InnovationLab, a printed electronics “from lab to fab” specialist, has made a breakthrough in developing a new additive PCB production method. The method, as the name implies, employs additive manufacturing to produce printed circuit boards (PCBs), assisting in meeting higher environmental standards for electronics production while also lowering costs.
InnovationLab and its partner ISRA have announced the development of a manufacturing process for copper-based solderable circuits as part of the Horizon 2020 research project SmartEEs2. The circuits are screen printed and work with standard reflow processes.
Additive PCB Production method
The process refers to an Additive PCB production method that does not use toxic etchants and operates at relatively low temperatures of around 150oC, resulting in significant energy savings. Furthermore, when compared to traditional techniques, the substrates used in additive PCB manufacturing are up to 15 times thinner, which reduces material consumption and waste in the manufacturing process.
So far, InnovationLab has created a physical prototype that includes all of the critical components of a smart label. Copper ink is used to ensure high conductivity. Component mounting can be accomplished using a standard reflow soldering process, allowing manufacturers to transition to the new technology without investing in new equipment.
The target functionality was created using multilayer layer printing, metal and dielectric, and included a low power temperature sensor and logger, an NFC communication interface via a printed antenna, and a compact battery that is charged by a printed solar cell, making the device completely self-sufficient. The new process can create standard and flexible PCBs with up to four layers and can be used in hybrid electronics product and process development.
“This is a state-of-the-art production process, which will decrease costs and reduce logistical dependencies on suppliers, while delivering three key benefits for the environment: consuming fewer materials, using less energy, and producing less waste. By the end of this year, we expect to have scaled this process to high volumes, meeting customer demands of a million solderable tracks or more.”– Dr. Janusz Schinke, Head of Printed Electronics at InnovationLab
SmartEEs2 is a European research and innovation project supported by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program. Its goal is to provide acceleration support to innovative companies for the integration of flexible and wearable electronics technologies, thereby increasing the competitiveness of European industry.
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