NEPCON West - Fiberoptic Expo Conference Proceedings


Author: Dr. Ken Gilleo
Company: Cookson Electronics
Date Published: 12/3/2002   Conference: NEPCON West - Fiberoptic Expo

Abstract: The printed circuit was one of the most important inventions of the 20th century. The Great Telecommunication Revolution that began in the 19th century was the catalyst for this invention and many others. The telegraph sent digital data, the telephone sent analog voice, and the new wireless sent both. The world was shrinking as technology connected cities and countries. Discrete point-to-point wiring was already being pushed beyond limits by wireless hardware, but the telephone exchange had the greatest density requirements.

Although the telephone is a rather simple, low-density device, the PBX, or exchange station, required the placement of hundreds of wires into an area that could be reached by the telephone operator. The first patented circuit was designed to solve the PBX problem in the early 1900’s. And the first circuit was flexible.

Electronic technology was rapidly evolving and the printed circuit was to play a key role as enabler and problem solver. The first quarter century of printed circuit development centered on flex as well it should. The pioneers understood the value of 3-dimensional interconnects and that the replacement for flexible wires should also be flexible.

Flexible circuitry continues to be the enabler of the "impossible" and the technology that solves extraordinary problems. The disk drive with its 500-million flex cycle requirement could not operate with any other technology, at least not affordably. Perhaps the flat panel display, now replacing the bulky, lead-laden CRT, would be impractical without the flex interconnect. And where would the highdensity package be without thin, agile flex? This paper will explore the unique attributes of flex, the unusual materials, and the advanced processes. Then we’ll look into the future. Flex will celebrate its first centennial in the year 2003. But the next hundred years will be much more interesting. We will wear circuits, too. So relax, flex your mind and get ready for a flexible journey.

Key words: circuit history, flexible circuit, flex-based package, telecommunications.

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