Flexible PCB Antennas

New technologies are demanding devices to include new features whilst maintaining small product sizes. PCB space has become more valuable than ever, and a large portion of the design process for these devices involves using this space as efficiently as possible. When it comes to antennas, flexible PCB antennas are an alternative solution when PCB space is at a premium.

As the miniaturisation of devices goes on, antenna choice becomes an increasingly pressing issue. SMD antennas take up valuable PCB space and external antennas are far too large to be considered for integration. Flexible PCB antennas overcome all these hurdles with their ease and flexibility of integration.

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What are flexible PCB antennas?

Flexible PCB antennas, or FPC antennas, consist of thin layers of polymer and copper to form a thin strip (0.15mm thick). They are flexible and bendable, making them easy to implement into the design of many devices across a wide range of frequency bands. They are also highly reliable and efficient, characteristics many small IoT and wearable devices require.

Even though flexible PCB antennas often solve a wide array of problems that arise in small devices, they can run into difficulties with extremely compact products as some models lose efficiency if bent or folded too far. FPC antennas still provide ease of integration as they do not require tuning to the matching network, but unfortunately require manual labour to fit onto the PCB as opposed to the pick & place automation of SMD antennas.

What are the features of flexible PCB antennas?

No PCB ground plane

Where SMD and other embedded antennas are placed directly onto the PCB, flexible PCB antennas can be placed freely inside the device housing depending on the application using an adhesive back strip. This is because flexible PCB antennas have a ground plane on the antennas themselves, and can be placed in a wide variety of locations and orientations because of it. They enjoy the benefits of SMD antennas and solve challenges of limited PCB space simultaneously.

Ease of integration

Their flexible characteristics and simple connection system make flexible PCB antennas easy to integrate into device designs. They can be placed horizontally or vertically and be bent without any adverse impact to performance, giving designers the freedom to place them where they see fit. A simple cable connects the antenna to the host PCB, and can even be retrofitted in an existing design as a simple and cheap solution. This means that FPC antennas reduce the time needed for the device to reach the market.

Performance and flexibility

Despite the advantages of size and integration, flexible PCB antennas still boast high performance and efficiency levels that are comparable to that of SMD antennas. Due to the fact they are not restricted by ground planes, offer flexibility of implementation and still provide sufficient performance, flexible PCB antennas are the perfect choice for a diverse variety of IoT devices.

Flexible PCB antenna applications

The use of flexible PCB antennas in mobile devices has been widespread for many years. Their high performance and ability to adhere to the case of a device makes them a fitting solution for saving valuable PCB space. This same principle applies to a range of devices such as tablets and wearables where PCB space is at a premium.

Smart meters and monitoring equipment also use flexible PCB antennas due to their ease of integration. The design process for these devices can often incur great costs, so the ability to retrofit these antennas to an existing design relatively easily is extremely valuable. Flexible PCB antennas are also frequently used in initial or small batches of devices due to their inexpensive design-in cost.

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flexiiANT and choosing the right flexible PCB antenna

Even though there are many benefits to the use of flexible PCB antennas, factors like device size and frequency bands make choosing the right antenna extremely important. This is why Antenova has implemented our own Integration Hub with flexible PCB antennas to make choosing the right product faster and more convenient.

flexiiANT

Antenova’s flexiiANT is a flexible PCB product family that covers Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Cellular, ISM and GNSS bands to enable devices of all categories to benefit. It was created from our commitment to supporting customers when integrating antennas into their designs with minimal fuss and optimal performance. flexiiANT antennas are ideal for applications in industrial and consumer electronics.

Amoris

Amoris is a dual-band Wi-Fi FPC antenna that operates on 2.4-2.5 GHz and 4.9-5.9 GHz frequency bands and is compatible with 802.11a networks. Amoris maintains high performance within a device and is designed for integration with 3 different available cable lengths and simple plug and play simplicity.

Affini

flexiiANT Affini multiband flexible PCB antenna that measures 78x17mm and provides very high performance. It covers 3G, 4G/LTE and 5G applications including MIMO systems. Its wide connectivity means it can be used for a huge variety of products and devices. It is suitable for smart meters, telematics and remote monitoring and is easy to integrate to shorten the design cycle.

Inca

flexiiANT Inca is a flexible PCB antenna for 433MHz ISM frequency bands. It can be both folded and placed flat, making it an effective antenna for remote monitoring, smart metres and home automation. Its easy-to-integrate design means it can be retrofitted to existing devices and is available in both 100mm and 200mm cable lengths.

Lama

Lama is a flexible PCB antenna (flexiiANT) for 868MHz and 915MHz ISM frequency bands. It is a compact antenna that is suitable for LoRaWAN and other types of sensor networks such as smart meters and home automation. It is easy to fit into a design with a self-adhesive backing strip, and a cable with a RF connector.  It can also be retrofitted to existing devices.

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