The electronics Printed Circuit Board industry is evolving as new production technologies become available at low cost. Direct digital printing is making inroads into the traditional photolithography and screen printing processes that have been used 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 prior to their assembly. The objective would be to print a distinctive mark on each board that can be utilized to identify the board. The mark must be permanent and will probably contain 1D or 2D machine readable codes along with 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 concentrate on applications that require more that 1,000,000 boards each year. At these volumes automated material handling starts 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 each side in 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 all the nomenclature on the board, here we are going to concentrate on using digital printing only to print the individualizing marks.

Several individualizing options exist such as the following:

Preprinted Label Application

Many low volume products begin with labels printed on office equipment and hand put on each Fast PCB Quote prior to or after assembly. Since the product volumes ramp the reliability and expense of hand applying labels becomes a problem. Automated systems that print and apply labels are available. (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 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 become a problem for your 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 Res (More Than 300 DPI) Hard To Achieve?

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

* Mark Not Immune To Some Cleaning Solvents

Laser Ablated Ink Patches – Many industries use lasers to engrave marks onto many different parts. Lasers happen to be utilized to engrave marks onto PC boards with limited success due to the insufficient contrast in the resulting mark. A newer approach is to have the circuit boards printed with ink patches, the ink patch will be selectively removed (ablated) from the laser creating the mark to be 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 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 Need A Cleaning Step

Piezoelectric Drop When Needed Digital Printing, Solvent Based Ink. For a concise description of drop on demand digital printing see here [http://www.aellora.com/documents/whatisdodij.pdf]. In my opinion this alternative 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 lower than 2mm, Appropriate For Unpopulated Boards Only

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

* Mark Not Resistant To Some Cleaning Solvents

Piezoelectric Drop On Demand 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 reduce the fee and lead time related to 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

* Does Not Include High Volume Material Handling

Piezoelectric Drop On Demand Digital Printing, UV Cured Ink. Markem Corporation has evolved an ink/print head system ( the Model 4000, see here ) that several OEMs and integrators are utilizing to print on PCBs. The system uses an ink that is less viscous at high temperature and almost solid at room temperature. Paper head operates at 68 deg C, the ink drops cool when they contact the PCB becoming almost solid. This enables the system 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 As well as 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

* Demands the PCB Be Clean (No Finger Oils)

* Standoff Distance Less Than 2mm, Suitable For Unpopulated Boards Only

The PPS7000 has become designed to print individualizing marks on Ultrafast PCB Produce using option 6. The system works with a SMEMA compatible edge belt conveyor to maneuver PCBs to the print area where they are printed and optically inspected. After inspection they may be conveyed to the inline curing station and then out the back from 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 gets a unique serial number. The overall throughput in the machine is very 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 (Everything You See Is What You Obtain) programming system has become developed that enables a brand new panel to become programmed in approximately a few minutes. An offline programming product is also available.

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

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