PFC Flexible Circuits Limited

Top-notch performance and flexible solutions in circuit design and development
Written by: 
Molly Shaw
Produced by: 
Lance Pelletier

Certain products must deliver top performance. Downtime isn’t an option for life-saving medical equipment such as pumps, defibrillators, ultrasound probes and pace makers. The same goes for military applications including jet-engine controls, electronic shielding, radar, satellites, night vision and black box controls and major data center server farms. PFC Flexibility Circuits Limited, based in Scarborough, Ontario, is powering and interconnecting these systems and products that simply cannot afford to fail.

Founded in 1997 by Steve Kelly, president and CEO of PFC, the company is a tier-one supplier that designs, engineers, manufactures and assembles flexible printed circuits and rigid flex circuits in-house. Flexible circuits are thin, lightweight electrical circuits that can conform to small spaces and contoured shapes.

When Kelly entered the industry in the early 1980s, he knew little about the business. “The first flex shop in Toronto started up and I joined the company in 1983,” says Kelley. “I was fortunate to have many good mentors and I grew my experience from there.”

The all-in-one interconnect solution

Flexible circuits are made of conductive strips of metal, usually copper, encapsulated with an insulating dielectric material made of polyimide. Polyimide acts as an insulator, allowing the circuit to bend easily, resist contamination and withstand high temperatures.

The mechanical and electrical needs of a project determine the type of flexible circuit: single layer, double layer, multilayer or rigid flex. These specialized applications meet the high demands of customers in the medical, military, telecomm and industrial markets.

“We offer a higher level of technology than most and we do all of our own circuit assembly in-house, which is somewhat unique in this industry,” says Kelly. “We offer turnkey solutions for primarily the medical and telecomm market, but we’ve also done work for the U.S. military and aerospace, the oil and gas industry and other markets. We’re pretty wide ranging in our services.”

Every flex circuit PFC produces is custom made. “Everything we built starts with a concept to serve the individual customer,” says Kelly. “From concept to completion, a design typically takes one to six weeks.”

PFC’s circuit technology offers several prime functions and advantages:

- Electronic interconnection and integration, carrying electronic signals and power and reducing the number of wires, cables and connectors.

- The ability to conform to small spaces and contoured shapes

- Shielding radiated noise for electromagnetic interference

- Reduced size and weight — up to 70 percent lighter than a printed circuit board

- Cost savings — typically 30 percent less than hand wiring.

Multiple markets

PFC has a large presence in the medical market. The company is ISO 9001-2008 and ISO 13485-2003 (medical device) registered and has been for more than a decade. “We make flex circuits that go into high-end wearable applications such as defibrillators, handheld patient monitoring equipment and flexes for intubation when a patient is under anesthesia,” says Kelly.

PFC’s flex circuits also go into the substrate for components for hearing aids and heart pacemakers and are used to interconnect and carry power and signals for defibrillators and ultrasound probe heads; they are also utilized in the dynamic assembly of medical pumps. The circuits’ thin, flexible material, chemical resistance and ability to replace numerous wires and connectors makes PFC’s flex circuits an ideal choice for these demanding applications.

The company also designs high-speed circuits to move mass amounts of data for customers in the telecomm-data center market. “There are many massive storage and server farms all across the country and these facilities need to move and store a huge amount of data,” says Kelly.

PFC’s flex circuits are used as substrate components for optical transceivers, smart cards and RFID. They also serve as the backplane interconnect for high-speed cables, radio communications, disc drives and base stations in the telecomm market.

Laser-sharp precision

In an industry where high performance isn’t an option — rather a necessity — Kelly says PFC is constantly making improvements to its equipment to keep up with changing and improved technologies. “We’re constantly buying and updating equipment,” he says. “We have laser direct imaging, laser drilling, outlining and advanced X-ray technology all in-house because it’s all about amplifying performance through density and speed.”

Laser-sharp precision helps PFC deliver exceptional quality. “We manufacture millions of flexible circuits and assemblies a year and we still have a 99 percent quality score,” says Kelley. “Our main focus is maintaining this and on-time delivery. When you meet these requirements, everything else starts to fall into place.”

This has made for a solid, often repeat customer base. “We’re still working with many customers that we started out with in 1997,” adds Kelley.

For critical devices and systems that must perform to rigorous demands, PFC Flexible Circuits Limited is the source for expert design, engineering, manufacturing and assembly of flexible printed circuits and rigid flex circuits.

Strategic Partnership(s): 
Matrix Electronics Ltd.