OEM Flexible PCB Assembly: The Ultimate Guide

//

Oakley Mae

Home » Blog » Assembly » OEM Flexible PCB Assembly: The Ultimate Guide

Many times, appliance manufacturers look for information on OEM flexible PCB assembly.

And the reason for the search is that the OEM is sometimes a different entity from the assembler.

Take, for example, a mobile phone company that outsources PCB manufacturing to another company. 

Doing so gives them quality products while saving money for other projects.

But is it beneficial to do so? What does OEM flexible PCB assembly entail? Read on to find out.

Table of Contents

What Are OEM Flexible PCBs?

OEM flexible circuit boards are PCBs with flexible substrate materials and conductive traces that connect components.

They get the name OEM since they are from Original equipment manufacturers.

In most cases, the OEMs manufacture the circuit boards for other companies that will then assemble them.   

OEM Circuit Board Types For Assembly

Rigid printed circuit board assemblies

(Rigid printed circuit board assemblies)

Original equipment manufacturers (OEM) produce various printed circuit boards for different applications.

For instance, a circuit board for connecting a computer motherboard to a screen will be different from the motherboard. 

The reason is that the latter is rigid for easier installation onto the computer, whereas the connectors are flexible.

Here, let’s look at different OEM circuit board types. 

Rigid OEM Circuit Boards

Rigid circuit boards have stiff substrates that OEMs make from FR-4 and other rigid materials.

Consequently, they cannot bend or flex upon applying a force.

Applying excessive force will ultimately break the board, reducing its electrical properties. 

Flexible OEM Circuit Boards

Manufacturers make flexible circuit boards from flexible materials like polyimide and polyester.

Consequently, the boards bend and twist according to the direction of the force.

Moreover, you can assemble surface mount components onto these circuit boards. 

Rigid-Flex OEM Circuit Boards

Rigid-flex circuit boards combine the technologies of rigid and flexible PCBs in their production and working.

As such, some sections are rigid while others are flexible, making them ideal for applications that incorporate moving sessions.

Additionally, they work best in tight spaces requiring special designs to install the circuit board.  

Single-sided OEM Circuit Boards

Single-layer PCBs have components on one side, whereas the other remains blank.

Generally, most PCBs in consumer electronics are single-sided as they don’t house many components.

Multi-layer OEM Circuit Boards

From the name, multi-layer OEM circuit boards have several layers corresponding to the application.

In between the layers are conductive traces that pass electrical current between the layers and components.

Moreover, OEMs design them to either be single-sided or double-sided. 

Double-sided OEM Circuit Boards

A double-sided PCB has conductive surfaces for component installation on both sides of the circuit board.

OEMs manufacture them for applications that need a high density of components on a small installation surface. 

OEM Circuit Board Applications

Consumer electronics use OEM circuit boards

(Consumer electronics use OEM circuit boards)

OEM circuit boards vary significantly in terms of application and capability.

Therefore, they find use in many areas, including: 

Consumer Electronics

As we transition into a smarter world, there’s a need for more capable consumer electronics.

And the OEM circuit boards are driving the world’s push for better smartphones and computers, among others. 

Moreover, since electronics manufacturers focus on producing the appliances, it is often the OEMs’ role to produce the PCB.

But since it has to be favorable to the customers, the OEMs must produce relatively inexpensive circuit boards. 

Medical Devices

Almost all medical devices in our hospitals have some form of an OEM circuit board.

The reason is that OEMs spend more resources to develop capable and reliable circuit boards. 

If the task was left to the appliance manufacturer, chances are that the medical devices would be costly.

Additionally, OEM circuit boards employ high-density interconnects to allow for medical devices to be compact. 

Telecommunications

Telecommunication systems like 5G technology rely on lightweight OEM PCBs.

Device manufacturers prefer contracting circuit board manufacturing to OEMs to save on cost. 

Moreover, they lower production costs as they bypass the research and development phase that the OEMs are doing. 

Automotive Industry

Nowadays, our cars have smart driver assist and entertainment features.

For proper functioning, they must rely on high-quality circuit boards. 

As we know, car manufacturers deal with manufacturing automobiles and leave PCB manufacturing to circuit board OEMs.

Therefore, they build highly reliable cars that ensure safe driving, driver comfort, and entertainment. 

Why Select OEM for Your PCB Fabrication?

An illustration of 5G connectivity across a city

(An illustration of 5G connectivity across a city)

Better Circuit Boards

The good thing with original equipment manufacturers is that they dedicate massive resources to produce their circuit boards.

Therefore, the PCBs are of higher quality than if the appliance manufacturers were to manufacture themselves. 

Moreover, consistency in production results in precise products.

Nobody prefers ordering goods from suppliers who can’t guarantee consistent quality across a wholesale batch. 

Cheaper

OEMs spend much time and money on research and development to develop excellent boards.

Afterward, they recoup the money when they supply an appliance manufacturer in bulk. 

For instance, most mobile phone manufacturers procure their rigid PCBs from circuit board OEMs.

Consequently, they buy at a lower price than if they were to manufacture independently. 

Value

Buying wholesale PCBs from an OEM improves the value of your products, especially if you test them before selling.

Moreover, knowing that your PCBs are durable will improve the value of your installed devices. 

Longevity

OEM products last longer since they take more time to produce a reliable product.

Moreover, the OEMs’ experience allows them to select the best materials, production methods, and supply chains to lower the overall cost.

This they must do without compromising your printed circuit board’s quality. 

Tips for Selecting OEM Flexible PCB Manufacturers

Female technicians soldering components onto a PCB

(Female technicians soldering components onto a PCB)

One must select circuit board manufacturers with the following qualities for high-quality PCBs.

First, they must have a good reputation for delivering high-quality products promptly.

Second, only go with manufacturers who satisfy international PCB standards like ISO 9001.

A failure to do so means you may procure circuit boards that will fail quality tests. 

Thirdly, look at the lead times; the better the lead times, the faster your product hits the market.

Conversely, some PCB manufacturers have poor lead times leading to delays that may lead to financial losses. 

Fourth, consider the testing and inspection criteria to see if the manufacturer guarantees the quality of their product before release.

Fifth, always consider the pricing option and if any discounts may benefit you. 

However, don’t rush towards one with the least quotation as sometimes cheap is expensive.

The cheap product may fail multiple times, costing you finances in repair and maintenance. 

FAQs

Flexible PCBs play a big role in consumer electronics, medical devices, and telecommunication systems.

Consequently, they are fast improving to be smaller and more effective as time passes. 

Moreover, OEMs are researching ways to develop recyclable flex PCBs for environmental sustainability.

Another trend is the 3D printing of flex PCBs, whereby you can print the circuit boards directly to three-dimensional shapers. 

Furthermore, you will find flex PCBs in the Internet of Things (IoT), 5G, and wearable devices.  

Do you need to observe quality control measures during the OEM PCB Assembly process?

There’s no way to ascertain that a flexible PCB works unless you pass it through a quality control check.

Additionally, the tests are important as they ensure that the circuit board retains its electrical and mechanical properties over its lifetime.

Some of these measures include:

  • Electrical testing 
  • Environmental testing: Includes tests for vibration, shock, humidity, and temperature
  • X-ray inspection: Checks quality of solder joints 
  • Automated optical inspection (AOI)
  • Solder quality

Conclusion

OEMs are an integral part of the electronics manufacturing industry.

Without them, consumers would pay the price by buying electronics and appliances at higher prices.

Moreover, appliance manufacturers would experience long lead times, leading to delays in product release. 

Luckily, the OEMs play their role not only in the production of circuit boards for easier assembly but also in research.

It is the research and development that results in better-performing circuit boards.