The electronics Printed Circuit Board industry is evolving as new production technologies become offered at low cost. Direct digital printing is making inroads into the traditional photolithography and screen printing processes that have been utilized to manufacture Quick PCB Sample for the last 20 years.

Here we will focus on the utilization of direct digital printing to individualize PCBs just just before their assembly. The objective is to print a distinctive mark on each board that can be employed to identify the board. The mark must be permanent and definately will probably contain 1D or 2D machine readable codes together with alpha numeric characters. The marks will need to have a 600 DPI (dots per inch) resolution or better because of size constraints on the PCB. We are going to also concentrate on applications that need more that 1,000,000 boards per year. At these volumes automated material handling actually starts to become essential towards the overall success of the system.

High volume PCB fabricators use screen printing with thermally cured ink to print the legends which cover both sides from the board. At this time digital printing can not print the whole side of a board at a cost that competes with screen printing. Even though many printers, including the PPS7000, could print each of the nomenclature on the board, here we are going to concentrate on using digital printing just to print the individualizing marks.

Several individualizing options exist including the following:

Preprinted Label Application

Many low volume products begin with labels printed on office equipment and hand applied to each Instant PCB Quote just before or after assembly. As 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 purchased. (check this out site ) Because of PCB space constraints these systems must place labels very accurately, a big problem for a lot of label application systems. The labels are certainly not permanent. At high volumes the labels are more expensive 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 technologies have been adapted to mark on many industrial products including PCBs. With these systems a continuous stream of ink droplets is steered to 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 considered a problem for the short period of time its takes to dry.

Advantages

* Competitive Incremental Cost

* High Contrast Mark

* Many Colors Available

Disadvantages

* Complex Ink Viscosity Process Can Be Difficult To Control

* High Definition (More Than 300 DPI) Challenging To Achieve?

* Solvents May Be Released Into Atmosphere, Most Companies Trying To Reduce Solvent Issues

* Mark Not Resistant To Some Cleaning Solvents

Laser Ablated Ink Patches – Many industries use lasers to engrave marks onto a variety of parts. Lasers happen to be utilized to engrave marks onto PC boards with limited success as a result of absence of contrast of the resulting mark. A more modern approach is to have the circuit boards printed with ink patches, the ink patch will be selectively removed (ablated) through the laser creating the mark to be printed. (see here ) PPSI has the capabilities to produce a laser based marking system.

Advantages

* Competitive Incremental Cost

* High Contrast Mark If Ink Patch Is Utilized

* Very Fine, Highly Reliable Marks Available 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 Require A Cleaning Step

Piezoelectric Drop On Demand Digital Printing, Solvent Based Ink. For any concise description of drop when needed digital printing see here [http://www.aellora.com/documents/whatisdodij.pdf]. For me this choice represents a small improvement over option 2.

Advantages

* Competitive Incremental Cost

* High Contrast Mark

* Many Colors Available

* Easier Process To Regulate Than Continuous Ink Jet

Disadvantages

* Standoff Distance lower than 2mm, Appropriate For Unpopulated Boards Only

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

* Mark Not Resistant Against Some Cleaning Solvents

Piezoelectric Drop On Demand Digital Printing, Thermally Cured Ink. A startup company in Israel “Printar” has introduced a printer targeted at low volume, fast turn PCB fabricators who want to lessen the cost and lead time associated with small lot screen printing. Interesting is their 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

* Fails To 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 using to print on PCBs. The device uses an ink that is certainly less viscous at high temperature and almost solid at room temperature. The print head operates at 68 deg C, the ink drops cool whenever they contact the PCB becoming almost solid. This permits the program to print fine detail on PCBs without ink running or smearing. When in contact with 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 Become 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 device works with a SMEMA compatible edge belt conveyor to maneuver PCBs to the print area where they are printed and optically inspected. After inspection these are conveyed for the inline curing station then out your back of the machine. When being automatically loaded by way of a board destacker, panels exit qhzwxo system about once every 10 seconds. Each panel usually contains multiple boards that every gets a unique serial number. The overall throughput in the machine is highly dependent on the number of boards in each panel. The more boards in each panel the larger the throughput in boards a minute. A drag and drop WYSIWYG (Whatever You See Is The Thing That You Obtain) programming system has become developed that allows a new panel to become programmed in approximately 5 minutes. An offline programming system is available too.

Our company is the sole PCB board marking system that can cause a permanent (solvent resistant) high contrast mark, incorporates SMEMA compatible high volume material handling and incorporates inline inspection.

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