New Electronics – InnovationLab demonstrates revolutionary additive PCB production method

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InnovationLab, a specialist in printed electronics “from the lab to the factory”, has made a breakthrough in the additive manufacturing of printed circuit boards (PCBs), helping to meet higher environmental standards for electronics production while reducing the costs.

As part of the SmartEEs2 research project, funded by Horizon 2020, InnovationLab and its partner ISRA have announced the development of a copper-based solderable circuit manufacturing process. Circuits are screen printed and compatible with conventional reflow processes.

The production of printed electronics is an additive process that does not use toxic etchants and operates at relatively low temperatures of around 150 ºC, significantly reducing energy consumption. Additionally, the substrates used in PCB additive manufacturing are up to 15 times thinner than conventional techniques, which reduces material consumption and means the production process generates less waste.

InnovationLab has so far produced a physical prototype, which includes all the important blocks of a smart label. It uses copper ink to ensure high conductivity. Component assembly can be done using a conventional reflow soldering process, allowing manufacturers to upgrade to new technology without investing in new equipment.

Multi-layer, metal and dielectric printing was used to produce the target functionality: a low-power temperature sensor and logger, an NFC communication interface via a printed antenna, and a compact battery that is charged from a printed solar cell, making the device completely self-sufficient. The new process can produce standard and flexible PCBs with up to four layers and can be used in product and process development for hybrid electronics.

Commenting Dr. Janusz Schinke, Head of Printed Electronics at InnovationLab, said: “This is a state-of-the-art production process, which will reduce costs and reduce logistical dependencies on suppliers, while by offering three key benefits to the environment: consuming fewer materials, using less energy and producing 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.

SmartEEs2 is a European project funded 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, and thus to help the competitiveness of European industry.

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