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What is Flat Flexible Cable?

Flat flexible cable, or FFC, refers to any variety of electrical cable that is both flat and flexible. A flexible flat cable is a type of flexible electronics. However, the term FFC usually refers to the extremely thin flat cable often found in high density electronic applications like laptops and cell phones.

Sometimes the term FPC (flexible printed circuit) is even—somewhat inaccurately—used for any type of FFC, however this is more accurately used to describe circuits that incorporate components and are built onto a flexible material. FFCs are usually straight connections without any components.

FFC is a miniaturized form of ribbon cable, which is also flat and flexible. The cable usually consists of a flat and flexible plastic film base, with multiple metallic conductors bonded to one surface. Often, each end of the cable is reinforced with a stiffener to make insertion easier or to provide strain relief. The stiffener makes the end of the cable slightly thicker.

Flexible, flat cables are used in place of round cables for easy cable management, especially in high-flex applications. They usually take up less space than round cables, often offering better EMI/RFI suppression and eliminating wire coupling issues. In addition, because the wires are protected individually and not wrapped many times over by different materials as round cables are, they are lighter in weight and offer greater flexibility.

Definitions:

Pitch: The spacing of the conductors. The pitch typically refers to the distance from the center of one conductor to the center of its neighboring conductor. A single FFC can have different pitches between different conductors on the same cable, however this is uncommon. FFC cables are available in many pitches, such as 0.500 mm, 0.800 mm, 1.00 mm, 1.25 mm, 1.27 mm, 2.00 mm, 2.54 mm, but the most common pitches are 0.500 mm and 1.00 mm.

Style: Some cables have the exposed contacts on the same side at each end. Other cables have the exposed contacts on opposite sides of the cable (so that if the cable is lying flat, one end will have face-up contacts, and the other end will have face-down contacts).

Exposure length: The length of the electrical contact that has been exposed at the termination of the cable.

Stiffener: Most FFCs have some sort of extra material attached on the opposite side of the exposed length of the cable to facilitate ZIF (Zero Insertion Force) or LIF (Low Insertion Force) connections.

Conductors size: The width and thickness of the conductors

Now the FFC Cables are widely used in a variety of printer connection between the head and the motherboard, plotters, scanners, copiers, stereos, LCD appliances, fax machines, DVD players and other products, a variety of signal transmission and plate board connections. In modern electrical equipment, FFC Cables can be found almost everywhere.

Phil Heft – FFC Specialist, pheft@hotmail.com

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