The electronics Printed Circuit Board industry is evolving as new production technologies become offered at inexpensive. Direct digital printing is making inroads into the traditional photolithography and screen printing processes which have been used to manufacture Ultrafast PCB Prototype for the last twenty years.

Here we shall focus on the use of direct digital printing to individualize PCBs just just before their assembly. The goal would be to print an exclusive mark on each board that can be employed to identify the board. The mark should be permanent and will probably contain 1D or 2D machine readable codes in addition to alpha numeric characters. The marks must have a 600 DPI (dots per inch) resolution or better as a result of size constraints on the PCB. We shall also give attention to applications that need more that one thousand,000 boards annually. At these volumes automated material handling begins to become extremely important to the overall success from the system.

High volume PCB fabricators use screen printing with thermally cured ink to print the legends that cover either side of the board. At the moment digital printing can not print the entire side of the board at a cost that competes with screen printing. Even though many printers, like the PPS7000, could print each of the nomenclature on the board, here we shall give attention to using digital printing only to print the individualizing marks.

Several individualizing options exist like the following:

Preprinted Label Application

Many low volume products get started with labels printed on office equipment and hand placed on each Instant PCB Quote before or after assembly. Since the product volumes ramp the reliability and cost of hand applying labels gets to be a problem. Automated systems that print and apply labels can be found. (see this site ) Due to PCB space constraints these systems must place labels very accurately, a huge problem for many label application systems. The labels are not permanent. At high volumes the labels cost more than other marking methods.

Advantages

* Low Initial Cost

* High Contrast Mark

Disadvantages

* Not Permanent

* Higher Incremental Cost

* Challenging to Change Label Size On The Fly

* Mechanical Complexity For Automated Application

Solvent Based Continuous Ink Jet Digital Printing. Continuous ink-jet technology has been adapted to mark on many industrial products including PCBs. Using these systems a continuous stream of ink droplets is steered for the desired location using electromagnetic fields. Solvent based inks produce permanent marks on porous surfaces. The marks are less permanent on non-porous surfaces where smearing may be a problem for that limited time its takes to dry.

Advantages

* Competitive Incremental Cost

* High Contrast Mark

* Many Colors Available

Disadvantages

* Complex Ink Viscosity Process Can Be Difficult To Regulate

* High Resolution (In Excess Of 300 DPI) Difficult To Achieve?

* Solvents May Be Released Into Atmosphere, Many Companies Attempting To Reduce Solvent Issues

* Mark Not Resistant To Some Cleaning Solvents

Laser Ablated Ink Patches – Many industries use lasers to engrave marks onto many different parts. Lasers have already been employed to engrave marks onto PC boards with limited success as a result of lack of contrast from the resulting mark. A more recent approach is to have the circuit boards printed with ink patches, the ink patch is then selectively removed (ablated) by the laser creating the mark to become printed. (see here ) PPSI provides the capabilities to build up a laser based marking system.

Advantages

* Competitive Incremental Cost

* High Contrast Mark If Ink Patch Is Utilized

* Very Fine, Highly Reliable Marks Provided With Laser Galvo Head

Disadvantages

* High Initial Cost

* Requires Preprinted Ink Patch

* Even At Low Power Laser heat May Damage (by Fracture) Traces, Causing Intermittent Reliability Problems

* Particle Generation May Need A Cleaning Step

Piezoelectric Drop When Needed Digital Printing, Solvent Based Ink. For a concise description of drop at will digital printing see here [http://www.aellora.com/documents/whatisdodij.pdf]. For me this choice represents a little improvement over option 2.

Advantages

* Competitive Incremental Cost

* High Contrast Mark

* Many Colors Available

* Easier Process To Control Than Continuous Ink Jet

Disadvantages

* Standoff Distance under 2mm, Ideal For Unpopulated Boards Only

* Solvents May Be Released Into Atmosphere, A Lot Of Companies Trying To Reduce Solvent Emissions

* Mark Not Immune To Some Cleaning Solvents

Piezoelectric Drop At Will Digital Printing, Thermally Cured Ink. A startup company in Israel “Printar” has introduced a printer geared towards low volume, fast turn PCB fabricators who want to lessen the price and lead time connected with small lot screen printing. Interesting is the thermally cured ink that reportedly has better adhesion capability than other ink systems.

Advantages

* Good Ink Adhesion ?

Disadvantages

* Requires Large Oven For 350-400 deg F Heat Cure

* Will Not Include High Volume Material Handling

Piezoelectric Drop When Needed Digital Printing, UV Cured Ink. Markem Corporation has developed an ink/print head system ( the Model 4000, see here ) that several OEMs and integrators are employing to print on PCBs. The device uses an ink that is less viscous at high temperature and almost solid at room temperature. The print head operates at 68 deg C, the ink drops cool once they contact the PCB becoming almost solid. This permits the device to print fine detail on PCBs without ink running or smearing. When exposed to UV light the ink undergoes a chemical reaction becoming a solid plastic like substance. The cured ink is impervious to common solvents.

Advantages

* Competitive Incremental Cost

* High Contrast With Fine Detail (600 DPI)

* Before Cure, the Ink Can Be Wiped Off And the Board Reprinted

* After cure, The Ink Can Not Removed Except By Scraping

* High volume Material Handling Available

* Works Well With Inline Inspection (Inspect Before Cure, Cure Only Good Boards)

Disadvantages

* Ink Adhesion Can Be A Problem On Certain Substances

* Necessitates the PCB Be Clean (No Finger Oils)

* Standoff Distance Lower Than 2mm, Appropriate For Unpopulated Boards Only

The PPS7000 continues to be made to print individualizing marks on Ultrafast PCB Produce using option 6. The system uses a SMEMA compatible edge belt conveyor to maneuver PCBs for the print area where these are printed and optically inspected. After inspection they may be conveyed for the inline curing station and after that out your back in the machine. When being automatically loaded by a board destacker, panels exit qhzwxo system about once every 10 seconds. Each panel usually contains multiple boards that each receives a unique serial number. The overall throughput of the machine is very dependent on the quantity of boards in each panel. The more boards in each panel the higher the throughput in boards each minute. A drag and drop WYSIWYG (Whatever You See Is What You Receive) programming system has become developed which allows a whole new panel to be programmed in approximately a few minutes. An offline programming method is available too.

We are the sole PCB board marking system that creates a lasting (solvent resistant) high contrast mark, incorporates SMEMA compatible high volume material handling and incorporates inline inspection.

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