A flex circuit connects the stationary electronic components in a hard disk drive to the rotating arm that carries the read/write heads and positions them above data tracks on the disk. Flex circuits are conventionally formed as a laminate of polyimide substrate, adhesive, and copper conductors. Deformation of a flex circuit is discussed in the context of the following stages: the initial unstressed shape, configurations in which stresses set and relax in response to elevated temperature, equilibrium, and small amplitude vibration. The model involves displacements of the flex circuit in the directions tangent and normal to the local equilibrium shape, and those motions couple with the arm’s dynamics. Nonlinearity associated with finite curvature, partial elastic springback, and the arm’s geometry and inertia properties are incorporated within the vibration model to predict system-level natural frequencies, mode shapes, and coupling factors between the circuit and the arm. Laboratory measurements using noncontact laser interferometry validate the model with respect to the circuit’s shape, stiffness, restoring moment, and natural frequencies. The primary degrees of freedom for optimizing flex circuit design are the thicknesses of the individual layers within the circuit, free length, and the locations and slopes of the circuit’s attachment points to the arm and electronics block. The model’s predictions and trends developed from a case study in free length are discussed with a view toward reducing coupling between the circuit and arm in certain vibration modes.

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