functionality, so continue reading to find out more.
What is an FPC?
A flexible printed circuit is a more complicated piece of electronics compared to a flexible flat cable. They’re used to describe circuits that can incorporate components and are built onto a flexible material. FPC is made up of polyamide material and etched copper conductors. They can accept more severe tolerances than FFCs and are also available in 0.3mm thicknesses.
Flexible printed circuits can be used over a rigid printed circuit board to provide a greater flexibility to electronics, or for particularly tightly-assembled electronic packages. There are many different types of FPC, including single layer, double-sided and multilayer flex circuits.
Single-sided flexible circuits have a single conductor layer that is made of either a metal or conductive polymer on a flexible dielectric film. Double-sided flex circuits are ones designed with two conductor layers.
Multilayer flex circuits consist of three or more layers of conductors. Commonly, the layers are interconnected by means of plating through holes. However, this is not a requirement because it is possible to provide openings to access lower circuit level features.
What is an FFC?
FFC is an electrical cable that is both flat and flexible, and is an evolution of ribbon cable in a miniature form. Common uses of FFC in consumer devices include high-density electronics, such as laptops and smartphones.
These flat cables significantly improve cable management and consist of a flat and flexible plastic film base, with multiple metallic conductors bonded to one surface. They usually require less space than their round cable counterparts, while offering improved EMI/RFI suppression, and eliminating wire coupling issues.
At Hitaltech, we manufacture a wide variety of FFC which is available from two to 32 pins, and with a variety of insulation materials that allow them to be used in a range of applications. Some of our flexible flat cables are designed to operate in extreme temperatures, such as the high temperature jumper system. This cable system is designed to operate in temperatures of +150°C, like in cars or white goods.
It’s also possible to have them pre-terminated with a connector, which allows for semi-permanent connections. Alternatively, they can be supplied bare, allowing the cables to be soldered.
FFC vs FPC
The main difference between FPC and FFC is that a flexible flat cable refers to any type of electrical cable that is flexible and flat, while an FPC is a flexible printed circuit. The construction of FFC cables means that they take up much less space, and can offer greater flexibility than round cables.
Meanwhile, an FPC is more than just a connector. It is a circuit board that is lighter, thinner and offers increased flexibility compared to a traditional circuit board, which is rigid in its structure. Its flexibility increases its durability and reliability too, making it perfect for use in high-flexibility electronic items, or where weight and space are limiting factors. FPCs can be found in items such as consumer electronics, hearing aids and flexible solar cells in satellites.
Flexible Interconnect Systems at Hitaltech
Hitaltech offers a range of flexible interconnect systems to suit your applications. We stock flat flexible cables that can be used for board-to-board interconnect when electrical connections require a high flexibility and/or printed circuit boards to be connected, which are subject to vibrations.
If you’d like to find out more about what we can offer you, contact Hitaltech today 01253 899910 or email us at email@example.com.