InnovationLab demonstrates a breakthrough method for additive PCB production

Above: Solderable flexible PCB 3D printed with SMD components before reflow soldering (left) and after soldering (right)/Source: InnovationLab InnovationLab

Innovation Lab, specialist in printed electronics “from the lab to the fab”, has made a breakthrough by developing a new method of additive production of PCBs. The method, as the name suggests, uses additive manufacturing to produce printed circuit boards (PCBs), helping to meet higher environmental standards for electronics production while reducing costs.

InnovationLab and its partner ISRA have announced the development of a solderable circuit fabrication process based on copper as part of the Horizon 2020 SmartEEs2 research project. 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 150°C, resulting in significant energy savings. Additionally, compared to traditional techniques, the substrates used in PCB additive manufacturing are up to 15 times thinner, reducing 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 tag. Copper ink is used to ensure high conductivity. Component assembly can be accomplished using a standard reflow soldering process, allowing manufacturers to upgrade to new technology without investing in new equipment.

The target feature was created using multi-layer, metal and dielectric printing, and included a low-power temperature sensor and logger, an NFC communication interface via a printed antenna, and a compact cell-charged battery. solar printed, 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 the development of hybrid electronic products and processes.

“This is a state-of-the-art production process, which will reduce costs and logistical dependencies on suppliers, while providing three key benefits for the environment: consuming less material, use less energy and produce less waste. By the end of this year, we expect to have scaled this process to high volumes, meeting customer demands for a million or more solderable traces. »

– 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 objective is to provide acceleration support to innovative companies for the integration of flexible and portable electronic technologies, thus increasing the competitiveness of European industry.

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