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HomeTips & GuidesFlexible flat ribbon cables: a viable solution for modern electronics

Flexible flat ribbon cables: a viable solution for modern electronics

Modern electronics are getting thinner, smaller and more compact to fit into densely packed electronics. To sustain these small electronics, you will need special cables to route signals and power in these compact devices. Flexible flat ribbon cables have emerged as a solution to these modern devices. Let’s know more about these cables in this blog post.

What are flexible flat ribbon cables?

Flat flexible cables, as the name suggests, are electric cables that comprise a plastic film that bonds several metallic conductors.   

Abbreviated as FFC, these cables are thin and flexible, allowing easy circuitry connections in today’s tech-upgraded electronics.

Falling in the category of flexible electronics, FFC especially refers to very thin and flat cables used in cell phones, laptops, and other high-density electronics.

FFCs are a type of ribbon cable due to their flat and wide structure. At times, you will notice that the term FPC or flexible printed circuits is being used for FFC.

However, FPC mainly refers to the printed circuits that are built on a flexible base and have components on it. On the contrary, FFCs have straight connections without any components.

Detail of flexed printed circuit board (FPC)

Detail of flexed printed circuit board (FPC)

Flexible flat ribbon cable applications:

Due to FFCs adaptability, connector types, pitches and cost-effective nature, flat flexible cables and connectors are common in applications requiring PCB linking and in high-density electronics. Some examples include foldable mobile phones, moving headers of the printer, and laptop hinges.

Further, applications having space and weight limitations also use FFC cables. You can find it in printers, scanners, plotters, stereos, LCDs, fax machines, plate board connections, and many other electronics.

Hdd drive and SSD msata with zif interface

Hdd drive and SSD msata with zif interface

Advantages of flexible flat ribbon cables:

For wire-to-board connections, there are several options available, such as IDC/IDT, discrete wires, etc. So, why do people prefer flexible flat ribbon cables over other cables? Here are the reasons:

Flexibility:

In these cables, wires are placed individually without wrapping like other round cables. As a result, they are extremely flexible in nature. Occupying less space, FFCs offer better protection from EMI/RFI and eliminate any wire coupling issues.

Space efficiency:

The base of FFC cables comprises thin, plastic film where multiple metallic conductors lie side to side on one surface. As a result, these cables are extremely thin. Further, the stiffener applied at the cable ends makes insertion easier and relieves excess strain. 

Customizability:

Flat flexible cables are highly customizable as you can ask the manufacturer to create one with single or multiple folds to suit exact design specifications. Furthermore, it’s very convenient to apply labels, black insulators and sticky tapes when required.

ZIF connectors:

All FFC and FPC cables are assembled using ZIF or Zero Insertion Force connectors. It means during cable assembly, connectors do not exert any force on the cable contacts.

As a result, the possibility of any contact damage becomes negligible. Also, due to the locking actuator, the cable remains in place even in high-vibration and shock situations.

Further, compared to other cable solutions, the connectors of FFC and FPC offer lightweight properties, a smaller PCB footprint and a simple connection mechanism to these cables.

The adaptability of the cable:

FFC cable adaptability depends on various factors, such as:

Number of conductors:

The number of conductors in a flat flexible cable can range from a few to more than 100. You can also call them pins. For instance, an FFC cable with 15 conductors is a 15-pin cable.

Pitch:

The space between the two conductors is the pitch. Basically, it’s the distance between the center of one conductor to the center of the other nearby conductor.

You can find FFC cables in different pitches, such as 0.5mm, 0.625mm, 0.8mm, 1mm, 1.25mm, 1.27mm, 2mm, and 2.54mm. Among these, the most common are 1mm, 1.25mm and 0.5mm. Due to their customizable nature, you can get FFC cables with custom and multiple pitch options.

Type:

Flat flexible cables are of two types. In Type 1 or Type A cables, all the exposed contacts lie on the same side. On the contrary, in Type 2 or Type D cables, exposed contacts are present on the opposite ends. In such cases, one side will have face-up contacts while the other end has face-down contacts.

Exposure length:

It refers to the electrical contact’s length present at the cable end.

Stiffener:

FFC cables have some material attached to the unexposed side of the contacts to allow easy ZIF and LIF connections.

Conductor size:

It refers to the thickness and the width of the conductors.

Flat plastic strip flexible cable assembly

Flat plastic strip flexible cable assembly

Custom FFC cable assembly at Cloom:

At Cloom, you can find low-profile flat flexible cables compatible with a wide range of Zero Insertion Force connectors to facilitate wire-to-board connections. Our FFC cable solutions are ideal for applications requiring less space and electronics with movable parts, such as scanners, printers, medical electronics, POS systems, etc.

Some customization options in FFC ribbon cables are:

  • Different pitch sizes, including 0.3mm, 0.5mm and 1mm
  • FFC with up to 80 conductors, based on the pitch value
  • Cable lengths ranging from 30mm to 1 meter are available
  • Pre-folded cable supply possible
  • High-temperature cables (at request)
  • Contacts with gold-plating
  • Type A and Type D contacts
  • Designed to meet specific measurements provided by our customers
  • UL-20624 certified cables made from PET material

Conclusion:

Undoubtedly, FFC’s agility and lightness make it a perfect connectivity solution for various industries. Cloom, an industry expert in cable production, offers high-quality FFC cables with desired specifications to complement complex designs.

We ensure that our cables allow easy installation without any hassle and provide enhanced performance in different industrial applications.

Contact our team for a detailed discussion regarding FFC and customizable options.

Hi I am Christa, sales manager of Cloom.

I have extensive expertise and experience in wiring harnesses and I believe I can help you.

And we have a very professional technical team who can clearly understand the customer’s needs and give professional suggestions and solutions after receiving the drawings.

If you also have wiring harness needs, please send me the drawing so that we can give you our quote and start our business.

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