The Cost of Rigid Flex Vs. Rigid PCB: All You Need To Know

//

Oakley Mae

Home » Blog » Flexible PCB » The Cost of Rigid Flex Vs. Rigid PCB: All You Need To Know

We understand countless people ask about the cost of rigid-flex vs. rigid PCB.

Most of them are beginners seeking to design and develop cost-effective electronic devices.

One sure thing is that we have cost differences between a rigid-flex and rigid circuit board. 

Generally, rigid-flex PCBs have a higher manufacturing cost than traditional rigid boards.

However, they might save more costs in the long term than rigid boards. 

In this article, we consider the cost of rigid-flex vs. rigid PCB highlighting the cost benefits of rigid-flex PCBs. Let’s get rolling. 

Table of Contents

Understanding Rigid-Flex PCB

To begin with, we know that rigid circuit boards are very rigid and can’t bend to fit in tight spaces.

On the other hand, flexible circuit boards are very pliable and might fail to support components effectively.

Therefore, a rigid-flex circuit board eliminates the weaknesses in these two to give rise to a superior product. 

Rigid-flex circuits can bend somewhat but provide enough physical strength to support components.

These products are mainly used to create wearables, smartphones, and laptops. 

Understanding Rigid PCB

A rigid circuit board with components

(A rigid circuit board with components)

This is likely what comes to your mind when we mention circuit boards, and it’s the most traditional form of PCB.

No matter how much you bend them, they’ll not flex; if you insist on bending them, they might break or get damaged. 

These boards have silkscreen, substrate, solder mask, and copper layers combined using adhesives.

And although modern flexible and rigid-flex PCBs are replacing these boards, they’re still highly used. 

We unknowingly use rigid boards in consumer products such as smartphones and televisions. 

Rigid PCB Costs

Green PCB having some components on it

(Green PCB having some components on it)

The cost of a rigid circuit board is not constant.

It’s always changing depending on various factors, including the following.

  • The number of layers and size of the circuit board with a higher number represents a high cost.
  • The component and circuit board materials
  • The mounting technology you choose between through-hole and surface mount technology
  • The design complexity
  • How strick the manufacturer meets standards and certifications
  • The setup time and order volume
  • Extra services such as testing and prototyping

Rigid-Flex PCB Costs

All the factors above that affect rigid circuit board prices will also affect rigid-flex PCBs.

However, what every designer should understand is that rigid-flex PCBs cost more.

This is expected, putting in mind the complexity of the design process.

Also, the materials for designing rigid-flex circuit boards are more costly. 

If we put a value on the cost of rigid-flex PCBs, we’ll settle on a range between 50 cents and $300.

However, higher-quality products might cost more than this value. 

Reducing Circuit Board Costs

The solution to building cost-effective electronics is reducing the cost of circuit boards.

But is it possible, and can you achieve it? Yes, you can if you do the following:

  • Use fewer rigid-flex circuit board layers.
  • Reduce the panel space.
  • Select the PCB materials, such as finishes and laminate, with precision and care.
  • Use thinner circuit board layers.

Cost Benefits To Rigid-Flex PCBs

Female engineer working checking electronic circuits

(Female engineer working checking electronic circuits)

Smaller Sizes

Rigid-flex circuit boards eliminate the use of extra connectors.

Therefore, you don’t have to design the final electronic device around the circuitry.

Instead, the circuit board can fit in the tightest spaces and anywhere in the device. 

Therefore, this cost-benefit applies to thinner and smaller products like handheld electronics.

The smaller size translates into a lower production cost since you’ll use fewer materials. 

Fewer Parts and Components During Mass Production

When you design a device using rigid PCBs, the cost will increase when you use multiple circuit boards.

Why? Because for each circuit board you add to your device, you’ll have to attach cable assemblies and connectors.

This will translate into additional costs even though rigid PCB materials are cheaper. 

However, rigid-flex PCBs streamline the development process by eliminating the need for cable assemblies and connectors.

You integrate any extra circuitry into the flexible parts with these circuit boards.

Therefore, apart from saving costs, your design is also aesthetically pleasing. 

Simple Assembly Run Requirements

We already mentioned that rigid-flex circuit boards streamline the development process by doing away with cable assemblies and connectors.

Tied to this is that they also simplify the production lines since you only need a single production line to develop them. 

This is different from rigid boards, which require multiple runs like developing connections, cables, and circuitry.

Understanding that any additional development process is an added expense doesn’t require explanations. 

Longer Lasting

Whether you’re designing or buying a circuit board, you should consider the long-term benefits.

We know that rigid-flex PCBs eliminate interconnect points; thanks to this, they are more durable and resilient.

Moreover, the boards are robust and light, thus offering the best design option for modern lightweight, and compact devices. 

Furthermore, rigid-flex PCBs have adequate shielding options; they reduce emissions and enhance signal quality.

These features make them perfect for developing satellites and aircraft products. 

Reduced Human Errors

Any errors you create during design and development consume resources to correct.

And since rigid-flex PCBs use fewer connections and cables, you’re unlikely to experience errors during design, assembly, or installation.

As a result, you’ll save costs and get high-level PCB performance. 

Low Testing Costs

Expert engineer in a lab coat testing a PCB

Expert engineer in a lab coat testing a PCB

(Expert engineer in a lab coat testing a PCB)

If you have ever handled rigid circuit boards, you understand how much time and money you’ll need to test them.

You’ll have to do multiple tests to check for cable assembly, joints, connectors, and circuitry. 

However, rigid-flex PCBs eliminate cables and connectors, meaning you’ll only do one test.

FAQs

Which is more expensive, a rigid or rigid-flex PCB?

If you walk into any PCB shop and ask for the price of rigid-flex and rigid circuit boards, expect the option to cost more.

Usually, rigid-flex circuit boards pass through a complex design and assembly process.

Also, the materials used for developing these boards are more costly.

However, don’t mistake this to mean that rigid boards are cheap.

What is the difference between flex PCB and rigid-flex PCB?

We can tell one of the differences by looking at the names of these two PCBs.

Isn’t it obvious by now that flex PCB has purely bendable copper materials while rigid-flex PCB combines flexible and rigid materials?

In short, rigid-flex circuit boards contain the features and properties of both rigid and flexible materials.

Also, they’re designed for better performance in harsh operating conditions. 

Which is the cheapest material for PCB?

FR-4 laminated fiberglass is the cheapest and most common material for circuit board manufacturing.

However, you can still use other materials like polyimide, ceramic, and aluminum, but they’re very expensive.

Generally, using cheap materials reduces the overall circuit board manufacturing cost. 

Final Verdict

Hopefully, we have settled the rigid-flex vs. rigid PCB cost debate and put the matter to rest.

Generally, rigid-flex circuits have a higher manufacturing cost than common rigid boards.

Therefore, expect to buy them more expensively on the market.

And although rigid-flex PCBs come expensively, they still have several benefits such as smaller size, low testing costs, and limited human errors.

Additionally, they have fewer parts and components and experience simple assembly run requirements.