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I recently kicked off a presentation on flex and rigid-flex by asking for a show of hands of those who had never worked with flex materials or considered themselves to be just learning how to design with flex. Over half of the room raised their hands, which excited me because I could help them learn something new, but it also surprised me a bit. After all, flex is the fastest-growing portion of the market and has been for several years. But change can be hard and uncomfortable, and there is a natural tendency to avoid change until there is no other choice, especially in a work environment.
Over the next few years, one thing that I think is going to change in our industry is more and more people will be forced to embrace change and adopt new technologies and materials at a faster pace than we have had the luxury of in the past. The industry is moving at a rapid pace, with new materials and processes rolling out quickly. Electronics are becoming increasingly complex in smaller and lighter packages.
We all serve different areas of the electronics market and work with varying levels of technology. For some, change could mean moving to flex and rigid-flex to take advantage of space, weight, and packaging benefits. For others, change could mean leaning into semi-additive PCB processing because line width and space requirements need to be much smaller than we are able to reliably achieve with traditional subtractive processes. Fabricators serving that technology segment will deal with changes and adjustments to processes and work with new technologies and materials that challenge how we think about PCB design.
In my opinion, the best way to lessen the challenges and uncertainty of change is to arm yourself with as much knowledge as possible. Yes, I think internet searches and YouTube videos are going to have a place on our learning curves, and I challenge fabricators and suppliers to continue to create educational content that we can have available at our fingertips whenever the urgent need to answer a question arises. But I also think that we are going to have to rely more on each other and have dialog about new processes, discussing both the challenges and the opportunities they afford.
To read this entire column, which appeared in the November 2019 issue of Design007 Magazine, click here.