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What Is a Flexible Flat Cable?

By Lori Kilchermann
Updated May 17, 2024
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Flexible flat cable (FFC) is a type of flexible electronics piece that consists of many strands of electrical wire placed beside of each other in a wide and flat assembly. Similar to ribbon wire that is used in electronic devices such as computer printers, flexible flat cable is used in cell phones and laptop computers where a space-saving electrical connection is required. Unlike the typical electronic connector, a flexible flat cable seldom uses a large, plastic plug soldered to the end of the wire strands. This type of wire uses no added wire connectors; instead, small metal pins protrude from the end of the flat ribbon and simply insert into receptor holes in the receiving end of the device.

As electronic devices become increasingly thinner and smaller, the method of connecting the internal components must also become smaller and smaller. Many manufacturers have abandoned the stranded copper wire typically used in the creation of electronic devices and adopted the single-strand wire that is encased in a thin, flat, plastic sheet. This flexible flat cable is able to flex, bend and fold upon itself indefinitely, without breaking. The thin and flexible flat cable is commonly bonded to a slightly stronger plastic film in order to give the wire the required strength to allow a worker to plug the wire into the required receptor without folding the pins over.

The size of a flexible, flat cable is described as having a certain pitch. The pitch refers to the distance that the conductor wires, used in the creation of the flat strand, are spaced apart from each other. In order to find the pitch of an unsized, flexible flat cable, the width of the flat cable must be divided by the number of connective strands that are inside the plastic outer cable. Since the most common type of plastic coating used to manufacture the cable is colored and not transparent, this is best accomplished by counting the number of connective pins that are exposed at the end of the cable.

Another descriptive, dimensional identifier for the flexible flat cable is known as the exposure length. This refers to the length of the pins or electrical contacts that have been left exposed at the termination of the flat cable. Many cables use what is known as a stiffener at the terminated end of the wire. The stiffener is a thin, protective strip that commonly has a conductive material placed over each wire that extends from the flexible flat cable. This acts as a type of plug to provide a little more strength when inserting the cable into the receptor.

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