New Contest: Flexible PCBs

The now-humble PCB was revolutionary when it came along, and the whole ecosystem that evolved around it has been a game changer in electronic design. But the PCB is just so… flat. Planar. Two-dimensional. As useful as it is, it gets a little dull sometimes.

Here’s your chance to break out of Flatland and explore the third dimension of circuit design with our brand new Flexible PCB Contest.

We’ve teamed up with Digi-Key for this contest. Digi-Key’s generous sponsorship means 60 contest winners will receive free fabrication of three copies of their flexible PCB design, manufactured through the expertise of OSH Park. So now you can get your flex on with wearables, sensors, or whatever else you can think of that needs a flexible PCB.

How to enter

Go over to Hackaday.io and create a project with images of your flexible circuit board design, and be sure to tell the story of how and why you came up with it. When the project is published, look for the “Submit project to…”  link in the left sidebar and submit it to the Flexible PCB contest.

Awards

  • 60 contest winners will receive an OSH Park code for 3 complimentary boards from OSH Park shipped to them (there’s a size limitation detailed below). Please allow 8 weeks after the close of this contest.
  • 3 Tindie gift certificates of $100 each will be awarded for:
    • Best Project
    • Best Social Media Picture or Video
      • You can post a picture or video of your device, of you working on your device, or anything related on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, or any other social platform. You must post a link to the video in the comments on this page.
    • Best Documentation

Requirements

Here’s the small print on those free flexible PCB awards: If you’re one of the lucky 60 (yay, that’s a lot!) winners, you’ll receive a coupon that will cover the cost of a PCB up to 2 square inches (13 square centimeters) in size. If your design is larger you can still use this coupon and choose to pay the portion of the cost beyond that size. The best part is that OSH Park delivers three copies of the board from each order! See the contest page for complete rules.

What Should I Build?

Pretty much anything that needs a flexible PCB qualifies. Use your imagination! Folding cell phones are all the rage now, so use that for inspiration. Perhaps you’re into wearables, which are begging to be made from flexible materials. Repair a wonky laptop display with a new flexible connector? That counts. Working on something so small that a traditional PCB is just too bulky? We want to hear about it.

We’ve lined up some resources to help you get started. Check out OSH Park’s Flex PCB FAQ for all the technical details on flexible PCBs. If you’re new to PCB design, Brian Benchoff’s excellent Creating a PCB in Everything series covers everything you need to know.

Still stuck? Here are a few recent projects featuring flexible PCBs that might get the creative juices flowing (not all of which would necessarily fit the qualifications):

Time to flex those creative urges and get your entry on the move. We’re really looking forward to seeing what everyone comes up with.

14 thoughts on “New Contest: Flexible PCBs

  1. If your board can also count as a Smoothieboard v2 extension board ( has a gadgeteer port and some relation even a far one, to open-source digital fabrication ), we’ll send you a free Smoothieboard for your contribution.
    You can find more info on the extension boards specs here : https://docs.google.com/document/d/144EbmhN6z-J2V_Zw7GfJpZrfD-B0dC3cuea9oWPgxNM/edit#
    Would really be curious what sorts of applications flexible PCBs could have in this specific context.

    1. Is there a standard method for connecting a flexible PCB to the gadgeteer port?

      Looking around and it seems hard to find a single adapter to do it; it seems like I’d need a FPC to DIP-10 2.54mm, and then 2.54mm DIP to 1.27mm DIP.

      1. I’m actually not knowlegable at all about flex pcbs. My quess would have been you use the through hole of the gadgeteer-type connector, and solder that through holes in the flex pcb. I don’t know if that’d work or not. I think I can see how the SMT version of the gadgeteer-type connector wouldn’t work for flex pcb, because the “pads”/”legs” of the smt connector ( that are around the connector ) would get bent when the pcb is bent, and that would break them fast.
        But maybe the SMT version of that connector that is soldered through the bottom of the connector ( and therefore the connector can’t be flexed, so the connection to the flex pcb can’t be flexed, so maybe it might actually stay soldered to it durably ).
        I don’t know really.

  2. About 1971, Elementary Electronics had an aeroband receiver project, a “crystal radio” that tuned broadly 108 to 136MHz, with an audio amp. Since it didn’t radiate, unlike suprregens or superheterodyne receivers, the premise was that it was “safe” to use on an aircraft.

    The unique part was that they suggested it be made on a flexible circuit board. Maybe from Allied, I think they worked out a deal to get the blank board without a minimum order. I’m pretty sure it was blank board, since I can picture instructions on laying out the resust, and etching the board.

    I never saw mention if flexible board again until now.

    Michael

    1. I was just thinking – a series of tracks, roll the board into a tube, and you have a coil. Surface mount components on the non curved axis.

      Going to FM band just makes the coil smaller.

    1. The contest says your project page needs to have pictures of your design, no mention of a physical version. Also, with the rewards, having a physical copy kinda defeats the awards for the contest.

  3. I’m kinda sad about the specs of the Flex-PCB. Only 2 Layers, no Rigid-Flex? Well, that throws away my idea about a wearable already, as the main CPU and power-supply circuits have BGA footprints, so i would need at least 4 layers for the fanout and a rigid board section to be able to solder these chips onto…

    1. You could have the BGA on a small 4-layer PCB, with pads on the bottom, or castelation on the side, to solder it to the flex. Just like the way you solder ESP board to your PCB.
      Just an idea.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.