Are You Still Playing with Dolls? …Rigid-flex Paper Dolls, that is.

First off, no offense to anyone who does still play with dolls; I do.  Although, these days my dolls are of the Funko kind and adorn my gaming PC builds.  Many thanks to Adam Benmbarek for sending me this one.

But when it comes to Rigid-Flex paper dolls, they’re not fun to play with, they’re not cool by any means, and they are in no way ideal when it comes to seamless, intelligent ECAD-MCAD collaboration.  Fortunately, for everyone designing Flex-based electronic products, it’s time to change the game.  The SOLIDWORKS 2020 release finally relegates Rigid-Flex paper dolls to electronics design history books and our oh-so fond memories of flex-based, electronic designs past.

Now, for anyone who does not know what a Rigid-Flex paper doll is, it is quite literally a paper-printed 1:1 scale representation of a Flex / Rigid-Flex Printed Circuit Board (PCB) design that can be “folded” inside an enclosure prototype to figure out how the PCB design needs to be modified to fit and fold correctly.  And while there are a few other methodologies available – STEP files, sheet metal mock-ups, and string; yes, even string – paper dolls remain the most common method being used.

Even though paper dolls with all of their challenges, limitations, and risks are the go-to method that most design teams have been using forever – mainly because they’re simple and they more or less work – they do sound quite archaic in this fascinating, modern age.  Who would have thought that in 2019 design teams would still be printing paper designs or using bits of string to figure out how best to origami a Flex-based PCB into an enclosure for the latest high-tech device design?

Take this example of a digital camera.  It’s a few years old and didn’t work anymore so I took it apart.  It’s reparative enough of any electronic device where the designers have to utilize Flex-based electronics to achieve their weight, cost, and size goals in the pursuit of incorporating as many features and functions into it as possible.  By contrast, this design and its project goals would be virtually impossible with only rigid circuit boards and wires.

The challenge for flex-based electronic products is not the electronics design as PCB design tools have had flex design capabilities for years and years.  The challenges, problems, and risks are largely on the mechanical side to ensure everything will fold, fit, and can be assembled correctly.

This is where paper dolls come in and the ECAD-MCAD collaboration games design teams play to align the flexible electronics with their mechanical requirements (flex areas and locations, bends, and radii constraints).

Changing the game with SOLIDWORKS 2020

At long last, it’s time to move on from playing with dolls.  SOLIDWORKS 2020 is here, and it is literally and figuratively changing this game.

Beginning in 2016, Seamless, intelligent ECAD-MCAD collaboration between SOLIDWORKS 3D CAD and SOLIDWORKS PCB or Altium Designer with PCB Connector fundamentally changed the way PCB and mechanical designers communicate and collaborate during electronic product design. With direct, programmatic integration, electronic designs and components are natively represented as mechanical parts and assemblies while modifications to outlines, holes, placement, and others are seamlessly synchronized significantly streamlining the design process, eliminating costly mistakes, and reducing form-and-fit prototypes.

Now, with the SOLIDWORKS 2020 release, electronic product design and the collaborative workflow have been significantly enhanced with Rigid-Flex support, in-context editing, and programmatic synchronization for both PCB and mechanical designers. No longer do designers have to struggle to ensure the flexible PCB will fold and fit correctly relying on outdated, unintelligent collaboration mythologies from the commonly used paper doll to creative workarounds with sheet metal to overly simplistic bits of string.

The new SOLIDWORKS 2020 release provides Rigid-Flex PCB design, editing, and collaboration capabilities that eliminates those clumsy workarounds to ensure printed circuit board and mechanical designer accurately form and fit of folded / flexible PCBs.

If you want to know more about the Flex-based Electronics Product Design and ECAD-MCAD Collaborative Workflow in the SOLIDWORKS 2020 release, register and join us for a 22-minute webinar on October 29th.

In this webinar, we will show you the new SOLIDWORKS 2020 Rigid-Flex capabilities and collaborative workflow for flex-based electronic product design including:

  •         Seamless, intelligent ECAD-MCAD collaboration for Rigid-flex-based electronic product design
  •         Rigid-flex design and visualization capabilities for both PCB and CAD
  •         Streamlined flex-based electronic product design workflow between electrical and mechanical
  •         Bi-directional communications for Rigid-flex requirements and changes with PCB layout.

Josh Moore

Josh Moore is a Senior Product Portfolio Manager at SolidWorks for SOLIDWORKS PCB and CircuitWorks.

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