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 Quick PCB Sample for the last two decades.

Here we will focus on the usage of direct digital printing to individualize PCBs just prior to their assembly. The objective is to print a unique 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 should have a 600 DPI (dots per inch) resolution or better due to size constraints on the PCB. We are going to also give attention to applications that require more that one thousand,000 boards per year. At these volumes automated material handling begins to become extremely important for the overall success of the system.

High volume PCB fabricators use screen printing with thermally cured ink to print the legends which cover either side of the board. At this time digital printing can not print the entire side of any board at a cost that competes with screen printing. Even though many printers, including the PPS7000, could print all 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 like the following:

Preprinted Label Application

Many low volume products start with labels printed on office equipment and hand put on each Special Offer For 2layers PCB just before or after assembly. As the product volumes ramp the reliability and price of hand applying labels becomes a problem. Automated systems that print and apply labels can be purchased. (check this out site ) Due to PCB space constraints these systems must place labels very accurately, a huge problem for most label application systems. The labels usually are 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 technology has been adapted to mark on many industrial products including PCBs. By 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 A Challenge To Regulate

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

* Solvents May Be Released Into Atmosphere, A Lot Of 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 been employed to engrave marks onto PC boards with limited success due to the lack of contrast in the resulting mark. A newer approach is to get the circuit boards printed with ink patches, the ink patch will be selectively removed (ablated) by the laser creating the mark to become printed. (see here ) PPSI has 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 On Demand Digital Printing, Solvent Based Ink. For a concise description of drop when needed digital printing see here [http://www.aellora.com/documents/whatisdodij.pdf]. In my opinion this option represents a slight 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, Many Companies Trying To Reduce Solvent Emissions

* Mark Not Resistant Against Some Cleaning Solvents

Piezoelectric Drop When Needed 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 fee and lead time related to small lot screen printing. Interesting could be 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

* Does Not Include High Volume Material Handling

Piezoelectric Drop On Demand Digital Printing, UV Cured Ink. Markem Corporation has created an ink/print head system ( the Model 4000, see here ) that several OEMs and integrators are employing to print on PCBs. The system 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 enables the program 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 also the Board Reprinted

* After cure, The Ink Can Not Be 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

* Requires the PCB Be Clean (No Finger Oils)

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

The PPS7000 has become designed 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 may be printed and optically inspected. After inspection they are conveyed for the inline curing station then out the back of the machine. When being automatically loaded with 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 entire throughput in the machine is extremely dependent on the quantity of boards in each panel. The greater boards in each panel the larger the throughput in boards per minute. A drag and drop WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) programming system has been developed that enables 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 can cause a lasting (solvent resistant) high contrast mark, incorporates SMEMA compatible high volume material handling and incorporates inline inspection.

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